Friday, August 15, 2003

Some Fair and Balanced Questions

I'm certain this has been pointed out elsewhere (I'm sure I've seen it discussed on various threads and forums, notably Salon's Table Talk, and Media Whores Online has raised it on numerous fronts as well), but it is a question that bears repeating -- and for that matter deserves wide discussion:

Has the Republican Party become hostile, or at best indifferent, to the democratic process?

This is a serious question, and it is raised by the GOP's own high-profile behavior of the past five years:

-- Attempting to unseat a twice-elected president through an impeachment proceeding that had neither any rational basis nor popular support, and in the process undermining the office of the presidency.

-- Forcing upon the electorate a president who lost the popular vote by more than half a million ballots, and who would have lost the Electoral College had all legally cast ballots been properly counted in Florida.

-- Moreover, this theft of the election occurred under the auspices of a nakedly partisan Supreme Court whose tortured rulings en route to installing their candidate violated such basic principles of democracy as the constitutional separation of powers -- that is, the court in essence chose their own successors (who will assuredly be movement conservatives like themselves), something the Constitution does not empower them to do.

-- What was particularly disturbing about this ruling and subsequent installation of a Republican president was that it was so inimical to the fundamental democratic principle that every person's legally cast vote should count (and certainly an aspect of this is that half-million more votes for his opponent should have counted for something as well). Indeed, Justice Antonin Scalia, during the process of bending the law whichever way was necessary to obtain the outcome desired by the Bush team, went even so far as to declare: "There is no right of suffrage under Article II". This means, in simple terms, that citizens have no constitutional right to vote for President. (The thinking that could produce such an argument, by the way, is identical to the "strict construction" that is able to argue that the Constitution does not contain a right to privacy.)

-- Evidently not satisfied with holding the presidency, the Supreme Court, and both houses of Congress, Republicans have stepped up their efforts to consolidate their political power in every corner of the nation -- and have again demonstrated a willingness to overthrow basic democratic institutions to do so. This was especially on display this spring and summer in Texas, where Tom DeLay's plan to redistrict the state politically -- ignoring long-established traditions of reserving such work for Census years -- induced patriotic Democrats in the Texas Senate, who refused to participate in the trashing of basic principles of governance, to flee the state (twice) rather than allow DeLay's scam to succeed. (Indeed, as Lambert Strether points out today over at Eschaton, Texas Republicans are now threatening to postpone the primary election next March if the extralegal redistricting plan is not in place!)

-- This refusal to accept the outcome of elections and traditional democratic processes has recently surfaced with a vengeance in California, where far-right Republicans exploited the state's devastated economy -- the chief havoc having been wreaked by a cadre of GOP business allies, particularly Enron, through outrageous manipulations of the energy markets on the Pacific Coast -- by forcing a recall of a governor who just won re-election last year. Having created first a power vacuum and then a circus atmosphere in the effort to fill that void, Republicans clearly hope to capture the governorship in a state where they clearly are incapable of taking power through ordinary means.

Democratic institutions are the heart of our stable society; and by consistently disrupting and overthrowing these institutions in the blind pursuit of power, Republicans betray their own basic untrustworthiness when it comes to holding the reins of American governance. And when they consistently demonstrate that they are not willing to abide by the rules, nor respect traditions and institutions, we also have to ask: Just how conservative is this movement anyway?

Where does it stop? Will Republicans ever accept democratic outcomes of elections? Will they ever respect the right of individuals to vote and for their vote to be counted?

What happens when a Democrat wins the presidency in 2004? Do we have any reason to believe that the right will ever accept that outcome? And to what lengths will they next go to refuse or overeturn it?

Just wondering.

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