Undemocratic Assumption

How Kochs destroy US

From the New York Times – America holds onto an undemocratic assumption from its founding: that some people deserve more power than others

By Jamelle Bouie AUG. 14, 2019


“The debt-limit standoff was a case study of a fundamental change within the Republican Party after Obama took office in 2009. Republicans would either win total victory or they would wreck the system itself.”

“Calhoun popularized the concept of “nullification”: the theory that any state subject to federal law was entitled to invalidate it. “

“The government Calhoun envisioned would protect “liberty”: not the liberty of the citizen but the liberty of the master, the liberty of those who claimed a right to property and a position at the top of a racial and economic hierarchy. This liberty, Calhoun stated, was “a reward to be earned, not a blessing to be gratuitously lavished on all alike — a reward reserved for the intelligent, the patriotic, the virtuous and deserving — and not a boon to be bestowed on a people too ignorant, degraded and vicious, to be capable either of appreciating or of enjoying it.” It is striking how much this echoes contemporary arguments against the expansion of democracy. In 2012, for example, a Tea Party congressional candidate from Florida said that voting is a “privilege” and seemed to endorse property requirements for participation.”

There is a homegrown ideology of reaction in the United States, inextricably tied to our system of slavery. And while the racial content of that ideology has attenuated over time, the basic framework remains: fear of rival political majorities; of demographic “replacement”; of a government that threatens privilege and hierarchy.”

“To stop this change and its political consequences, right-wing conservatives have embarked on a project to nullify opponents and restrict the scope of democracy. Mitch McConnell’s hyper-obstructionist rule in the Senate is the most high-profile example of this strategy, but it’s far from the most egregious.”

“The larger implication is clear enough: A majority made up of liberals and people of color isn’t a real majority. And the solution is clear, too: to write those people out of the polity, to use every available tool to weaken their influence on American politics. The recent attempt to place a citizenship question on the census was an important part of this effort. By asking for this information, the administration would suppress the number of immigrant respondents, worsening their representation in the House and the Electoral College, reweighting power to the white, rural areas that back the president and the Republican Party.”

“You could make the case that none of this has anything to do with slavery and slaveholder ideology. You could argue that it has nothing to do with race at all, that it’s simply an aggressive effort to secure conservative victories. But the tenor of an argument, the shape and nature of an opposition movement — these things matter. The goals may be colorblind, but the methods of action — the attacks on the legitimacy of nonwhite political actors, the casting of rival political majorities as unrepresentative, the drive to nullify democratically elected governing coalitions — are clearly downstream of a style of extreme political combat that came to fruition in the defense of human bondage.”

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