Republicans really just don’t believe in democracy any more

God this is depressing!  David Graham:

Finding signs to worry about the future of American democracy is not hard, but few are quite so painful and acute as the cognitive dissonance displayed by Rusty Bowers this week.

Bowers, the Republican speaker of the Arizona State House, was the star witness during yesterday’s hearing of the U.S. House’s January 6 committee. Bowers calls himself a conservative Republican, and he has the record to back that claim up. Like most Republicans, he supported Donald Trump in the 2020 election, but when Trump and Rudy Giuliani tried to pressure him to assist in their scheme to overturn the results of the election in Arizona, where Joe Biden narrowly won, Bowers refused…

Bowers’s testimony was powerful because it was somber, serious, and clearly heartfelt. This is also why it was threatening to Trump, who issued a statement before the hearing even began, attacking Bowers and claiming he’d agreed with Trump that the election was rigged. Under oath, Bowers said flatly that Trump’s account was false.

And yet in an interview with the Associated Press published yesterday, Bowers also said he would back Trump if he runs for president in 2024. “If he is the nominee, if he was up against Biden, I’d vote for him again,” Bowers said. “Simply because what he did the first time, before COVID, was so good for the country. In my view it was great.”…

But Bowers’s ambivalence is more disturbing and perhaps more frightening because his words and actions suggest a greater integrity and seriousness. This is a man who testified that Trump pressured him to break the law and his own religious views in service of an agenda that included, Giuliani told him, “lots of theories,” but “we just don’t have the evidence.” A man who was subject to threats and intimidation by armed protesters even as his daughter lay dying in his home, and who was falsely labeled a pedophile. A man about whom Trump had lied on the very day of his testimony…

I can hear the objections already: Aren’t you really just asking conservative Republicans to back Joe Biden for president? Isn’t that an absurd and unrealistic ask? It is true that I find Bowers’s claim that what Trump “did the first time, before COVID, was so good for the country” to be badly misguided…

These are, however, policy disagreements. They are worth debating, and I wish Bowers (and everyone else) agreed with me that the facts show Trump was in most respects a disastrous president, but that we expect voters will disagree in a democracy.

And that last phrase—in a democracy—is the problem here. Trump tried to subvert America’s system of elections in 2020 and 2021, a wide-ranging and elaborate, if not especially sophisticated, coup attempt. As my colleagues Bart Gellman and Jennifer Senior have reported, Trump and his allies have already begun laying the groundwork for another coup attempt in 2024.

And, this final paragraph perfectly captures the very disturbing dynamic:

Once you’ve decided that your specific policy planks are more important than ensuring that the fundamental system survives, however, the result sooner or later is a government that has no interest in the will of the people. Imagining this doesn’t take much creativity: After the 2020 election, Trump tried to ignore the will of the people and remain in power. He was stopped only by the courage of people such as Rusty Bowers. If even Bowers is willing to back Trump again, despite his eloquent condemnations, the outlook for popular democracy is very bleak.

About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State

3 Responses to Republicans really just don’t believe in democracy any more

  1. sam+b says:

    I see it as most conservatives don’t believe in democracy. This isn’t new. What has been getting more acute is that many types of conservatives have gone from being well distributed between the two major parties up through the civil rights era, to now being lopsidedly concentrated in the Republican party. Because of this, democrats cannot count on republicans to help in advancing democracy. to the contrary we would be wise to expect their opposition to it and not require their participation for permission to proceed. What democrats need, to riff on Ezra Klein, is a democracy building agenda. So the first day we get a pro-democracy working majority (currently seeking two more senators) we need to have a pro-democracy roadmap ready to implement.

    The only real nonnegotiable is to make the congress/senate a functional democracy by eliminating the filibuster. once that is done we need to keep expanding democracy internally and externally by various means and methods so that the majority needs of americans cannot be stifled by the minority, which will ultimately undermine faith in the system of democracy. It doesn’t make sense to bemoan the antidemocratic imbalance of our institutions and continue not doing anything about it once we would have the opportunity to do so through a newly unclogged legislative apparatus. I would like to see the following ideas on any serious democracy to-do list.

    The most important imo would be the public funding of campaigns which is part of the For the People Act, whose components would solidify the one person one vote nature of running our elections. With elections safeguarded, then we can continue to advance democracy in our various branches of government.

    In the congress this could be furthered by adding senators and representatives to rebalance representation amongst the existing states. Instead of just lamenting unequal representation among states in the us senate we should make larger states into several states. In the case of NC that could mean becoming perhaps three to four states roughly the sizes of Iowa, Mississippi, Kansas, or Arkansas so that Carolinians have per capita senate power more equal to those states. On the house side there is no democracy-based reason to keep the house capped at the current number of members. growing states should add house seats following each census instead of losing them.

    Obviously the SCOTUS is an antidemocratic superfund site but we can just start to add judges regularly instead of at the personal whim of currently sitting ones. we should add new ones after every national election. The number of seats at any given time does not need to be relevant.

    In the interest of our own national strength and the strength of democracy worldwide we should drastically increase the vision of expanding the national borders of statehood beyond simply puerto rico to potentially include any democracies around the world. That is how you could one day get to 1 billion americans and beyond.

    None of these ideas require any changes to the constitution. Just majorities.

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