One-party government

January 26th, 2004 – 9:37 pm
Tagged as: Uncategorized

In case you don’t find the current state of the nation scary enough, think about America as a one-party state (and that party being the Republicans). It’s closer to becoming a reality than you might think:

We are at risk of becoming an autocracy in three key respects. First, Republican parliamentary gimmickry has emasculated legislative opposition in the House of Representatives (the Senate has other problems). House Majority Leader Tom DeLay of Texas has both intimidated moderate Republicans and reduced the minority party to window dressing, rather like the token opposition parties in Mexico during the six-decade dominance of the PRI.

Second, electoral rules have been rigged to make it increasingly difficult for the incumbent party to be ejected by the voters, absent a Depression-scale disaster, Watergate-class scandal or Teddy Roosevelt-style ruling party split. After two decades of bipartisan collusion in the creation of safe House seats, there are now perhaps just 25 truly contestable House seats in any given election year (and that’s before the recent Republican super gerrymandering). What once was a slender and precarious majority — 229 Republicans to 205 Democrats (including Bernie Sanders of Vermont, an independent who votes with Democrats) — now looks like a Republican lock. In the Senate, the dynamics are different but equally daunting for Democrats. As the Florida debacle of 2000 showed, the Republicans are also able to hold down the number of opposition votes, with complicity from Republican courts. Reform legislation, the 2002 Help America Vote Act (HAVA), may actually facilitate Republican intimidation of minority voters and reduce Democratic turnout. And the latest money-and-politics regime, nominally a reform, may give the right more of a financial advantage than ever.

Third, the federal courts, which have slowed some executive-branch efforts to destroy liberties, will be a complete rubber stamp if the right wins one more presidential election.

Taken together, these several forces could well enable the Republicans to become the permanent party of autocratic government for at least a generation. Am I exaggerating? Take a close look at the particulars.

Reading those particulars will give you some real insight into how the government is actually run these days. The Republicans are doing their best to lock themselves into power, and the frightening prospect of a country run by right-wing Republicans for the forseeable future isn’t at all far-fetched.

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