By Richardt Stormsgaard
How is it possible that a country as advanced as the US now appears in serious danger of having its democracy dismantled, a democracy that in times past was admired around the world?
A very successful campaign by sinister corporate interests began about half a century ago, and has resulted in the Republican Party now being under their total control. Racist and anti-government rhetoric appealing to previously Democratic groups of blue collar and Southern voters has been one major factor in allowing the dramatic turn to the extreme right.
The 2010 Citizens United decision and the 2013 severing of prior Voting Rights Acts were shocking departures from our judicial history of generally working toward an improving democracy, and our current right-wing SCOTUS is now upholding or letting stand discriminatory state laws against minorities and severe gerrymandering of our voting systems. With another extremist SCOTUS judge replacing Justice Kennedy, we can expect civil and voting rights to be further eroded.
Unlike other countries in the developed world, the US Constitution established very strict guidelines set up more than 200 years ago giving major influence to individual states including how elections are being held. This was the price slave-owning states extracted in exchange for signing the Constitution. This has made updates reflecting the changing times very difficult. Moderates from both parties have worked toward the one person one vote principle that modern democracies aspire toward for about a century and a half, particularly during the periods of our history we can be most proud of: the Reconstruction Era, the Progressive Era, the New Deal era, and lastly the Civil Rights Era. But it has always been an uphill climb because our system is based on principles from more than two hundred years ago that are fundamentally in conflict with the one person one vote principle that now universally is regarded as quality democracy.
A few million voters in tiny states have as much power as tens of millions in large states on the senate side. Today the 49 Democratic senators represent almost 40 million more voters than their 51 Republican counterparts. And around 2040 projections are that 70% of Americans will live in 15 states. 30% of voters living in smaller, conservative states will pick 70 senators out of a total of 100. Today we have an elected president losing with about 3 million voters. His Republican Party prevented between 5 and 10 million additional likely Democratic voters from casting their votes. His right-wing judges are confirmed through Republican senators, representing 40 million less voters than their Democratic opponents.
As far the the House of Representatives go, state control over how our winner-take-all districts are designed gives the power to individual states to control how and who can vote. This has always been a huge problem, and before the Civil Rights and Voting Rights legislation in the 1960’s often less than 25% of citizens could vote in many states. During the up-coming 2018 mid-term elections Vox.com has projected that Democrats will need to win by anywhere from 7% to 12% more votes than Republicans nationwide to just break even in the House of Representatives due to gerrymandering and outright voting impediments of selected Democratic groups in a dozen or so conservative states.
Our past progressive legislation was secured because both major parties had very sizeable moderate groupings that believed that all Americans should have basic civil rights, including voting rights, a social safety net, and regulations protecting ordinary citizens and the environment from reckless abuses by the most powerful, and until quite recently it has worked quite well.
The Kellogg Institute for International studies just released their 2018 report on Varieties of Democracies by 3000 international scholars and experts on the state of democracies in 178 different countries around the world. Our US democracy has fallen from a 7th position to 31st in the world in just the two last years, and after the stolen election in 2016, our elections have been downgraded from “free and fair” to “somewhat free and fair”. Other countries along with the US with rapidly deteriorating democracies are India, Brazil, Russia, Turkey, Poland and Hungary, countries which our current regime are much more comfortable with than the pesky excellent democracies that traditionally have been our allies.
We are seeing the two mightiest military powers in the world joining forces to dismantle our democracy as the US right-wing regime descends into oligarchy with the help of Russian interests. If this is not treason, I really don’t know what would constitute treason.