Tuesday, August 28, 2018


I've questioned whether Donald Trump has the will and the discipline to be a pure authoritarian, but democracy can suffer serious damage in regimes, like Hungary's, that remain nominally democratic. I agree with Paul Krugman that America is trending in that direction -- not just because of Trump, but because of the contempt for democracy his party has expressed since long before Trump became a politician.
Just look at what has been happening at the state level.

In North Carolina, after a Democrat won the governorship, Republicans used the incumbent’s final days to pass legislation stripping the governor’s office of much of its power.

In Georgia, Republicans tried to use transparently phony concerns about access for disabled voters to close most of the polling places in a mainly black district.

In West Virginia, Republican legislators exploited complaints about excessive spending to impeach the entire State Supreme Court and replace it with party loyalists.

And these are just the cases that have received national attention. There are surely scores if not hundreds of similar stories across the nation. What all of them reflect is the reality that the modern G.O.P. feels no allegiance to democratic ideals; it will do whatever it thinks it can get away with to entrench its power.
As The Nation's Ari Berman noted in 2016, the gutting of the Voting Rights Act led to the closure of 868 polling places across the South and Southwest before the last presidential election; as The New York Times reminds us today, the GOP-led redistricting in North Carolina after the 2010 census gave the state ten Republican House seats and only three Democratic seats -- and Republicans wished they could have gone for an even greater imbalance:
The 2011 map had turned a 7-to-6 Democratic edge in the state’s House delegation to a 9-to-4 Republican one. The redrawn map in 2016 — the one at issue now — produced a 10-to-3 ratio ... the legislature explicitly said that it had been drawn ... to hurt Democrats.

“I propose that we draw the maps to give a partisan advantage to 10 Republicans and three Democrats, because I do not believe it’s possible to draw a map with 11 Republicans and two Democrats,” David R. Lewis, a North Carolina state representative who helped lead the remapping, said in 2016.
Republicans have targeted democracy since the Bush years, when U.S. attorneys were fired for not paying adequate attention to (nearly nonexistent) voter fraud. And here's the thing: There is literally no Republican or right-wing opposition to this. There are plenty of high-profile anti-Trump Republicans, even though they have no influence on the party. But there is no anti-democracy-suppression movement on the right. I can't even name any individuals on the right who object.

There's been a lot of attention paid to anti-free-speech illiberalism on the left. Over the weekend I caught a bit of David Remnick's interview of David Simon, creator of The Wire and a (mostly) left-leaning Trump foe. But Simon said this in the interview:
I got no patience for anything that interrupts the idea of open speech. I find what's going on on college campuses to be incredibly naive, almost childlike. I'm very disappointed in it. You know, I think dissent, open dissent, requires speech in order to survive, particularly in a time of an authoritarian government, and the idea that you would trade that away over some schnook that's saying some stupid stuff in a Berkeley lecture hall is embarrassing to me. It's like, you would trade this weapon for that? That's not even tactical. So there are moments where I just walk -- I listen to the left and I walk away and I say, "Man, you know, you never fought the way it has to be fought in your life, and that's why you just came up with that answer."
This is an accurate characterization of a certain percentage of left-wingers. But the entire right is illiberal on democracy -- no conservative, as far as I know, will defend the right to vote or denounce the promulgation of the conspiracy that there's widespread Democratic voter fraud. Compared to that, a few people heckling Charles Murray or Milo Yiannopoulos on an elite campus is a much smaller threat to our way of life.

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