by Brian T. Lynch, MSW
It isn’t too radical to say that the Republican Party establishment is no longer compatible with the democratic ideals on which our republic was founded. If that shocks you or disturbs you, you are in good company. This isn’t how most of us picture things. For well over a hundred years politicians in both parties have been unquestioningly loyal to democratic principles, to this republic, the Constitution, and the rule of law. This truth is the source of the phrase “the loyal opposition.” Members of the “other side” were always opponents, not enemies.
But politics isn’t static, of course. It evolves, and our understanding of how governments and society have changed must change as well. This is difficult because most changes unfold very slowly. We keep up by taking the occasional mental snap-shots of the surroundings, but the tendency to hold on to these images is strong as we struggle to manage our busy lives. We reconcile our views of events from day to day until one day some event or a crisis comes along that scrambles how we pictured things. We are living in one of those times.
Tracing the details of how our politics changed is too broad a topic. Seeing one essential feature, the decline of majority rule in government, is the point here. To help do that, the rise of the Christian-right in politics provides a helpful starting point. To be clear, these trends and changes impact every aspect of our politics, including the growing tensions now on display in the Democratic primary. But the impact is most obvious in the GOP as the majority of us struggle to understand the Republican response to the current impeachment inquiry.
The political rise of the Christian-right at the end of the Twentieth-century is not in dispute. Of the primary reasons for this shift, their views on legal abortion predominate. The standard means of resolving religious differences involves evangelizing until the majority viewpoint of citizens are swayed. In the 1980s the religious right came to realize that anti-abortion sentiment may never predominate in a modern, pluralistic democracy. That inability to convince the majority to willingly outlaw abortion is what brought the Christian-right into politics. They sought, and still seek to legislate what they cannot attain through indoctrination or persuasion.
But politics and power have a corrupting influence on religion. After gaining political influence and even after gaining positions as elected officials, the Christian-right was still unable to pass their unpopular legislation within a system based on majority rule. They would eventually compromise certain Christian and democratic values to join a coalition of other minority interests and fringe political groups under the umbrella of the GOP. Secular pluralism would come to be seen by fundamentalist Christians as American society’s moral decay, and government by majority rule would come to symbolize evil in the eyes of some fundamentalist Christians.
These same hard lessons about majority rule also frustrated the economic caste of America’s wealthiest elites. In the corporate world where decision making is proportional to one’s ownership share (or wealth). One person-one vote was a significant barrier to enacting laws and policies that the industrial elite favored because they are so few in number.
But money is power. The Barrons of industry resorted to buying government influence in order to reshape state and federal rules so they could buy even more influence over time. They corrupted politicians with campaign cash and perks. This is particularly true in the Republican Party where the industrial elite focused most of their attention. Now the Republicans in Congress routinely pass and implement policies favorable to the rich regardless of how unpopular or harmful to the general population.
As stated above, this transition is a feature in both political parties, but it is especially evident in the GOP where frustration with majority rule has passed the tipping point.
Frustration with majority rule has become a unifying feature that transformed the GOP into an odd coalition of minority and fringe interest groups united by their desire to overcome the majority in order to achieve their unpopular agendas. The rise of Donald Trump and his corrupt, authoritarian style of leadership has accelerated this transition.
Just as the Christian-right has had to make some unchristian compromises, so have the industrial elites and every other minority or fringe interest group within the Republican coalition. In the process, the GOP has morphed into an anti-democratic movement that will do whatever it takes towards a totalitarian rule. This coalition of disgruntled minority interest groups will even propagate Russian disinformation talking points if it excites their base and wins over their support.
The GOP is no longer faithful to democratic principles or even the rule of law. We have lost the consent of the minority to majority rule. Political opponents are cast as political enemies in an all-out battle for Unitarian control. The opposition is no longer loyal.
Understanding the truth is the first step in identifying ways to save our republican form of government.