An ex-GOP lawmaker tore into the Republican party over their nearly unanimous party-line vote to confirm a Republican operative who had committed perjury and was credibly accused of sexual assault to become a Supreme Court Justice:
Former Rep. David Jolly (R-Fla.) tore into the GOP on Friday after Republican senators overwhelmingly voted to advance the embattled Supreme Court nomination of Brett Kavanaugh.
Jolly, appearing on HBO’s “Real Time With Bill Maher,” on Friday night, said there is no “moderate wing” of the Republican Party.
“The important part here about the enthusiasm spike among Republicans is that it is among Republicans, it is not among independents,” Jolly said. “Republicans are now more excited but among the independents, you know what they learned today? There is no moderate wing of the Republican Party. That was the message they learned today.”
While David Jolly is correct, the truth is even worse. Moderate Republicans are indeed going extinct, but along with their extinction, the Republican party is turning its back on bipartisanship, conservatism, and democracy as a whole.
The confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh is the Republican party’s proclamation that bipartisanship is dead. The Judicial Branch was intended to be a separate and co-equal branch of government that did not hold loyalty to a political party or group of citizens, but rather held loyalty to the constitution. As such, purely political appointees have been frowned upon by both parties. The court has nevertheless become more and more polarized and political in recent decades. But, even with the increasing polarization, the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh takes it all to another level. There have been conservative judges appointed. There have been liberal judges appointed. But Brett Kavanaugh’s appointment has been different. He is viewed as a strictly Republican judge, a man who, before becoming a judge, worked on flashpoint partisan issues such as the impeachment of Bill Clinton and the Florida recount for the 2000 election, both times serving as a political tool for the Republican party, both times taking strictly partisan stances against the Democratic party. He was then nominated to be a judge by George W. Bush, only after working in the White House for George W. Bush, and his nomination was seen as a partisan battle even then, due to concerns over his impartiality. Now, Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination and confirmation to the Supreme Court showcased his partisan agenda as he railed against the left, the Clintons, etc during prepared remarks to the Judiciary Committee. Yet, Republicans in the Senate have shown no worry at all about either the partisan agenda of Brett Kavanaugh or even the appearance of a partisan agenda from Brett Kavanaugh. Instead, they have issued attack after attack against Democrats who have opposed the nomination for a host of very valid reasons.
Much of this lies at the feet of Mitch McConnell, whose raison d’etre has been nothing but partisan warfare. First assuming leadership as the Senate Minority leader in 2006, Mitch McConnell laid bare his partisan agenda in 2010 when he declared that his party’s top priority was not to help the country, but instead to deny President Obama a second term:
And his strategy never strayed from that directive. Mitch McConnell led a mission to obstruct each and everything President Obama attempted to accomplish. When McConnell was the Senate Minority Leader, he presided over a record number of Senate filibusters by his minority party, bringing the government to an effective halt, ensuring that no problems could be solved by a Congress that McConnell almost single-handedly ensured could not work together:
Opposition Republicans are using the delaying tactic at a record-setting pace.
“The numbers are astonishing in this Congress,” says Jim Riddlesperger, political science professor at Texas Christian University in Fort Worth.
The filibuster, using seemingly endless debate to block legislative action, has become entrenched like a dandelion tap root in the midst of the shrill partisanship gripping Washington.
McConnell strategized that the blame for the country’s unsolved problems would go toward Obama, while McConnell counted on the gerrymandered congressional districts and makeup of the Senate (Wyoming, which has 1/70th of the population of California gets the same amount of Senators) to allow his partisan agenda to remain unpunished by any electoral consequences. And he has been proven right…so far. Since Mitch McConnell was elected Senate Minority Leader in November of 2006, public approval of Congress has gone steadily lower, yet Republicans took control of the House in 2010 and Senate in 2014 and have maintained their majority in each.
Having helped wreck Congress and hinder any progress attempted by President Obama, Mitch McConnell next set his sights on obstructing the judicial branch:
Next Tuesday marks 125 days since President Barack Obama nominated D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals Chief Judge Merrick Garland, an eminently qualified judge, to fill the Supreme Court seat left vacant by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia. The Senate’s inaction on the Garland nomination is the longest a Supreme Court nominee has ever waited for a hearing or confirmation. When the Senate, led by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), reconvenes in September, the wait for a vote—let alone a hearing—will have grown to 176 days.
The blame for this unprecedented delay can largely be placed at the feet of Sen. McConnell. Under his leadership, the Senate has refused to do its job of offering advice and consent on the nominee. Moreover, by this and other actions—or more rightly put, inaction—Sen. McConnell has all but sealed his legacy as an obstructionist.
Since Sen. McConnell assumed the role of majority leader in January 2015, he has shown an unwillingness to make any sort of progress in the Senate, particularly in confirming federal judges. As a result, the number of U.S. District and Circuit court vacancies in the federal judiciary is growing. Vacancies under Sen. McConnell jumped from 40 when he took office in 2015 to 79 in late June 2016, a 97.5 percent increase. Federal courts face severe backlogs because of these vacancies. Plaintiffs alleging discrimination in the workplace must wait longer for their case to be heard; companies accused of violating environmental law go unpunished; and indigent criminal defendants are denied a speedy trial.
Mitch McConnell wasn’t just trying to ruin Obama’s Presidency, either. He also stuck his nose into the 2016 election, and ultimately helped Donald Trump, a mentally ill reality TV star, gain the Presidency by covering up the fact that Russia was influencing the election.
“The Dems were, ‘Hey, we have to tell the public,’ ” recalled one participant. But Republicans resisted, arguing that to warn the public that the election was under attack would further Russia’s aim of sapping confidence in the system.
… McConnell (R-Ky.) went further, officials said, voicing skepticism that the underlying intelligence truly supported the White House’s claims.
And now, after doing his best to ruin the country’s confidence in the Presidency and in the Congress, Mitch McConnell is trying to ruin the country’s confidence in the Supreme Court by forcing through a Supreme Court nomination on a party line basis (after removing the 60 vote requirement) for a judge whose history consists almost solely of being a partisan operative and who told the country of his partisan agenda on national TV.
One must ask, is this complete rejection of bipartisansip by the Republican party in any way conservative? No, it is not.
Conservative columnist Andrew Sullivan recently opined on the abandonment of conservative principles by the modern Republican party.
But conservatism is more deeply besieged by the Republican Party, its alleged harbor. If you consider the themes I’ve emphasized above, it becomes clearer that the GOP is not only not conservative, but actually dedicated to destroying that tradition. Republicans pursue the ideology of free markets and lower and lower taxation, regardless of its brutal assault on fiscal solvency, human dignity, social cohesion, and community life. They have nominated and protected a president who assaults the norms that conservatives revere, has contempt for existing institutions and sees the rule of law as a means to advance his own interests, rather than that of the society as a whole.
This is a man and a party that has such disdain for conserving anything that it is actively despoiling our landscape, enabling a climate catastrophe. It is a party that has generated crippling and everlasting debt — even in good economic times — in a way that makes a mockery of any compact between generations. It is a party that actively endorses cruelty as a policy tool, deploys fear as its prime political weapon, and insists that the opposite party has no legitimate right to govern at all. It is the party of torture, the absolute nemesis of the liberal inheritance, the party of corruption, propaganda, vote suppression, and barely masked bigotry.
Republicans used to be in favor of environmental protection. What could be more conservative than protecting our earth, after all? It was Richard Nixon, a Republican, who formed the Environmental Protection Agency. Now, the Republican party argues against the scientific consensus that warns about the danger of climate change, while it also works to eliminate any and all types of environmental regulations that could possibly decrease corporate profits, even if those regulations are keeping our air from being choked with smog and our water from being leeched with chemicals.
Republicans used to be in favor of balancing budgets and restraining defense spending, the essence of fiscal conservatism. It was Dwight Eisenhower, a Republican, who famously warned the country of an out of control military industrial complex, and who said about taxes “The fact is there must be balanced budgets before we are again on a safe and sound system in our economy. That means, to my mind, that we cannot afford to reduce taxes, reduce income, until we have in sight a program of expenditures that shows that the factors of income and of outgo will be balanced. Now that is just to my mind sheer necessity.” Now, the Republican party passes tax cut after tax cut without any worry about what effect they will have on budgets, while showering defense contractors with billions upon billions of new and often unnecessary federal spending.
Republicans used to support a system of government that provided checks and balances against possible tyranny, this rejection of tyranny being the very basis of the term republicanism. Now, the Republican party has thrown itself at the feet of a President who enriches himself and his family through his public office, obstructs investigations, and rails against the free press.
Republicans used to support small communities against encroaching threats. Now, the Republican party bends over backwards to multi-national corporations that besiege small communities with anti-competitive business models and low wages.
Conservative Elliot Cohen saw the actions of Republicans during the confirmation process of Brett Kavanaugh as yet another example that Republicans have abandoned conservatism:
Being a conservative has always meant, to me, taking a certain view of human nature, and embracing a certain set of values and virtues. The conservative is warier than her liberal counterpart about the darker impulses and desires that lurk in men and women, more doubtful of their perfectibility, skeptical of and opposed to the engineering of individual souls, and more inclined to celebrate freedom moderated by law, custom, education, and culture. She knows that power tends to corrupt, and likes to see it checked and divided. Words like responsibility, stoicism, self-control, frugality, fidelity, decorum, honor, character, independence, and integrity appeal to most decent people. They come particularly easily to the admirers of thinkers from Edmund Burke to Irving Kristol.
The GOP threw frugality and fiscal responsibility away long ago, initially in the Reagan years, but now on a stunning scale involving trillion-dollar deficits as far as can be forecast. It abandoned most of its beliefs in fidelity and character when it embraced a liar, cheat, and philanderer as its nominee and then as president. But something else snapped this week.
It was, however, in the epic clash over the testimony of Christine Blasey Ford that the collapse of conservatism in the Republican Party became most evident. Eleven men, most of them old, hid behind a female prosecutor wheeled in from Arizona, because they could not, apparently, trust themselves to treat a victim of sexual assault with consideration and respect. So much for courage. Their anger at Democratic shenanigans was understandable, but virtually without exception. When they did summon up the nerve to speak (during Kavanaugh’s turn), their questions consisted almost exclusively of partisan baying at the opposition. Genuine conservatives might have snarled initially, but would have, out of regard for the truth, tried to figure out exactly what happened to Ford 35 years ago, and whether the character of the man before them was what it was said to be.
Perhaps the collapse of modern conservatism came out most clearly in Kavanaugh’s own testimony—its self-pity, its hysteria, its conjuring up of conspiracies, its vindictiveness. He and his family had no doubt suffered agonies. But if we expect steely resolve from a police officer confronting a knife-wielding assailant, or disciplined courage from a firefighter rushing into a burning house, we should expect stoic self-control and calm from a conservative judge, even if his heart is being eaten out. No one watching those proceedings could imagine that a Democrat standing before this judge’s bench in the future would get a fair hearing. This was not the conservative temperament on display. It was, rather, personalized grievance politics.
Perhaps what illustrates the Republican abandonment of conservatism more than anything else is their abandonment of representative democracy as a means by which tyranny should be prevented. Wikipedia defines republicanism as “a political ideology centered on citizenship in a state organized as a republic under which the people hold popular sovereignty.” That concept of popular sovereignty has generally meant that republics were seen as forms of democratic governments, one in which the people held power rather than a king or emperor or dictator. Indeed, most republics have come into being as a means by which to overthrow a tyrannical government and to ensure another tyranny did not take its place.
Yet, now, the Republican party is less focused on popular sovereignty, or democracy, and instead seems intent on creating its own tyrannical government, one that does not have to rely upon the democratic assent of voters, and one in which the power over government has been taken away from the majority of the people.
George W. Bush lost the 2000 presidential election by roughly half a million votes and yet won the presidency with the help of two counter-majoritarian institutions — the Electoral College and the Supreme Court. President Trump lost the popular vote by 3 million votes and yet won the presidency, this time because of the Electoral College alone. In 2012, Democrats in House races received nearly 1.5 million more votes than Republicans, yet due in large part to gerrymandered congressional districts, the Republicans won a majority of the seats by a margin of 234-201. Some models predict that in the upcoming midterm elections this November, Democrats could outpoll Republicans by 4, 5, 6, or even 7 percent while still failing to win a majority in the House.
Add it all up and we’re left with something perilously close to minority rule. This is pure civic poison.
It would be one thing if Republicans were aware of the problem and governed accordingly — with humility, seeking compromise and conciliation with the popular majority that opposes their agenda. But that isn’t at all the Republican response. On the contrary, on immigration, trade, relations with Russia, tax policy, health care, and a host of other issues, the Trump administration has pursued policies opposed by a plurality or even a majority of the country.
Some Republican strategists have publicly alluded to the problem created by this gerrymandered system by saying that politicians are more afraid of primary challenges than general elections, which forces them to vote along party lines at all times, lest a primary challenger seizes upon any semblance of independence and runs them out of office. Yet, rather than assent to efforts to fix this flawed gerrymandered system, the Republican party has fought anti-gerrymandering efforts at almost every turn. In addition, to further cement their minority rule, the party has tried to prevent people from voting using a variety of voter suppression efforts that have only been ramping up in scope and brazenness over the last few years.
Now, ever since the conservative majority of the Supreme Court ruled against provisions of the Voting Rights Act in a 5-4 vote in 2013, Republican politicians are taking their lack of belief in democracy to a whole new level by cancelling as many voter registrations as they can. And if they “accidentally” cancel any voter registrations they shouldn’t be cancelling, well, that’s a feature, not a bug.
Make sure to read the story in today’s Democrat-Gazette from Chelsea Boozer about a bureaucratic error that has flagged thousands of Arkansas voters to be removed from the registration rolls.
Those affected include some ex-felons now eligible to vote, as well as some 4,000 people who have never been convicted of a felony but were somehow mistakenly flagged as such in the Arkansas Crime Information Center, Boozer reports.
Thomas Brown said one of the top things on his to do list Tuesday was to cast a ballot in the Florida primary election. That plan was quickly shot down.
Brown arrived at his polling place and was told he had been purged from the list.
Nearly half a million individuals have been deleted from Indiana’s list of registered voters since the Nov. 8, 2016, general election.
It was a familiar procedure for Stricker, 37, who has moved from state to state frequently in his work as a hotel manager. He filled out a voter registration form and got his driver’s license. He was not asked for more documents, he said.
So he was stunned when he tried to cast a ballot in November 2014 and was told he was not on the voter rolls. A month later, a letter from the state said why: His registration had been placed “in suspense” because he had failed to meet a state requirement he did not know about – proving he was an American.
The reason is that millions could find their right to vote challenged or taken away under suspicion that they’re trying to vote more than once, largely due to 26 states using the Interstate Voter Crosscheck system, which compares lists of voters in different states and challenges the registration of those whose names come up more than once.
For the 1,166,000 people in the country who share the surname Garcia, this could be a problem. Likewise for the Rodriguezes (1,094,924), Jacksons (708,099), Washingtons (177,386), Kims (262,352), Patels (229,973), Lees (693,023) and Parks (106,696).
Larry Harmon, 60, hadn’t voted in a while when he drove to the high school in November 2015 to weigh in on a local referendum in Kent, Ohio. But he wasn’t allowed to cast his ballot.
“I served in the military and they tell us, ‘Oh, you’re fighting for freedom.’” he said. “Then you come back and you’re taken off the voter rolls because you didn’t vote for two elections? That doesn’t make sense. I thought that was our right.”
Secretary of State Tre Hargett is rejecting calls by the Tennessee League of Women Voters and a New York law firm to change how the state purges inactive voters from voter registration lists in light of a U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling in an Ohio case.
Texas election officials have been removing more people from the state’s voter rolls ever since the Supreme Court struck down a part of the Voting Rights Act in 2013, according to a new report from the Brennan Center for Justice.
The group says the court’s decision to specifically strike down one provision of the law led to the rise in voter purges.
In West Virginia:
Despite some hiccups, local county clerks say statewide maintenance that removed more than 100,000 names from voter registration lists has gone well.
During February’s Wisconsin Supreme Court primary more than 100 people in Milwaukee had to re-register to vote even though they were living in the same address they’d originally registered under, said Neil Albrecht, executive director of the Milwaukee Election Commission.
The Republican party is not even content with the current anti-democratic means by which they have been winning elections recently. They are publicly opining about even more extreme measures, such as taking away the citizenship rights of people born in the United States.
In a recent controversial op-ed, former Trump aide Michael Anton gave us a glimpse of where the anti-democratic tendencies of the Republican Party are headed. Writing against birthright citizenship (the automatic conferral of citizenship on any child born in the United States), Anton declared, on the basis of highly questionable assumptions, as well as shoddy and dishonestly presented evidence, that the passage of the 14th Amendment on which birthright citizenship is based has been fundamentally misinterpreted. (Here is Anton responding to his critics.) On the basis of this (mis)interpretation, President Trump supposedly has it within his power, using an executive order alone, to direct federal agencies to stop conferring citizenship on children born in the country.
In this view, the Constitution’s guarantee of birthright citizenship can be gutted by presidential fiat with the stroke of a pen.
It’s important that people recognize where the Trumpified Republican Party is headed — or rather, where (at the level of ideas) it has already arrived. It considers itself right without regard for democratic public opinion. It views with contempt those who disagree with it (even those who consider themselves conservatives). It is perfectly content to advocate actions (backed up by the thinnest of evidence) that would actively subvert democracy, majority rule, and constitutional procedure.
This isn’t democracy. If anything, Republicans are proving themselves to be enemies of democratic governance.
Only 26% of the country identifies as a Republican right now. But, through voter apathy, voter suppression, election meddling, gerrymandering, and the structure of the Senate, the Republican party now controls the White House, the Senate, the U.S. House of Representatives, the Supreme Court, and a majority of State Governorships and Legislatures. Rather than acknowledging the fact that a full 74% of the country does not identify as Republican and deserves the same representation in government as everyone else, the Republican party has taken the opposite tactic and is telling that 74% of the country that does not identify as a Republican that they just don’t matter. And in doing so, the Republican party is turning its back on any semblance of representative government, of politicians working for the citizens first, of equality, and of liberty. They have effectively become the tyranny that the concept of republicanism was created to fight. They are no longer conservative. They are no longer democratic. They are no longer even republican. They are instead a ruling class presiding over a suppressed majority.