Discover more from Nothing New Under the Sun
October 5, 2023
Reader note: As the late Fall and Winter approaches, I will be publishing once every week. You can expect posts on Thursdays or Fridays as we prepare for the weekend and reflect on the week’s events. Also, enjoy playoff baseball and Go Orioles.
In America, two political parties tend to win most of the votes. However, there is a deep asymmetry that characterizes the way voters treat each party. Republicans are expected to be lawless, greedy, and aggressive. Democrats are expected to be lawful, overly generous, and cordial. Some members break this mold within each political establishment. This inevitably works against the larger nation when one of those political institutions crumbles into an anti-democratic movement that no longer seeks to be held accountable under the law. The classic frames break apart and the mainstream media fails to cover it accurately.
This week's events saw the defenestration of the Republican Speaker of the House, Kevin McCarthy. Names being floated to be his replacement are a Louisiana congressman, who called himself “David Duke without the baggage,” and an Ohio congressman, who participated in the fraudulent Stop the Steal movement. The latter turned into a violent assault on the U.S. Capital and broke the peaceful transfer of power in America. The party is unable to govern in its current format.
Within the larger national legislature, the House of Representatives is designed to be the representation of the American people within the three branches of government. Its legislative counterpart, the Senate, is more of an elitist institution, while the House moves with the pace of the people’s whims. The two were meant to balance out one another as the framers of the Constitution feared too much populist fervor could cause quick changes that occurred without much attention being paid to the steady significance of long-term institutions and governing norms. Remember, their imaginations were informed by the events in France during the late 18th century.
One could argue the breakdown happening in the House of Representatives is reminiscent of the political polarization happening outside of the D.C. Beltway, but it isn’t the Democrats' job to save a Republican party that gave the nation four years of Donald Trump, divisive chaos, renewed racism, the stripping of reproductive and voting rights, and the ongoing poisoning of our natural world.
People still argue McCarthy’s fate is somewhat the Democrat's fault. Or that this scenario is a Democratic failure to keep the business of the House ongoing. In the words of one commentator, this is “ludicrous.” The mere fact people would write something that tries to associate blame with the Democratic party for the collapse of GOP cordiality and governing acuity is a feature of today’s asymmetry when it comes to digesting reality. The GOP would have never helped Democrats if the shoe were on the other foot. But we expect Democrats to roll over to Republican aggression, even at the cost of America’s civic integrity.
The types of voters within each party are vastly different. (Also remember a large number of people are registered independents like myself.)
One party is more rural and a lot Whiter. It also features extremely wealthy individuals juxtaposed with extremely economically challenged individuals. That is the Republican coalition of today and of the last several decades. The other party is cosmopolitan and has a pool of people who are more likely to be educated and informed. The economic status of Democrats is more scattered across the spectrum compared to the stark contrasts existing within the Republican party. Also, the Democrats feature a multicultural and multiethnic coalition that garners a majority opinion within a nation that has thoroughly changed racially and technologically since the Reagan Revolution of the 1980s.
It is clear the GOP as an institution has become a literal last stand for people who feel their America is dying, whether that be religiously, economically, or racially. In this regard, they lower the standards for their politicians…and the maneuvers they use…and thus these homogenous voters are able to let out a rebel yell (or two minutes hate) that has nothing to do with updating governing structures, policies, or America’s role in the world. It also doesn’t do much to improve their own lives, the most Orwellian part. The GOP voters just want 1984 (or ’54) back. On the other hand, Democrats see a nation in the future and want to prepare it for that inevitable time when our unipolar comfort comes to a noticeable end. Arguably, it has ended but we are still resting on the laurels of past victories. Democrats are more likely to have accepted America’s multi-racial power changes and transformations and thus want real solutions for going forward.
Thus, the standards that voters hold both parties to are informed by the relationship they have with their view of the nation’s public problems. For many GOP voters, it really translates to their personal problems. (So much for personal responsibility.)
That is why Trump was viewed as a fighter for Americans who want the 20th century to return (with all its archaic power structures and abusive social hierarchies) and that is why Democrats welcome fresh faces of varying backgrounds that reflect the nation of the 21st century.
The danger lies in how one group’s revanchist visions turn into authoritarian impulses.
Thus, we have the Make America Great Again movement (the name popularized by Ronald Reagan), which captured the party of Lincoln over a multi-decade process and is today threatening our civil liberties and democratic rights.
As always in America, bigotry is our kryptonite and has the potential to weaken us from the inside. It’s an age-old American tale.
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