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US Democracy Versus Voter Suppression and the Rise of the Oligarchy

It sounds so melodramatic to suggest that Donald Trump may be a threat to American democracy. Because the United States has been a relatively stable democracy for 240 years it’s easy to assume it will continue to be so in the future. That’s not to say the country has not had its crises, but so far the system as always self-corrected. However, to say the nation has self-corrected in the past is not a guarantee that it will do so in the future. Melodramatic or not, the coming together two elements in our society does seem quite threatening to our democracy: Voter suppression and the rise of the oligarchy.

Trump has shown little respect for democracy and democratic institutions, from his attracts on freedom of speech (freedom of the press) to the integrity of the election process. His numerous claims before November 8th that his losing the election would be de facto proof that the election was fraudulent were unprecedented. When asked if he would accept the results of the election he would only say we would have to wait and see – the first candidate to challenge the US tradition of accepting the outcome of an election to assure the smooth and peaceful transition of power. Now that he has won the election by means of the electoral college, he is claiming that he would have also won the popular vote if it were not for millions of people having voted illegally for Hillary Clinton. What is amazing about these proclamations is that we already are taking them in our stride when they are actually a threat.

His unparalleled claim that the election would be rigged if he did not win was not only an effort to undermine the legitimacy of the then expected Clinton victory. The claim also undermines the validity of the democratic process itself. Even before the voting was completed he was campaigning to convince people that American democracy itself was untrustworthy and that he alone good makes things right again. The “he alone” claims were always referring to his personal authority, not necessarily the application of democratic institutions and the rule of law. He continues to do so even now with his tweets asserting massive voter fraud. It doesn't matter that there is no evidence of such fraud and never has been (see The Washington Post).

I have been reluctant to fully embrace the “we live in a post-truth age” stuff, but now I’m thinking I have been slow to catch up with others. The election of Trump, a known and acknowledged liar, makes me wonder if, as some are claiming, we are a post-truth nation, where the distinction between truth and falsehood is lost (remember all the false news reports taken as truth) and the difference between fact and opinion is only a distant memory.

The Republican Party now controls all aspects of government - House, Senate, and soon the Supreme Court. Trump will be appointing federal judges, the attorney general, at least one supreme court judge, and thousands of government positions. He now has nothing to fear from the Republican Party. It will, no doubt, approve his appointments without delay. Checks and balances will be put on hold for at least two years, and probably four (Democrats don’t like to vote in the midterms, though they do like to complain about how the Republicans run the country). The complete control of government by a party made up of pre-enlightenment, religious fundamentalist, right-wing, alt-right, racists, xenophobe, radical capitalist is frightening for many reasons, but here I am focusing on the GOP’s program of denying the vote to certain groups of people joining forces with Trump’s undermining of the electoral process.

Republicans are getting good at voter suppression. Strict voter ID’s, restriction of early voting, limiting the number of voting places, false claims of voter fraud, are all part of a  successful voter suppression program. North Carolina official even bragged that their efforts had caused a significant drop in African American votes and a rise in white votes. Given Republican commitment to voter suppression, Trump’s claims of voter fraud, his agreement with the implementation of voter ID’s,  and the appointments he is making to his administration, we can assume that both the GOP and the Trump administration will more aggressively pursue voter suppression.

So, complete control by one party, post-truth politics, and voter suppression. Now add to the mix the 1% and the 1% of the 1%.

It fascinates me that a billionaire who lives in a golden tower high above New York City (hardly the heartlands) is, so I’m told, the American workers' hero. You would have to say the American oligarchy is damn clever. Most of the American oligarchy keep a low profile. We’ve all heard of the Koch brothers and Sheldon Adelson, but most of them fly under the radar (see Center for Responsible Politics – Top Individual Contributions to see just how much these few individuals contribute to influence the democratic process [top giver $67,286,217 to Democrats!]). But not Trump. He bragged about his wealth and convinced workers around the country that he actually cared about them. Amazing! Bottom line, the oligarchy is rarely concerned with the needs of the worker, as an estimated 20 million Trump voters about to lose overtime pay will soon find out.

The Princeton Report, Testing Theories of American Politics: Elites, Interest Groups, and Average Citizens by Martin Gilens from Princeton University and Benjamin I. Page from Northwestern University, on the oligarchy is both informative and not a little frightening. When the report came out, the popular press used headlines saying the authors had declared America to be an oligarchy. The report didn’t quite go that far, though it got so close to the line it is hard not to jump to that conclusion. Among a wealth of information, it also stated that the likelihood of a popular consensus among average Americans on an issue was unlikely to become law, while the desires and demands of the 1% had a strong likelihood of becoming law. This is not surprising. Billions of dollars are spent influencing politicians. Only a fool would think that the billions do not buy political service. Money is political power. The oligarchy is served well by our elected officials. (Also see: Democracy, Oligarchy and a Manifesto for Resistance and The Plutocrats versus the Precariats: Or the 1% versus the 99%)

Some believe these and other forces are an existential threat to American democracy. Comparisons with German of the 1930’s are nowcommon, pointing out how that country rather peacefully and democratically became a fascist state of incredible violence. Here in the US the Nazis, fascist, racist, xenophobe are feeling empowered and are openly attacking those who they judge do not fit into Trump’s America. Resistance is necessary, but we all better buckle up because the darker nature of the United States has been let out of its cage. Silence is irresponsible.

Copyright ©2016 Dale Rominger

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