Democracy at all costs

Amit Gupta
Oct 21, 2020 · 8 min read
Photo by Sides Imagery from Pexels

This isn’t a time for moderation. After four years of terror, we finally have the chance to replace the devil in the White House with someone willing to put the interests of the country over his own personal enrichment. The problem is that Joe Biden looks ready to put bipartisanship and conflict avoidance over the needs of minorities and the American public in general. What we do not need right now is a return to normalcy. This should not be a referendum on decency, but instead a referendum on decades of failed policy and centuries of oppression.

I love to see that conservatives and former Republican leaders and strategists are finally willing to cast aside Trump and recognize that American is not best served by having a narcissistic sociopath in the White House. Just because the Lincoln Project makes great commercials though doesn’t mean we should be returning to conservative Republican policies because that is exactly what turncoat conservatives want. Progressive patriots don’t need the support of Michael Steele and Marc Racicot if their dislike of Donald Trump is that he isn’t Ronald Reagan. Fuck Reagan. We don’t need a racist in the White House pushing for failed trickle-down economic policies that exacerbate economic inequalities and impoverish minorities while simultaneously cutting out all forms of safety-net protections for poor Americans. We don’t need a war on minorities masquerading as a war on drugs. We don’t need rampant voter suppression and a government run by well-funded interest groups. We don’t need a public health system that is only concerned with addiction and infectious disease when the victims are straight and white. This is the future we have in store if we return to normalcy. Bill Clinton’s presidency was a failed one and highlights the threat of another wave of Democrat centrism. I hope Joe Biden’s legacy doesn’t center on welfare reform and the expansion of the prison-industrial complex. Body cams won’t make Americans safer; equal rights will.

American rights hang in the balance of this election and on the hard decisions a potential President Biden will have to make. Will he prioritize bipartisanship and Senate traditions over the health, wealth, and safety of the American people? America is not a democracy as Mike Lee and the Heritage Foundation love to point out. That is not a good thing. It is an ugly truth that even to this day, not all Americans have equal access to the polls. We were a country made by and for the elite. Our current constitution, and its massive strengthening of the federal government in comparison to that created by the Articles of Confederation, was inspired by fears of the common man revolting. Daniel Shays led 4,000 armed men in protest against civil and economic injustices. Instead of solving those injustices, we created a stronger government that could put down future rebellions. Our constitution was a revolutionary document that formed the greatest system of government the world had ever seen; it was also deeply flawed. It created a system that restricted voting to landholding white men, institutionalized slavery, and created massive regional disparities in federal representation. Somehow our founders were able to justify treating African slaves as property when it came to their rights while simultaneously counting them as people in the census for the purpose of increasing their masters’ representation in Congress. The Three-Fifths Compromise and Great Compromise were necessary evils required at the time to form a nation. Two hundred thirty-three years later that is no longer the case. It’s time we stop compromising with people’s fundamental rights.

America is in need of radical transformation and a commitment to moral leadership and equality for all. It’s beyond time we finally focus on creating a country that truly guarantees the rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. The first step in that direction is promoting democracy and making sure every voice counts. At the very minimum that requires passing the For the People Act (HR 1) and John Lewis Voting Rights Act (HR 4) or similar legislation. We need to put an end to gerrymandering, expose the dark money that drives politics, prevent states from enacting voter-suppressive legislation, and decrease politicians’ reliance on corporate and special-interest donations. It is disgustingly perverse that Republicans can push for a minoritarian government and stoke fears about majority rule turning into mob rule while actively oppressing minority groups for decades. We need to evict lobbyists from Washington D.C. and need strict ethics and governance requirements imposed on government officials, both politicians and bureaucrats. At the same time, we need power put back into the hands of the people through a strengthening of Congress.

The constitution was built on an incorrect assumption that each branch of government would compete for power and they would actively attempt to check each other to prevent any one actor from growing too powerful. Similarly, within Congress, there was an assumption that politicians would advocate on behalf of their state legislatures and district residents. Instead, we have a politician system with complete alignment across Chambers of congress and branches of government, with competition taking place between antagonistic parties. When a party controls all branches of government, as Republicans did in 2017 and 2018, the president has near-total control of our entire government. Donald Trump’s enablers have been willing to disregard Congress’s powers to investigate and subpoena government officials while turning a blind eye to rampant corruption and revenge tactics including firing individuals who testify before Congress or investigators general charged with evaluating presidential conduct. This is something our founders never imagined. Congressmen are functionally soldiers in the president’s army as are the judges who occupy the courts. We consistently have seen party-line splits in the courts on decisions regarding this president’s trampling of the constitution and can only expect that to continue. While Mitch McConnel was lying about his desire for the American people to decide the next justice on the Supreme Court, he was quietly holding 105 federal court positions hostage as he had for years. Senate Republicans under McConnell fully abdicated their constitutional responsibilities and attempted a complete blockade of any and all of President Obama’s initiatives. That meant refusing to confirm any judicial nominees or other appointments until Senate Democrats were forced to repeal the filibuster for non-Supreme Court judicial nominees. That also meant refusing to engage on any important legislative policies like the affordable care act despite broad support among their own constituents for provisions like protecting against pre-existing conditions and extending children’s ability to use their parents’ health insurance.

The ACA literally created a free market for people to buy subsidized private health insurance, without any public option i.e. conservative’s wet dream of a voucher system which they have promoted for decades in the education sector. In fact, what the ACA did in insurance is even more conservative/business-friendly than what Republicans want in education since most Republicans haven’t actually pushed for a private-only education system and would allow families to apply vouchers towards public school. While being a massive watershed moment for the American healthcare system, and the first successful large-scale reform since the creation of Medicaid in 1965, the ACA didn’t go far enough. The simple reason is that Obama tried to play nice, act like a moderate, and refused to remove the filibuster. At the same time, Nancy Pelosi and Democrat deficit hawks required the ACA to be budget neutral. Democrats consistently impose pay as you go (PAYGO) policies when they control the House while Republicans consistently repeal them. This is the greatest fiction of American politics. Conservatives champion fiscal responsibility and stoke fears of financial meltdown under Democrats, when in fact we have consistent evidence over multiple decades that deficits grow faster under Republicans while GDP increases more quickly under Democrats. The Democratic party is both more fiscally responsible and more likely to enact policies that stimulate economic development.

It’s time for Democrats to take a stand and raise their ambitions. Ensuring universal healthcare and voting access won’t be possible as long as the filibuster stands, neither will badly-needed climate or gun-control policies. The first thing Democrats need to do if they assume control of Congress and the White House in January is repeal the filibuster and immediately pass voting-rights legislation. The next objective should be enacting DC statehood so that hundreds of thousands of Americans no longer face the same oppression of taxation without representation our founders fought and bled for. We also need to rethink how we provision representation for tribal nations and allow for self-determination among America’s colonies territories. Any reform is likely to be difficult, if not impossible, with a Republican court which is why the court must be expanded to ensure balance. That means adding three seats to create a 6–6 court which allows for ties. During the year where we were stuck with 8 justices on the court, Americans saw the largest proportion of unanimous opinions in 70 years. Our entire democracy should not hinge on 5–4 decisions made by a body of unelected individuals with lifetime appointments whose partisan opinions can radically alter the lives of million of Americans. Yes, I did say partisan, because, any individual who is unilaterally nominated and confirmed by partisan actors is inherently partisan. Pretending the Supreme Court is apolitical and objective is equivalent to pretending cabinet members or federal reserve governors are non-partisan. Our current court system actually encourages a polarization of judges where only extremists in either direction get to sit at the bench.

At a minimum, we need a constitutional amendment to set term limits for justices, such that there is a new justice on the court every 2 years (18-year term limits for a 9 person bench or 24-year limits on a 12 person bench). There should additionally be corresponding term limits imposed on Congressmen who cause political stagnation by preventing newer politicians from taking office and reflecting the needs of younger generations. While we’re at it, abolishing the electoral college is long overdue. It is scary to think that both of the last two Republican presidents lost the popular vote, and the first only “won” the overall election after a partisan court, which had no right to decide the election, handed him his victory. Somehow basic reforms meant to promote democracy, and ensure everyone has an equal say in government, have become radical and unrealistic to the point where no one even attempts to form a more just society. There is something seriously wrong with this country when we cannot even pass the Equal Rights Amendment.

A Biden administration focused on making concessions for the sake of bipartisanship, will not bring about the reforms we badly need. Instead, it will spell the death of any hopes towards creating a justice society that responds to majority concerns while protecting minority rights. We cannot let civility and tradition stand in the way of liberty and justice.

Politically Speaking

We all view the world through a unique lens.

Politically Speaking

We all view the world through a unique lens. Politics is in literally everything from our churches to our social organizations to news events and crime to our governments. This is the place to share your view, regardless of your political leanings: all are welcome.

Amit Gupta

Written by

Politically Speaking

We all view the world through a unique lens. Politics is in literally everything from our churches to our social organizations to news events and crime to our governments. This is the place to share your view, regardless of your political leanings: all are welcome.

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