Richardt Stormsgaard: Democracy or not?
August 1, 2017
Cynthia Hren's op-ed in The Union claims that the U.S. was never intended to become a democracy according to the U.S. Constitution.
Hren bases her postulation on Merriam-Webster definitions of republics and democracies from 1828. In 1828, no modern democracies had yet developed anywhere in the world and only about a dozen republics, most of them in South America with autocratic elites in total control of society after gaining independence from Spain. If you follow the logic of the current Republican right-wing, our values should still be stuck in 1828.
Her flawed reasoning claims an inherent incompatibility between republics and democracies when, in fact, today there are countless republics in the world that are excellent democracies. She also wrongly asserts some oblique difference between republics and democracies that does not exist because both have elections where voters elect representatives to assemblies and both have constitutions that cannot be violated. The claim that Ancient Rome and Greece fell apart because they had developed into pure democracies is so far off the charts that I wonder why no local history buffs have had any comments about these claims.
Notions like, "we are not a democracy according to our Constitution" is a tortured justification for the right-wing disabling our social safety net, our infrastructure, our environment and our voting rights as corporate interests are controlling more and more aspects of our lives in their search for ever-increasing profits, regardless of the damage to the American people or the environment.
What happened to all the old-fashioned Eisenhower type Republicans that believed in democracy? They were proud that the U.S. Constitution has served as an inspiration to countries around the globe as democracies were established worldwide.
President Eisenhower repeatedly warned that corporate financing of election campaigns could become a threat to democracy itself if unchecked. What became of the honorable GOP with the core belief that government had a critical role to play in providing better lives, opportunities and civil rights for all Americans?
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Here are the main principles from the 1956 Republican Party Platform, showing how extremist and radicalized the current Republican Party has become: (1) Provide federal assistance to low-income communities. (2) Protect social security. (3) Provide asylum for refugees. (4) Extend minimum wage laws. (5) Improve unemployment benefit system so it covers more people. (6) Strengthen labor laws so workers can more easily join a union. (7) Assure equal pay for equal work regardless of sex.
During the last decades, Republicans have fought against public works programs and social programs in low-income communities. They have worked to dismantle social security, wanting to privatize the program entirely and turn our pension system over to the mercy of Wall Street. While our European allies have taken in many millions of refugees uprooted from our wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, we have only taken in a small fraction of that number.
The last minimum wage that the bulk of Republican politicians voted in favor of was $5 an hour, and 28 Republican senators believe the minimum wage should be eliminated entirely. Republicans have consistently fought to reduce both the unemployment benefit and workman's compensation systems, along with all other programs that lead to better wages, working conditions and security to working people.
They have savaged labor unions that lead to better wages and working conditions under the guise of so-called "right to work laws" in a number of Republican states. The concept of equal pay for equal work has been entirely abandoned by Republicans for decades now. Just during the last half year, the gender wage gap has tripled within the Trump Administration compared to the Obama Administration.
Their deep cuts to healthcare and other social programs will severely impact 25 percent of the most vulnerable Americans. The percentage of Republican core voters belonging to this group is even higher at 30 percent of our population, contrary to decades' worth of untruthful claims that social safety programs mostly benefit the urban poor.
Privatizing social security, Medicare and health insurance, along with deep cuts to almost all social programs that keep this country functioning as a civilized country, will impact most Americans very negatively. Right-wing Republicans could not prevail in our national elections if these elections were fair and everybody had easy access to voting. This is why the extraordinary claim that we never were supposed to have a democracy in the first place is significant and needs to be addressed before we lose it.
Richardt Stormsgaard lives in Nevada City.
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