Elites for Oligarchy

I wrote a reply to the “Republicans for democracy” feature in today’s The Morning email newsletter. Partly I was just reacting to the ongoing stupidity of this elite fantasy about a “grand coalition” in which democracy is saved by teaming up with anti-Trump Republicans. This is fan fiction, and bad fan fiction at that. But, I think my efforts to compose a relatively tight response helped clarify some concepts which are important. So here’s my email.

I appreciate The Morning emails. They are frequently informative and often thoughtful.

“Republicans for democracy” is really not good analysis.

One, your premise of a crucial division between the Republicans of Trump and the Republicans of Cheney is entirely arbitrary. Trump aspired to use procedural mumbo jumbo to overturn democracy; Bush and Cheney actually did so (as did Trump 16 years later), it’s called The Electoral College.

“But The Electoral College is a legitimate institution,” except it’s an antidemocratic and [as employed since the 18th century] extra-Constitutional institution, which the Cheney Republicans were and undoubtedly remain ready to delegitimize the instant that it might disfavor them instead of Democrats.

20 years before Trump did so, the Bush-Cheney team ginned up a mob to storm and disrupt official post-election processes. You pooh-pooh this precedent as mere “hardball,” and insist that the greater violence of Trump’s mob makes it “not consistent with American democratic traditions.” Yet in the very sentence before you insist that violence and supportive lies are firmly out of bounds, you insist that lying the nation into an entire war is firmly in bounds. Please.

Two, Democrats have been trying to contain Trump through demonstrating unity with the anti-Trump elite minority among Republicans. Hillary Clinton tried this. Joe Biden went much further, courting the McCain dynasty, featuring John Kasich at the Democratic Party convention, and promising the country that Republicans are mostly good people with whom we can and must work together to save democracy from Trump. Here we are.

It’s unclear how much further Democrats could go in this direction.

Three, it’s even less clear what would be the point of attempting it. What is the concept of democracy which you are anxious to preserve from Trump? If it’s majority rule, confront squarely—rather than dismiss with typical euphemisms like “messy” or “imperfect”—the fact that Dick Cheney is only a former vice president because of procedural overturning of an election. Confront the fact that Liz Cheney’s policy agenda is mostly an agenda for imposing minority preferences over majority preferences.

If your anxiety is for rights, or the rule of law, or nonviolence, confront the fact that Dick Cheney and his allies broke the law plenty of times, created an era of terror and intolerance for vulnerable populations, and started an entire war.

Confront, please, the reality that the things elites are really concerned about—arcane procedures, arbitrary but familiar customs, the literal insider space of the US Capitol—are essentially things which reassure them of their own privilege. They are not the same as or even a good stand-in for democracy.

Matt Kuhns

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