Desperate for reform: voting rights, life-time judges, election laws, abortion rights, gun limits, campaign fundraising, Electoral College and Senate filibuster
By any measure since Reagan, the right is winning the most impactful political wars, with a regressive, accelerating rampage. Ambushed and on the run, the center and left hold an increasingly shrinking bag. The right isn’t just winning, but dominating, however contradictory are its forced judicial judgments. So, it’s just peachy for the top federal court to ignite lethal abortion bans in backward states, but can’t stop insecure gun owners from openly displaying lethal weapons, like outdated gunslingers?
Despite election-rejecting fascist calls, Republicans are in fact delivering drastic reforms. Maybe they screwed up their clumsy election coup, but they keep dictating the key rules of the game. Worse still, entrenched, electoral clout means real-world fixes will take immense time and extraordinary activism. For two generations, Democrats have talked up “reform” (fending off onslaughts against the progressive New Deal) but are staggering against more agile reactionaries.
Not every vaunted “reform,” we learn to our horror, advances civilization, democracy or the Yankee commitment to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” Bad changes end up reinforcing unjust status quo walls – far more decisively than Trump’s pathetically porous, southern publicity stunt wall. Barriers, literal and symbolic, legal and suspect, keep the rich rich and the subservient, well, subservient.
Abuses anything but secret
The tragic irony is that the volcanic extremism on display is anything but invisible or mysterious or unexpected. Nor are proposed progressive solutions to systemic flaws beyond human tinkering. Using abortion as a cudgel against women and girls reflects 50 public years of faith-alone, righteous indignation that defies women’s rights, biology and a firm majority consensus. As Biden often says, “we’re Americans, we can do anything we decide to do.” Unfortunately, anti-abortionists and gun advocates heed this advice more acutely than the liberal establishment.
Fine, Democrats, then start deciding to make systemic changes, broadcasting (as do senators Sanders and Warren, the OAC team) an inspiring vision against an uphill, perpetual battle. Where to start, and what specifics to pitch, are apt tactical questions, but the failure to publicize structural changes, the best chance to electrify (working class) multitudes, is a catastrophic party blunder. Rational pandemic policy, after Trump chaos and misdirection, is admirable, but a miserable fail on the Biden infrastructure bill should have kicked off epic activism, handwriting on the climate change wall ten feet high.
Even on abortion, full-choice majorities remain in reaction mode, failing to go whole hog when the Supreme Court decision was leaked weeks ago. Why was outrage not then maximized, with base-building rebel-rousing, street marches, and TV ads to produce sustainable rallies from now on? As with absurd open-carry gun mayhem, sweeping away Roe vs. Wade was the most predictable lurch since knowing full well that Trump the election loser would stop at nothing, stomping on any rules, laws, and traditions in his path.
That’s why months of delayed indictments for Trump and scurrilous enablers are so galling: did prosecutors need every detail from the estimable Jan. 6 hearings to move against the crackpots running the White House mafia crime spree? Did DAs need every insider confession to reinforce known truths? Even an equally malicious, ruthless outlaw who committed half of Trump’s crimes should have been held to account within 18 months. Don’t (Democratic) fears, delays, and inertia blunt confidence that law and order and basic justice are redeemable? Thus do rightwing whackos now act out shamelessly, banking on immunity.
Biden voters jumping ship
Outlandish systemic flaws demand systemic reforms – and failures of vision and courage explain why younger or less engaged voters have grown cynical. Should they warm to Democrats, who, despite five presidential terms (out of the last eight), offer only piece-meal, status quo band-aids? Second, by mainly focusing on transient variables (a season of inflation), Dems are failing to excite voters to achieve the minimum goal: regain the majority’s sovereign power. Banish minority control by demanding popular vote decisions for presidents, deflecting Electoral College shenanigans. Insist, with threats, rallies and publicity, on voting rights so minority voters don’t flee the party. Why not react to abortion outrages by resurrecting the ERA (women’s equal rights) amendment? How long until legislation establishes abortion as a private, medical matter – immune from state intrusion? Why not challenge Biden’s refusal to re-balance the Supreme Court, promising even more disruptive judgments? Daily, senators should rail against the outdated filibuster.
Expecting quick results is not the reason to raise big issues. Political change comes from cultural shifts, making activism the means and end of reforms. Is it so hard to answer the right’s simple-minded messaging – “government does more damage than good, taxation is theft, regulation is intrusion, the poor are rightly poor, strong women are suspect, gun control is confiscation, abortion is murder, and white superiority endorses minority voter suppression”? Stupidity should be far more vulnerable. Because today’s electorate is less politically literate and less well-educated, progressives must find innovative ways to break through media barriers (just as Trump found splashy methods to get free time). Hire more Hollywood directors!
If Dems can’t channel the 80-90% who support abortion after rape or incest, plus equal numbers backing rational gun restraints, they are, as strident critics shout, part of the problem, not the solution. Except for the obvious exceptions, too many elected Democrats are so terrified of backlash, they dismiss the progressive, systemic reforms that could trigger a mass progressive era. Unless the left and center coalesce, the better organized authoritarians will hold sway – only further alienating younger voters to ignore high urgency.
Forward against regression
Overall, we have judicial extremists truly “taking back their country,” way back many decades on voting, guns and civil rights. The line from one activist captures abortion bans as “state-sponsored sexual harassment.” Even hands on sexual predators, like Trump, escape justice (though litigation continues). But because Trump opposed abortion but favored amassing home arsenals, Trumpers dismissed gross character flaws – and that tragically changed politics forever. Criminality in the name of extremism is now a “necessary evil,” often by hypocritical, avowed Christians.
We now have enough ideological perversion in the Senate (with loudmouths from TX, MO, and WI) that only a watered-down gun control bill gets through. Who will get blamed when this half-a-loaf measure doesn’t stop mass shootings or a flood of political violence from the right? No blame for Republicans, who like Trump, are never responsible. Since the Democrats are demonized by rightwing nitwits for everything, real and imagined, why not show some courage, take modest risks, and back serious proposals for structural change?
The right justifies any means to serve its twisted, radical ends. Time for clear Democratic messaging to prove that means and ends can’t be separated, that dishonest or phony means inevitably produce bad outcomes. Had Trump corrupted the means of elections, as fully displayed by the Jan. 6 hearings, we’d have a calamity on our hands. It’s not just the economy, stupid, but inspirational means that foster ends that serve majority rule, without which we are dead in the water. If not majority rule, what line in the sand means anything? Could the choice be any more obvious, necessary or civilized?
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