Beware of creeping autocracy

Preemption is an extreme governing tool meant to be rarely used in emergency situations.

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Image Credit: Carnegie Corporation of New York

It’s always instructive to hear powerful political officials declare that in the name of democracy, they must usurp the people’s democratic authority.

This has become all too common, as even so-called democratic regimes in France and Israel have infuriated their people by trying to ram vastly unpopular, anti-democratic schemes into law by executive fiat.

Luckily, though, our U.S. of A. remains committed to the people’s rule, right? Moreover, our leaders agree that local government is best, for it is closest to the people, right?

Uh, no… and no.

As the once-conservative Republican Party has turned extremist and downright goofy during the past decade, its governors and lawmakers have become knee-jerk autocrats, imposing their unpopular policies through a crude power play called “preemption.”

This is the despotic use of arbitrary state power to cancel any town, city, or county policies that Republican politicians don’t like.

Preemption is an extreme governing tool meant to be rarely used in emergency situations. But GOP-controlled statehouses in Florida, Texas, Ohio, and elsewhere now use it routinely as an ideological sledgehammer, crushing the right of local people to govern themselves.

This has let extremist Republican officials force some of their racist, homophobic, and xenophobic nastiness on communities that vehemently oppose them. But most Republican preemption’s are issued in service to corporate elites.

For example, when local communities try to raise the minimum wage for working families, stop Big Oil’s fracking abuses, or prevent corporate money from corrupting local politics, corporate-serving governors rush to outlaw the people’s will and preserve the abusive power of rank profiteers.

Texas lawmakers are even trying to supersize and privatize preemption with a blanket decree that all local ordinances restricting corporations are overruled by state law — even proposing that corporate executives themselves can overturn local actions.

To fight these autocrats, go to www.supportdemocracy.org.

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