I promise you, this article is going to be about politics. But first something slightly less volatile, sports.
Last ten seconds of a close football game. Team A is behind by six points, and is on their fourth down with nine yards to go, making a final desperate drive to the end zone. The ball is snapped, the quarterback can't find a receiver, and with the clock ticking to zero, drives the ball in himself. There is a pileup of bodies, and on the bottom of the tangled mess is the quarterback laying in the end zone while the ball is somewhere else. The referee rules the quarterback was not in possession of the ball. The clock runs out. Team B wins. Except that the video being shown on the jumbotron shows in the replay that the quarterback was in possession of the ball when he crossed the goal line, and it was only pulled out of his hands after the pileup. The referee blew the call. Potentially the call could be overturned. So, who won the game?
Well, if you are a fan of Team A then clearly your team won. You got the touchdown, and were a point ahead when the clock ran out. However, if you are a fan of team B, then the clearly your team won. The referee ruled no touchdown. If he made a mistake then too bad. The risk of blown calls by referees in sports has always existed. Certainly Team A had benefitted from blown calls in the past. It's all part of the game. Reversing the call would mean robbing Team B of their win. This is not to say fans of Team A always believe blown calls should be rectified so the rightful team wins, and the fans of Team B always believe the referee's call should be final. If things had been reversed, and it was Team B going for the touchdown and having the referee rule the quarterback lost possession of the ball, then fans of Team A would want the referees call to stand while Team B fans would want it overturned, and both sides would believe they were the rightful winners.
Which goes to show humans care more about winning than having standardized rules, and have a bias towards the rules in favor of their side. Which is why you have two groups of people who witnessed the same exact game, yet have two opposite opinions on whether a touchdown counted or not. This goes much further than a controversial call. Most fans have an attitude that there is nothing wrong with their team bending the rules a bit. If you are a Patriot fan, then you don't see anything wrong with Tom Brady deflating the footballs. If you are a fan of any other team, then Brady cheated. Mind you, now that Brady plays for the Buccaneers, Patriots fans would be outraged if he tried to deflate the balls in a game against their team.
But there comes a cost from bending the rules, or even cheating to win. You don't want to play with someone who doesn't play fair. Remember that kid back in grade school who could never accept loosing to the point that he would create bullshit rules during any game? You kicked a ball past a goal line, but he would insist it was outside, saying "Uh-uh. Anything between the two garbage pails is outside and doesn't count!" Which was a rule that you hadn't heard before, but went along with it just to shut him up. Until his ball went past the goal line but between the two garbage pails, and he would insist that it counted as a score because "The ball bounced when it went in, so it's not outside." Another bullshit rule you know he just made up. But you continue playing, and kick the ball past the goal line and it bounces, and the kid said "Uh-uh. That didn't count. The ball bounced before it crossed the goal line." at which point you give up and walked away. Eventually no one wanted to play with that kid.
As you got older you learned that every game had rules. Rules that were sometimes hundreds of years old. Rules that could not be added to mid game, nor could be violated without a penalty. We learned to respect the rules. They may not have meant your team won all the time, but they usually meant the team that deserved to win did win. Even the theoretical game between Team A and Team B is bound by rules. The replay may show Team A deserved the touchdown, but the rules will determine if the bad call can be overturned. No matter what happens, one team will walk away believing they were robbed. But they will still honor the rules.
We expected both teams to obey the rules, and frowned upon anyone attempting to cheat. Of course, our bias towards our teams have us seeing no problem with them bending the rules a little, like deflating the game ball. But there is a limit to how far your team can bend the rules before you have to admit they cheated. Everyone has their own limit. For some, any amount of cheating is acceptable as long as their team wins. While others may have lost all respect for their team for the slightest unfair advantage. It should be noted that any unfair advantage the opposing team gets is cheating in the mind of the home team fan.
Which brings us to politics. Because Democracy is more important than any sport. While your home team winning may give you a few hours of elation, your candidate winning an election means four to six years of being represented in government. Democracy is not just meant as a fail safe to keep politicians from becoming tyrants, and keep the United States king free, but as a way for the people to decide how our government should be run. Americans may be divided on politics, but the one thing they should agree on is, that for better or worse, the political direction our country takes should be decided by the majority through elections. And the candidate the most people want should be the one that wins office.
The problem is that Republicans don't seem to agree with this. While conservatism is currently in the minority among voters, they believe it should be the way our country is run, and are prepared to do anything to keep it that way.
The Republicans have options. One is to preach their Gospel to the nation to sway independent voters to their beliefs. Basically, convince enough Americans their politics are the best so that the majority of Americans believe in them. The other is to evolve. To moderate their politics so that more Americans find them appealing.
Conservatives have done their best to promote their politics with the likes of Rush Limbaugh and FOX News, to the point of a radicalized much of their base. But right wing media spends most of its time criticizing the left instead of explaining why their politics are better. Their argument for conservatism seems to be "Liberalism is worse. So you are better off with us." Not that left wing media doesn't fall into the same trap. But Liberalism isn't currently in the minority among voters. Left and right wing media preach to the choir, which may convince their base that their brand of politics is the best, but does very little to sway the middle.
To hold onto power, Republicans began relying on gerrymandering to maintain a majority in the house of representatives. With gerrymandering, a county where 90% of the voters are of party A and only 10% are of party B, can have its district maps drawn in such a way that all of the residents of Party A are in one district, and the 10% in the other five districts, sending five candidates from party B and only one candidate from party A to the house of representatives instead of six candidates from party A. And it is all perfectly legal. And not going away any time soon because both parties use it. However, it is estimated the Republicans picked up 40 seats in the house due to gerrymandering.
It also explained why the blue wave of 2018 that wiped out a bunch of Republican senate seats didn't wipe out a proportionate number of Republican house seats. Another thing that subverts the will of the voters is the electoral college, which in several elections allowed the presidential candidate with less votes to win. Al Gore won 5 million more votes nationwide in 2000, yet George Bush was awarded the win. Similarly, Hillary Clinton got about 6 million more votes than Donald Trump, but still lost the national election.
Perhaps what is more infuriating to Democrats is how Republicans insist they have a mandate even though they clearly do not. Bush insisted he had a mandate, completely ignoring he lost the popular vote, that the Florida recount was stopped in the courts which left the the final tally a mystery with Bush only ahead by 537 votes, or that over 2,000 votes for Gore were miscast to Pat Buchanan due to the confusing butterfly ballot, and another 6,000 votes for Gore on the butterfly ballots were disqualified due to an overvote with Buchanan. Which meant more Floridians tried to vote for Gore than Bush. Still, Bush and the Republicans insisted their lucky break meant they had a mandate. The truth is neither side comes close to having a mandate. Half the voters is not a mandate. You need at least 70% of the votes to claim you have a mandate from Americans.
In each election, what gives one party a victory is the independent voters who can't care less which party is in power. If they are satisfied with their lives, they generally vote for the incumbent or party in charge. If they are unhappy with their lives they blame everyone in office and vote them out. They have no preference on politics and do not consider a vote for a Democrat a mandate for liberalism, or a vote for a Republican a mandate for conservatism. Most of the time they dislike both politics and chose the candidate they see as the lesser of two evils. In the 2004 election Bush legitimately prevailed, and one again proclaimed Americans had given him a mandate. However, Bush had just 50% of the vote with John Kerry getting 48%. Almost a tie. And considering another 2% voted for independent candidates other than Bush, that is still half the voters not supporting Bush.
For Republicans, a win in an election is a win. It doesn't matter if it was the result of gerrymandering, suppressing votes of minorities, or defective ballots. Much like the football team who gets a win due to a bad referee call, they have no problem accepting a win they didn't deserve. Now, should a Democrat win for the same reason, they fight the outcome in court. Of course, Democrats are just as guilty of having a double standard where a win is a win except when your opponents win. But most Democrats don't believe their party has a mandate. Republicans believe their policies reflect the will of Americans. Even in the 2000 election where they won due to the confusing butterfly ballots, they still believed their win was due to the will of the electorate.
While the Republicans may have rigged the system so they have an edge in elections, it isn't cheating. Regrettably gerrymandering and voter suppression is legal. And it will probably never go away because once the Democrats get enough Congressmen elected to make those practices illegal, it would become a tool for them to legally rig their elections. So by that point there would be more incentive for Democrats to keep them legal, and suddenly incentive for the Republicans to want them illegal.
Even more regrettably, there are plenty of other tools at politicians disposal to counter the will of the voters. Which brings us to the recent supreme court nomination of Amy Barrett. Conservatives have for a long time accused liberals of stacking the supreme court with justices who "legislate from the bench." Basically rewriting conservative laws, which is supposed to be a power delegated only to Congress. In other words, a bunch of supreme court justices found that a bunch of conservative backed laws, some which had been on the books for more than a century, violated the constitutional rights of American citizens, and either threw them out or altered them. Republicans have since tried to fill the supreme court with conservative judges, while Democrats have been trying to fill the court with liberal judges.
While "legislating from the bench" may sound like a valid complaint, it is exactly what conservatives want. For example, unable to repeal Obamacare in Congress, conservatives now want the supreme court to find it unconstitutional. Basically what Republicans want is not to put conservative judges on the bench, but conservative lawyers who will advocate for their party. A judge may be liberal or conservative, but makes his or her ruling based on what they believe the constitution allows or doesn't allow. A lawyer looks at how to bend the law in their client's favor. They would not be concerned at what the constitution allows, but what theoretical loopholes it has.
In other words, the Republicans want supreme court justices who will be loyal to the Republican party and make their decision based on the current party platform. If there is any doubt of this, then look to the comments made by Republicans when justice John Roberts, a conservative judge appointed by George W Bush, ruled against Republicans, specifically Trump, in a number of cases. They claimed Roberts was a disgrace to Republicans. Vice president Mike Pence commented that Roberts was "a disappointment to conservatives." In other words, they expected Roberts to constantly rule in their favor, not to give his honest opinion on how the constitution applies to those cases.
I am sure Democrats are just as guilty of wanting the justices they appoint to act as advocates for their party. Which becomes of importance as more and more elections are ended up being decided in the courts. what was once the simplicity of the candidate getting the most votes winning the election, has degraded into both parties in court whenever the margin of victory is thin, and getting a few votes thrown out could change the outcome.
It is in the constitution that only the president can nominate Supreme Court justices and federal judges, both which only Congress can confirm. Most presidential candidates run on the platform that they would be nominating the next supreme court judges, which in turn galvanizes their party into turning out at the polls, and sometimes even motivates the votes of independents who believe the Supreme Court is leaning too far one way or another. What was never in dispute was that a president had his entire term to nominate any justice he wanted. Which didn't happen in 2016.
Barack Obama was the legal president nearing the end of his final term when justice Antonin Scalia passed away. Obama had the constitutional right to nominate the judge to replace him, choosing Merrick Garland. Mitch McConnell refused to allow confirmation hearings for Garland. The Republicans cited that an election was coming up in 9 months, and the decision as to which party picks the next justice should be up to the American people. When accused of blocking Obama from his constitutional right to install a supreme court justice over party politics, they insisted they just wanted to give the American people the right to choose. Lindsey Graham even famously proclaimed that if there is a supreme court vacancy within the final year of the next presidents first term, that he would do the same thing and block the nomination. And if he didn't, then he welcomed anyone to use his own word against him. Which is why I wrote this article.
Because liberal justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died with two months to go to the election. And Mitch McConnell announced he would be fast tracking the conformation. Trump gave a more ominous reason at his campaign rallies. He said the outcome of the election will be contested, and he wanted more conservative judges on the bench to rule in his favor. So what about the American people getting to decide who the next supreme court justice should be? Well, we knew the Republicans were full of shit when they gave that as a reason to block Obama's nomination. Because, if we are to assume the national election was the American people voting for the party they wanted picking the next judge, then the American people did pick the Democrats. Hillary won the popular vote by 6 million over Trump. If McConnell really cared about the American people having a choice, then he would have allowed Merrick Garland to have conformation hearings the day after Hillary won the popular vote.
McConnell and the Republican's latest reasoning for going against their own rule that they themselves made up four years ago? That if the situation had been reversed the Democrats would have done the same thing. Which as any parent will tell you is no excuse for any bad behavior. Perhaps the worst part of this is that Garland was blocked with the excuse McConnell was concerned with the will of the American voters. Now he is going to try to appoint a justice who will be asked to overturn the will of the American voters.
Mitch McConnell has basically turned the Republican party into that kid you hated at the playground who kept inviting new self serving rules whenever he was losing in a game. The kid you learned never to play with again. Now, if you are a Republican you probably do not see anything wrong with what is going on. You are rooting for the Republicans and you are perfectly fine with them deflating the ball. But this is not a game. It is supposed to be a democracy. You may say it's a fair game, but would not be thinking it was if Democrats had done the same exact thing.
And what was won? The pleasure of defeating the opposition party? Democracy was supposed to insure that the people had a say in the way their government was run. If that's not happening then what do we have? A government that refuses to follow the will of the people. Because they believe their system of governing is better, even when it fails. If they happen to belong to the party you belong to, then perhaps you approve. Because they are running the country the way it should be run, right? Except they no longer care what the voters think, and that includes you. You ceded the power of the people to the power of a single party. And inevitably, the single party leader. You may have allowed America to become an autocracy. Even assuming it doesn't go that far, you still have a country run by boobs who have rigged the elections so they will always be in power, and can't care less what the masses want. Which only works for us if they are doing a good job. If they are not, they remain in power anyway.
Democracies do fail. Almost always because the people allow it to happen. In those countries there were clear warning signs the democratic process was being eroded, but enough of the people were satisfied with the party in power that they did nothing until it was too late. The loss of democracy s always followed by the loss of civil rights. The opposition is a threat, so get rid of them. Then get rid of the dissidents. Then crack down on anyone suspected of being a dissident. Next thing you know the government is being brutal with the people, because people living in constant fear of their government would never dare revolt. Most of histories brutalist dictators arose to power in a democracy. To think it couldn't happen in this country because we are way better or way smarter is shortsighted. It can happen here. Which is why our founding fathers did everything they could to safeguard us against tyranny. From banning royalty, to dividing the power between three branches of the government, to having elections and set terms for Congress and the President.
We the people are the first and last line of defense against our country becoming another dictatorship. And the only way to safeguard it is if we make sure our leaders are playing by the rules. If bending or breaking the rules means your party gets to put an extra justice on the bench when otherwise the other party would be the one selecting the judge, you may see nothing wrong with it. Why wouldn't you accept a victory?
But this goes beyond benefiting from a bad call, or even deflating footballs to give your team a slight edge. This is cheating on a grand scale. The equivalent of handing the referee a briefcase full of $1,000,000 in cash in return of him declaring your team the victor regardless of the score. Cheating is not winning. Not if it is the only reason you were victorious. It's just cheating. Bad enough if you cheat in a sports competition. But potentially disastrous if the cheating is done with democracy. We can't have parties ignoring the constitution and making new rules up as they go along. That's not democracy.
And if you are still not convinced the Republicans are doing anything wrong because they promote the politics you believe in, then just remember this... if they lose Congress and the presidency then the Democrats will have the option of breaking the same rules, even if the independent voters swing conservative. Would you still have o problem with breaking the rules or subverting democracy if the opposition was the one doing it?