The accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive, and judiciary, in the same hands, whether of one, a few, or many, and whether hereditary, self-appointed, or elective, may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny.
–Federalist No. 47
In our polarized political environment, Michael Tomasky’s article in the Daily Beast will be dismissed by the people who need to understand it most. Republicans Don’t Just Want to Win—They Want to Rig the Game gets at a problem identified in the the Federalist Papers: legislative tyranny.
Our founders were extremely concerned about the tyranny of royalty, but after the Articles of Confederation and before the Constitution, they witnessed the capture of state governments by single factions. They termed it legislative tyranny. And it has been the goal of The Republican Party for quite some time.
As hard as it is to remember now, but there was a time when the Republican Party accepted the existence of the Democratic Party and its agenda. The GOP may have disagreed with Democratic goals and competed against them, but Republicans weren’t dedicated to eliminating Democrats. There were rules, and they more or less played by them. President Trump is a feature, not a bug of the modern Republican Party. Trump is the apotheosis of the GOP goal of one-party rule, of legislative tyranny. By breaking the rules, he is taking their strategy to its logical conclusion. Accepting the aid of Russia is just another step in the quest for one party rule.
[Republicans] refuse to stand up to Trump because they like what Trump is doing.
They’re embarrassed by him here and there (tweets), and they disagree with him here and there (tariffs).
But for the most part, they don’t complain too much out loud or carefully limit the scope of their complaints when they do because they’re with him on the most fundamental commodity in politics: power, and its use. Trump’s anti-democratic instincts, which are so dangerous to so many of us, do not trouble Republicans in the least….
The Democrats and Republicans have been our country’s two main parties since the 1850s. In that time, they have disagreed on a lot of things. But they have agreed on one big thing: They have followed the rules of the game established by our Founders (and subsequent generations) about the basic democratic allocation of power.
The main rule is that if you lose an election, you suffer consequences. The most obvious example of this is the Supreme Court. When Bill Clinton nominated Stephen Breyer to the Court in 1994, then-Texas Senator Phil Gramm said Breyer was “as good as we have a right to expect.” Gramm was an arch-conservative in his time, but he was acknowledging there the central truth about the democratic allocation of power, and Breyer was confirmed 87-9.
For 140 or so years, both parties mostly agreed on the rules. Yes, there was FDR’s court-packing scheme, which most of his fellow Democrats did not support. But after that, a broad consensus held for a long time. Then, the Republicans started behaving a little differently. They started challenging the rules. Democrats did too, a little, especially on judicial nominations, but it was Republicans who drove this change.
The shutting down of the recount in Florida in 2000. The aggressive gerrymandering, first engineered by Tom DeLay. The Hastert Rule, holding that bills could pass the House only with a majority of Republicans, and not with bipartisan support. The attacks on voting rights—straight-up attempts to make it hard or even impossible for certain citizens to vote….
So in sum, for a generation now, Republicans haven’t been just arguing with Democrats about who wins elections. They’ve been trying simultaneously to change the rules of the game so that they will win every election (their Supreme Court majority has done its part too, by the way, by allowing all this dark money into the system).
It’s hard to believe things will go back to normal any time soon. Too many the rules are not laws, and some laws may turn out to be unenforceable. Most of America has yet to wake up to the what has happened. They dislike Trump. They disapprove of him. But they haven’t realized the rules haven’t just changed. The GOP has destroyed them.