The American Ideological Apartheid System is Here
The conservative minority now gets to dictate how all Americans live based on their world views. We are now in an age where policy is meaningless. This game is about power ... & nothing else
Stefan Hankin | Lincoln Park Strategies
With all due respect to Lego: Everything is NOT awesome.
In the past week, the Supreme Court has decided that women are lesser humans who are not in charge of their own decisions. But at the same time, they have decreed that guns are for everyone … everywhere. And that conservative Christendom should be given a higher status than every other belief. There is no actual legal thinking going on here - but, what we are seeing is the Supreme Court now joining the legislative branch in trying to codify the ability for the minority to control the majority. They claim this is “originalist thinking.” But it is not a legal or judicial approach, it is a political one.
While this has been building for years, we now officially are living in an American ideological Apartheid system. The conservative minority now gets to dictate how all Americans live based on their world views. In an odd twist of historical fate, we have become the country that the Puritan Pilgrims likely would have wanted us to become.
Anger at Republicans is certainly a reasonable reaction, but they have not been exactly working in the shadows when it comes to solidifying the power of the minority over the majority. Republicans have been using the rules of our republic to their advantage since the mid-1960s after President Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act. Since then, Democrats have been focusing on policy while the Republicans have focused on power. Our eternal hope that the other side is abiding by the same rules of common decency is a big part of why we are where we are today.
We’ve seen enough. It is time for us to accept that our governmental system has now passed-over the threshold of functioning democracy, and we are now in an age where policy is meaningless. This game is about power and nothing else.
Power vs. Policy
The Republican Party has been evolving their approach for decades. The various eras of Republican control took many forms. Richard Nixon’s brand of conservatism was different from Ronald Reagan’s, which was then very different from the Newt Gingrich-led version, which accelerated the movement towards the Tea Party, and then to “Trumpism” over the next two decades. The minority in this country is using the mechanisms available to them to remain in power regardless of the consequences for our nation as a whole while we watch it happen. We know the rules, we know what they are doing to win, yet we do nothing to change.
The last time the Democratic Party won a majority of White voters in a Presidential election was in 1964. Coincidentally, President Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act in 1965. Oh wait, not coincidentally at all. Ever since, the Republican Party has used race (and other culture wars) to divide and win elections. President Richard Nixon fully embraced, and expanded, the Southern Strategy to not only win southern Whites, but to also scare enough northern suburban Whites into voting for the GOP. The GOP has used the rules of government set up by our Founding Fathers, that were intended to protect the minority view in this country (a.k.a the ability to own humans), to instead force minority rule on to the country.
The ability to mobilize this plan has been aided by social media echo chambers, foreign interference, and a national media outlet who does the bidding of the GOP at every turn.
In the past, the Republican use of race was a touch more subtle. In 1980, then-candidate Ronald Reagan staged a rally at the Neshoba County Fair in Philadelphia, Mississippi. This seems like a fairly random choice, but that is unless you are aware that Neshoba County was the site of the murders of Black activist James Cheney and White civil rights workers Michael Schwerner and Andrew Goodman. But don’t worry, the message was received loud and clear from those White voters pining for a return to a segregated South. The topic of the speech was “states’ rights’,” again subtle enough that White suburban voters can say to themselves, “I’m not racist, I just support states’ rights.”
The dog whistles continued through the years, ranging from the “Welfare Queen” and the Willy Horton ads in 1988 (“yes, White suburban people, you should be scared that Black people are going to get out of jail and kill you”). These days, it’s more of a bullhorn than a dog whistle, including the white replacement theory that was one of the main motivators of the shooter in Buffalo, NY and a regular focus of Tucker Carlson on FOX News. And despite numerous polls showing that the majority of Americans either support or do not have an opinion on LGBTQ+ issues, the GOP has centered its nationwide agenda on enacting anti-LGBTQ+ measures. And of course abortion has been front and center since President Reagan saw the power of evangelical voters and the ability to divide Catholic voters.
Over the years, there are two themes that run in parallel …
1) The GOP will use race and culture issues to win, and
2) Democrats will either take the bait or tell themselves we should just ignore these fights because they will go away.
Easy playbook to figure out? Absolutely. Will we keep making the same mistake over and over? Damn skippy.
Rewind back to that cold day in January of 2009. Obama is now president, and with his inauguration, the Tea Party is awakened. This is arguably the point where the GOP walked away from dog whistles and excusable metaphors and visuals and just fully embraced the hate. I mean there was a Black family in the White House … the horror.
In the 2010 elections, the GOP used fear masterfully and the stage was set for President Trump just six years later. Trump took the less subtle approach to a new level, and while Hillary Clinton clearly warned everyone of what was coming down the pike, many Democrats just ignored it. They said there was nothing to worry about, and Trump would backfire (based on dozens of meetings and conference calls I have been on) so let’s take the high road. Well, that worked out super well, didn’t it? But this time we will learn, right?
Well we had better, or not only will there be a national ban on women controlling their healthcare, but gay marriage is out of the window, contraception coverage gone, and let’s not be surprised if they starting thinking about interracial marriage as a no-go again. This is the point where we decide if we are the next Russia or Hungary, or if we go back to being the world leader we arguably once were.
We’re All to Blame
The first step is to admit that just about all of us on a personal level share some of the blame. From anyone who said, “Clinton is just as bad as Trump.” Anyone who voted for a third-party candidate (or wrote in someone not named Clinton or Biden). Anyone who did not vote in every election. Anyone who did not donate time or money. Anyone who just laughed off the friend who espouses support for the authoritarian system. Anyone who has repeatedly ignored or minimized the warnings coming from minority communities as overreactions, or not something that can really be true. We all didn’t do enough.
But let’s also be clear that the Democratic Party shares a lot of the blame, as well. Since 2008, Democrats have had a total of one “good election,” and it is tough to give credit to anyone but former President Trump for the Democratic wins in 2018. After the 2010 shellacking, barely winning seats in the House or Senate in 2012 (even though President Obama won reelection relatively easily), losing the US Senate in 2014, Trump winning in 2016, and almost losing the House in 2020, one might think that we as a party would be looking for a new approach. But don’t worry - if there is one thing we are good at, it’s not learning lessons.
We are also lazy (why try to win local elections when we can just focus on US Senate races that we have no chance of winning), would rather be right than win (can you believe how inconsistent Republicans are in their views?), and we almost always refuse to dance with the person we showed up to the ball with (why don’t Black voters just turnout?). We are predictable, and arguably worst of all, we fall for the bait that the GOP puts out every time. Every. Damn. Time.
Acting Like a Coalition
But the past is the past and we cannot fix that right now. Our goal is to move forward together, to put an end to the GOP Authoritarianism system, and to try to position the United States as a world leader for the next century. The GOP has proved themselves unwilling to help save our country. So, it is up to the Democratic party to change our trajectory. In the short term, it is time to call up a coalition war room and, in the long run, it is time to strongly consider the breakup of the Democratic Party.
Since we know that there will be no help from the few remaining moderate GOP members, we are on our own here. And while we have been a coalition party for decades it is time that we truly started acting like a coalition. President Biden is the sitting president and therefore should be the head of the coalition, he must understand that the system of government that he loves so deeply is gone. There is no question that Biden’s love for country and dedication to our government is unimpeachable, but we do not have a functioning government anymore.
Biden needs to understand there are no “friends” on the other side, we are not working to make better policy anymore, and the GOP no longer cares about the norms of government or what is good for the whole country, just the minority they represent. Across the aisle are people who are willing to do whatever it takes to gain power or are happy to sit quietly on the off chance they might get something out of the deal.
Assuming Biden is up for the challenge, he needs to call in a representative from each of the factions within the Democratic Party (far left/progressive wing, the more traditional Democrats, the Black Caucus, the Hispanic Caucus, Asian Pacific American Caucus, and the more conservative/moderate members). These representatives should work behind closed doors to agree on an approach and steps moving forward. No leaks, no going to the press, just come out with a game plan and every other single Democratic member of Congress needs to get in line and STFU. This is not about policy, this is not about whether $10 million should go to this or that, and it is not about trying to position for future leadership if this effort is successful. There is one goal for this group: Win as many elections as possible from the US Senate to Congress, to the state legislatures, and state officers who control decisions on elections, healthcare, etc.
If this effort is successful and the American people throw out the idea of Authoritarianism as a viable path forward, it will then be time to strongly consider the break up of the Democratic Party to save it and our country. This is a risky approach, but we do not seem to be left with many options given how incapable we are to put the overall good above the individual need for power and attention.
Like the plan for the center right/Democratic coalition we discussed in 2020, under this line of thinking we would need to create a multi-party system living within a two-party system. While there are a few iterations of what could happen, the most simplistic is breaking the party into two and forming an immediate coalition like the German combination of classic center-left, green, and pro-business progressives.
Before the break-up happens, an agreement of power share and priorities would need to be decided upon, which could be relatively (emphasis on relatively) easy. Logistically, this will take some work and agreements between the factions given our voting system. But this effort would be helped immensely if states move to a rank choice voting system or a “jungle primary” similar to California (with the caveat that each new part only allows for one candidate to be on the ballot).
For the center-left faction of the Democratic Party, this approach would give them the ability to move forward without having to defend the actions and statements of the more liberal members of the party (think Congressman Ryan running for Senate in Ohio). This party would likely be more regional in the Senate, but much more geographically diverse in the House. This party should not take the label “Democrat,” which allows the more moderate members to shed a brand that is toxic in too many parts of this country. That process opens the door for some of the remaining moderate Republicans in Washington and state capitols to grow a spine and leave the party of Trump.
For the liberal faction, an agreement would be needed to meet a few specific and bigger goals. This certainly could include items such as universal health coverage, a tightening wealth gap, and increased economic and physical security. As stated back in November of 2020, the methods used to achieve these goals might not be exactly what the left would like, but if the goals are met, it is tough to argue against. It also frees up liberal candidates to not have to spend as much time defending, or explaining, the actions of Senators Sinema or Manchin and allows the faction to hold more clout in internal negotiations.
Ultimately where this puts us is an agreement around some big, and popular, wins: defending women’s rights to health care and abortion care, universal health coverage, re-structuring our social safety net, protecting the environment, committing to an electric vehicle infrastructure, gun control, increasing the ability for US companies to succeed by breaking up tech monopolies, simplifying the tax code, modernizing our patent system, and making the American worker more marketable both domestically and across the globe. Not exactly small wins.
These issues not only are politically expedient, but put our country on a firmer footing for moving forward in the global economy. This would put Americans of all economic levels in a better place (a huge win for the left) but also would also make American companies more competitive (a huge win for the center-left), and a definitive movement to a non-combustion engine future (a win for our non-existent Green Party).
Total pipe dream? Probably. But the fact is we are on the back slide of our democracy and big gambles are needed. We are a party that is unable to win in its current form, and we are stuck with a party across the aisle that is either batshit crazy or too scared or too delusional to do anything about taking the party away from the MAGA believers and the conservative Christian confederacy on the Supreme Court.
The Founding Fathers created a system designed for longevity - but, that system assumes that the two parties will both agree on the idea that the country comes first. The tools put in place were based on a world that no longer exists and the minority in our government and our nation has used the system to not just protect their power, but to force their worldview onto the majority.
The checks that were put in place: the judicial branch, impeachment, and even electors with the ability to not put an unqualified authoritarian in office have either been, at best, ignored or, at worst, nearly used as tools for tyranny. We need to change our trajectory. If we don’t, the United States will become a second tier country (if we haven’t already).