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Boyd: As midterms approach, recognize Republican degradation of democracy

Ryan Boyd

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As Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into the Trump campaign advances, it has become increasingly clear that the Republican Party is, by and large, anti-democratic. Though news organizations have reported that President Donald Trump has repeatedly discussed firing the Special Counsel, Republicans — with a few exceptions, notably Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Thom Tillis (R-N.C), Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) — have refused to intervene. Speaker of the House Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell both said they will refuse to allow a bill protecting the Special Counsel to reach the House and Senate floors, respectively. And a number of Republicans, particularly those in tough primaries or in deep red districts, have outright called on Trump to fire Mueller. They know such an action would directly contravene the rule of law and enable an already reckless president, but they don’t seem to care.

In fact, if the past 10 years have shown us anything about the Republican Party, it’s that it is remarkably consistent in its desire to shatter America’s democratic norms, one by one. At the state level, strict, repressive and bigoted voter ID laws have prevented hundreds of thousands of black voters from participating in the electoral process. Extreme gerrymandering in red states — which even the conservative Roberts court has ruled against — has systematized the underrepresentation of people of color to lock in permanent Republican majorities. And recent Republican defeats in special elections have prompted some states to try to do away with special elections altogether. These lawmakers seem to believe that if a Republican candidate isn’t going to win, we shouldn’t bother having a race.

In Congress, the GOP’s authoritarian streak is even more pronounced. Recently, Ryan tried to fire the House Chaplain for calling for a tax code that benefits all, but still refuses to remove U.S. Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) from his post as head of the House Intelligence Committee. This is especially reckless given that Nunes spends his days undermining the Justice Department and making a joke of congressional oversight. Ryan is actively aiding and abetting a campaign to discredit law enforcement in order to protect the wildly corrupt president. McConnell has done even worse: In his quest to take down then-President Barack Obama, McConnell used the filibuster in an unprecedented manner — holding up uncontroversial nominees, stopping bills supported by both parties and eliminating what remained of the Senate’s bipartisan collegiality. His refusal to even consider Merrick Garland’s nomination for the Supreme Court marked a point of no return; it was a crossing of the illiberal Rubicon.

The egregious decisions of GOP leaders reflect the will of rank-and-file Republicans. They chose Ryan and McConnell. They chose dysfunction and democratic backsliding. They did not choose oversight and institutional strength. It is crucial to remember that this a problem that plagues the entire Republican Party, not just the president and congressional leadership.

What is even more disheartening is that when Republicans attack institutions, it isn’t collateral damage in pursuit of some greater goal. It is the goal. The GOP gerrymandered districts, protected an outrageously backward campaign finance system, subverted political norms and disenfranchised voters to obtain control of the presidency, the House, the Senate, the Supreme Court, 34 governor’s mansions and a majority of state legislatures. Yet, they have almost nothing to show for it except more corruption and more attacks on the rule of law.

As the midterm elections approach this fall, it is important to recognize the danger this poses to our democracy. Republicans and Democrats do not only differ on matters of policy. They are fundamentally opposed on issues relating to democratic institutions and corruption. If you are uncomfortable with quasi-authoritarian impulses and disregard for the rule of law, then you should be uncomfortable voting for Republicans. If you want to see a return to normalcy — proper congressional oversight, a respect for the independence of the FBI and Department of Justice and a desire to slow the rising tide of influence peddling and cronyism — then you should enthusiastically vote for Democrats.

Ryan Boyd is a Weinberg freshman. He can be contacted at ryanboyd2021@u.northwestern.edu. If you would like to respond publicly to this column, send a Letter to the Editor to opinion@dailynorthwestern.com. The views expressed in this piece do not necessarily reflect the views of all staff members of The Daily Northwestern.

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