Conservative Autocrats

The continuing attempts by Republicans to manipulate districts, voting rights and ultimately elections continues at a hectic pace. Conservatives are trying a multitude of ways to game the system to their advantage instead of trying to win elections by appealing to voters in an honest and open way.

Before the 2010 mid term elections, Republicans concentrated on winning a majority in the state houses of a number of swing states. In 2010, the census allowed the states to redraw congressional districts. Many state houses, now controlled by the Republicans, were in the position to redraw districts to suit their own party, which they duly did.

Despite Democrats winning a majority of the vote for the House of Representatives, Republicans hold a clear majority in the House. Manipulating the system to give one party clear control despite having lost the popular vote places enormous strains on the foundations of democracy itself.

When democracy is subverted using tactics like this for long enough, the system cannot sustain itself. If people lose faith in the ability of democracy to resolve societal problems, they will eventually look for alternatives. The record of totalitarian, authoritarian or despotic regimes is dismal at best. Yet, conservatives hanker after a return to these failed forms of government by refusing to countenance honest, fair and open elections.

The rights of the people to choose their own form of government, without duress or manipulation is probably the single most important foundation of any form of self-government. When this right is subverted in any way, it amounts to removing qualified people from the voters rolls.

Throughout American history, conservatives of one stripe or another have attempted to interfere with the people’s right to choose their representatives without coercion, without the introduction of poll taxes, without discriminating by excluding women, without excluding people by race, national origin or sexual proclivity.

The 2012 election was marred by the introduction of gerrymandered districts in mostly Democratic states, with the net result that despite the number of voters voting for Democrats being close to fifty percent, Democrats only won twenty to thirty percent of the available seats in those states. The gerrymandered house of Representatives thus deprives millions of people of their legal right to vote by excluding them from the process.

The Republican strategy of redistricting, or gerrymandering, makes governance of the United States increasingly lopsided and undermines the ability of the nations representatives to make sure that their voters have a voice in Washington, and in their state houses. This allows conservatives to carry out their program of social and political disenfranchisement unhindered by political majorities.

Increasingly, Democratic voters are concentrated in urban areas surrounding large cities, while Republican voters are dispersed in rural areas. By creating a few districts with mostly urban voters on the one hand, and a larger number of districts with mostly rural voters on the other hand, conservatives are able to control state houses.

Considering that the cities are far more likely to pay a greater proportion of taxes per capita, the cities are paying for the services provided to rural areas, including the schools, roads, and other infrastructure. A small number of voters in these rural areas have a disproportionate impact on the services provided to urban areas.

This really amounts to a redistribution of wealth from the wealthier urban districts and states to the poorer districts and states, both within the states and around the country. While this may be a good thing in some ways, it is not what Republicans are supposed to stand for, demonstrating once again their hypocrisy towards any social issue.

Conservatives again and again rail against any form of redistribution, while happily taking money from the pot to support their own districts. If they were truly honest people, with true values, they would refuse money not due to them. They deny access to services to the majority of people, and yet covet subsidies from the central government.

In Democratic states, like California, where Democrats hold a clear majority, and were in the position of being able to redistrict in their favor, there was no evidence of gerrymandering. While conservatives love to claim their greater moral values, it is clear that attempting to win elections in a dishonest or underhanded manner is not conducive to good moral character.

It is the same as cheating in any contest between parties, whether it be football, or basketball, or politics. It shows the moral flaws and degenerate nature of the conservative ideology. It also has profound effects on the social structure of those most affected by conservative legislative efforts, especially minorities, women, children, the elderly, the intellectually challenged, and immigrants.

If the majority of people agree on certain basic rights for certain classes of people, for conservatives to impede that will undermines their own self-professed moral superiority.

During the 2012 elections, conservatives around the country attempted to prevent people from voting using voter ID laws precluding the elderly and disabled from voting, cutting back on voting hours, which prevented the working poor from voting, reducing the number of voting locations, which produced long lines. In Florida, long lines and shorter hours prevented an estimated quarter of a million people from voting.

According to one estimate, in the states where districts were gerrymandered, 16.7m people voted for Republicans and 16.4m for Democrats, leading to 73 Republicans being elected compared to 34 Democrats, a clearly disproportionate number. The number of seats should have been far close to fifty percent to each party.

In some states, notably those called swing states, or those that often decide presidential elections, Republican legislators are trying to gerrymander the Presidency itself by dividing the number of electoral college votes by district. In gerrymandered districts such as those mentioned above, 73 votes would go to the Republican presidential candidate and 34 to the Democratic candidate, giving the Republican a clear advantage.,

This would make the presidency impossible for a Democrat to win without a large margin of voters, instead of a simple majority of voters.

The United States needs to make a choice in their democracy; whether to create a one-party despotic regime, or to retain a fair, simple majoritarian system in which the majority effectively rules the nation through their elected representatives. This nation cannot afford to slip back into an authoritarian system of governance, especially a conservative system.

History shows us that conservative totalitarian regimes are far too often governed by parties that tend toward genocide, nepotism, apartheid, serfdom and other regimes that oppress their people, or certain parts of their nation. We ought to have learnt through time that it is only when we have open systems with greater liberty for all the people that societies can flourish and produce better results for the majority.

At the same time, a strong central government, tempered by majority rule, is far better at ensuring the rights of all its people, that strong central despotic states, or anarchic states. Government must ultimately be the arbiter of disputes and resolve them fairly for the majority, and the greater good, while being cognizant of the rights of minorities, or those without the political, economic or social clout that usually end in exploitation or oppression of those people.

Clearly, American conservatism is increasingly unable to guarantee the rights of all its people, and protect the minorities. The battle for the universal franchise in competition with an oligarchical system has been joined. Conservatives should be careful what they wish for, the results are seldom what they expect.

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