House Republicans sang “Amazing Grace” at a closed-door meeting this morning after deciding they’ll stick to their plan to alter the Affordable Care Act and risk a government default, according to Darrell Issa, a Tea Partier from California.
But if they were once lost and blind, they’re giving no hint of being found and seeing what a mess they’ve created. Even when this crisis is over, further crises lie ahead unless we correct three distortions of our democracy that have allowed a minority of extremist Republicans to hold the nation hostage:
(1) Gerrymandered congressional districts have shielded the extremists from accountability to the broader public. Gerrymandering isn’t new but in recent years right-wing state legislatures have extended and perfected it. The best solution: redistricting by nonpartisan committee. Voters supported this in California; evidence suggests many voters in “red” states would now be supportive as well.
(2) Unlimited and often secret money from a handful of right-wing billionaires has bankrolled the extremists. Big money in politics isn’t new, either, but the Supreme Court’s disgraceful 2010 decision in “Citizen’s United vs. Federal Election Commission” opened the floodgates, and the recently-argued “McCutcheon vs. Federal Election Commission” (challenging the personal donation limits that became law in 1974) could open them wider. “Citizen’s United” must be reversed, if necessary by a constitutional amendment. And at least one of the five Republicans on the Court must be replaced by someone dedicated to preserving our democracy. In the meantime, there must be full disclosure of all contributors.
(3) Raging inequality — with the typical family getting poorer and almost all economic gains going to a small group at the top –- has made the white working class susceptible to the extremists, financed by those seeking to entrench their privilege and power. As Justice Louis Brandeis said over a century ago when America faced a similar scourge, “We can have a democracy or we can have huge wealth in the hands of a few, but we cannot have both.” (To understand how we can reverse this trend, see “Inequality for All” and check the website www.inequalityforall.com.)