America as a One-Party State: The target is not the Democrats but democracy itself.
January 19, 2004 10:15 AM   Subscribe

America has had periods of single-party dominance before. It happened under FDR's New Deal, in the Republican 1920s and in the early 19th-century "Era of Good Feeling." But if President Bush is re-elected, we will be close to a tipping point of fundamental change in the political system itself. The United States could become a nation in which the dominant party rules for a prolonged period, marginalizes a token opposition and is extremely difficult to dislodge because democracy itself is rigged. This would be unprecedented in U.S. history.
     In past single-party eras, the majority party earned its preeminence with broad popular support. Today the electorate remains closely divided, and actually prefers more Democratic policy positions than Republican ones. Yet the drift toward an engineered one-party Republican state has aroused little press scrutiny or widespread popular protest.
   America as a One-Party State
posted by y2karl (45 comments total)
 
Holy shit, y2karl, I was just about to post this!

One of the troubling aspect of his claim is that it's the far right wing of the party that is trying to do this. They seem to be as hostile to moderate Republicans as they are to Democrats. If he's right, and if Calpundit is right about the hijacking of the Republican party, then liberals and centrists alike had better familiarize themselves with the Texas Republican platform.
posted by homunculus at 10:34 AM on January 19, 2004


Why do you hate America so much?
posted by Slothrup at 10:36 AM on January 19, 2004



I was just about to post this!

not to derail, but isn't the Prospect printing very, very good stuff lately?


posted by matteo at 10:43 AM on January 19, 2004


Noam Chomsky would say America has been a one party state for over a hundred years, the big corporations pulling the strings for Dems and Reps alike.

I sent Kuttner an e-mail several years ago. It appeared to me in a small library session that he was the coiner of the expression "virtual corporation". He never answered me.

Does anybody happen have an earlier cite than Kuttner?

Good grief trying to answer that question with google.
posted by bukvich at 10:44 AM on January 19, 2004


So whad'we do, impeach DeLay for abuse of his position? Can he be stopped? And where the hell is Daschle, why isn't he making a bigger rukus?
posted by DenOfSizer at 10:48 AM on January 19, 2004


Big deal. This is the sort of thing political violence was invented for.

...how many million guns are in the US?
posted by aramaic at 11:02 AM on January 19, 2004


At some point -- and we may actually be past that point already -- people are going to wake up and realize that the radical left's hysterical rantings about President Bush and the Republicans are absolute drivel.

You guys need to get out more....the world is not going to end if George Bush is re-elected. Our democracy is not threatened....nor is the Democratic party (sadly). I agree that a gerrymandered Congress is not a good thing, but if Congressional power is abused or Congress is simply not responsive to the electorate, the people will rise up and through the bums out....like they did in 1994.
posted by Durwood at 11:11 AM on January 19, 2004


Excuse me...that would be "throw"....
posted by Durwood at 11:14 AM on January 19, 2004


And where the hell is Daschle, why isn't he making a bigger rukus?

Because he's an incredible pussy and should be run out of town. Seriously, how low does the Democratic party have to sink before we get rid of this guy?
posted by jpoulos at 11:14 AM on January 19, 2004


nor is the Democratic party (sadly).

Don't be too sure, since the Big Guy has co-opted all their ideas, and the Dem leaders are drifting all the more hysterically leftward.
posted by hama7 at 11:25 AM on January 19, 2004


Durwood, at least you don't hide your disdain for anything that isn't a pure neoconservative wet dream.
Our democracy is not threatened....nor is the Democratic party (sadly).
posted by substrate at 11:26 AM on January 19, 2004


Y'all heard Durwood. "Go back to sleep, America. Your government is in control. Here, here's another episode of Survivor; watch this and get fat and stupid. By the way, keep drinking beer, you f***ing morons!'"
posted by keswick at 11:33 AM on January 19, 2004


Durwood: So you agree with the Texas republican platform, I take it?
posted by delmoi at 11:36 AM on January 19, 2004


Leftie moaning, again. If the Dems won OVER 50% of popular vote in last presidential election (yea: I know. But then we still use electoral college), then we are a long way from becoming a one-party country. Even at this point in his presidency, Bush has a lot of the nation against him. What the Dems have to do is get out the votes of those being hurt by the GOP--and that means a lot of folks who don;'t usually vote but who are being screwed.
posted by Postroad at 11:37 AM on January 19, 2004


This would be unprecedented in U.S. history.

1933-34 Roosevelt D 73rd 313 117 5 59 36 1 unified
1935-36 Roosevelt D 74th 322 103 10 69 25 2 unified
1937-38 Roosevelt D 75th 333 89 13 75 17 4 unified
1939-40 Roosevelt D 76th 262 169 4 69 23 4 unified
1941-42 Roosevelt D 77th 267 162 6 66 28 2 unified
1943-44 Roosevelt D 78th 222 209 4 57 38 1 unified
1945-46 Roosevelt/Truman D 79th 243 190 2 57 38 1 unified

We find that Roosevelt's peacetime support divided along class lines; while during the war class divisions blurred. Roosevelt's popular support was indeed conditioned by external events, refracted through the interests of different societal groups. We conclude that public support for modern presidents should be similarly studied as the sum of opinions among heterogeneous constituencies.

that is if you want to subscribe.
posted by clavdivs at 11:37 AM on January 19, 2004


Until the US moved past its weird 19th century plurality system that delivers artificial majorities to the largest minority party, there's not much that can be done. Both the two largest minority parties stridently oppose any form of proportional representation that would end political deadlock. Coupled with the gerrymandering/redistricting that entrenches incumbents, it's very bad outlook. Mind you, I come from a country with multi-seat Choice Voting, an incredibly complex system that still entrenches venal arseholes in government. Every system can be gamed - it's just that under the US system it's spectacularly easy to ignore a majority of the electorate.
posted by meehawl at 11:41 AM on January 19, 2004


In the aftermath of the Republican theft of Florida's electoral votes and the 2000 presidential election…
Did the Republicans steal it, or did Al Gore give it to them? It seems to me that the pivotal event in the Republican one-party takeover of the government was Al Gore’s inept 2000 presidential campaign, where he squandered all the equity of a booming economy, a popular presidency and his own incumbency, and handed the presidency on a platter to George Bush. Unless you’re willing to accuse Gore of taking money to throw the election (and performing the most spectacular lie-down since Sonny Liston took a dive for Cassius Clay), you have to forget this whole one-party conspiracy scenario, since a Gore win – which seemed likely and was indeed, highly achievable – would have made it all impossible.
posted by Faze at 11:43 AM on January 19, 2004


That was nice, Durwood. I especially liked the part where you supported your statements with logic and evidence, rather than simply stating your opinion as fact.
posted by ook at 12:14 PM on January 19, 2004


This really has more to do with ineffectual leadership in the Democratic Party than anything the Republicans did.

Al Gore is political death (Dean's numbers have been in a tail-spin since picking up the kiss of death) and even Clinton's hand-picked candidate is a sad shadow of his puppet-master.

I'm fed up with Bush and his spending but there is little hope for the Dems to offer a strong canidate.

The party's only hope is that Edwards has a strong showing in Iowa.
posted by Mick at 12:22 PM on January 19, 2004


The United States could become a nation in which the dominant party rules for a prolonged period, marginalizes a token opposition and is extremely difficult to dislodge because democracy itself is rigged. This would be unprecedented in U.S. history.

Weren't FDRs court-packing shenanigans "rigging"?

Unprecedented, my arse.

Roosevelt... was a vain, intellectually shallow person whose principal interest was to retain at all costs his personal power. Can so petty a figure have been that dangerous?
posted by trharlan at 1:24 PM on January 19, 2004


Trharlan:

Your article was very interesting, right up to the part where it opposed the use of force to defeat Totalitarianism, Facism, and Nazism in Japan and Europe.
posted by Ptrin at 1:42 PM on January 19, 2004


because, as Father Trharlan Coughlin suggests, we all know how well the Herbert Hoover economy was going. too bad that commie Rosenfeld cripple ruined it all
posted by matteo at 3:17 PM on January 19, 2004


...meanwhile back at the Reich chancellery....
posted by clavdivs at 3:53 PM on January 19, 2004


Until the US moved past its weird 19th century plurality system that delivers artificial majorities to the largest minority party, there's not much that can be done.

ou have to be careful when talkign about these kinds of reforms. The electoral college solves the problem that states like the one I grew up in would be relegated to resource colony status for the one I live in now. Hell, to some extent, they already are, for things like electricity and water. Because if 14 million people jump up and down in LA, the weight of 1 million of Utah almost doesn't matter, and wouldn't at all if it weren't for devices like the electoral college and the Senate. But Jimbob's excellent words apply to minorities by geography and population count as well as race, creed, color, religion, etc.

Sometimes it seems to me that the theory that the college inevitably favors the right is pretty much based on the idea that the problem of appealing to rural voters is intractible for centrists and progressives. The broad toilet brush with which radical conservative "pundits" try to paint the progressive movement doesn't help, but I don't think it's a lost cause, and if it is, that would say more about the leadership and perhaps even the ideology currently viewed as left of center than inherent properties of rural dwellers.

However, I would like to at least see electoral votes from a state split proportionally as the state voted. The balancing weight of the extra 100 votes spread out across all states would still be there, hopefully to protect the "flyovers", but in each state votes would be more fairly divided. It'd sure be nice to see some republicans sweat a little bit over the guaranteed loss of 1 or 2 out of the 5 votes in Utah they've always just taken for granted in my lifetime. And winning a state like California by a narrow margin wouldn't be such a coup -- just the measured expression of support that it should be.
posted by namespan at 4:55 PM on January 19, 2004


Weren't FDRs court-packing shenanigans "rigging"?

No. It never happened. He was prevented in packing the Supreme Court by Congress.

We Are Dealing With the Source of Justice

His own party stood up to him.

From FDR and the Supreme Court
posted by y2karl at 5:03 PM on January 19, 2004


y2karl: Roberts’s vote has gone down in legal history as “the switch in time that saved nine,” and many people believed he simply caved in to the pressure from FDR’s Court-packing scheme.

And, matteo, are you calling me an anti-semite?
posted by trharlan at 6:17 PM on January 19, 2004


However, I would like to at least see electoral votes from a state split proportionally as the state voted.

Maine and Nebraska do close to that. Each US House district elects its own elector, and whoever gets the most votes in the state gets the two electors representing the Senate seats.

In practice, you're not likely to see this spread, for simple strategic reasons. States want to attract promises of support and of policies they favor from presidential candidates. Right now, if you campaign real hard in Florida, you can get 27 electors, which is worth fighting for. If they split the electors, then the Democrats could more-or-less bank on getting 12 or so electors, the Republicans 13 or so, and a couple-few would be up for grabs. So if you campaign really hard in Florida and make a lot of promises to it, you get a net gain of the couple-few electors that were in play.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:54 PM on January 19, 2004


Our democracy is not threatened....nor is the Democratic party (sadly).

OK, Durwood, let me get this straight. You view left-liberal fears of a one-party state as ridiculous, but then you practically wish for the demise of the two major parties. It's a big difference to wish for the opposing party to lose than to wish for it to disappear altogether. Unfortunately, some Congressional Republicans seem to wish for the latter rather than the former.
posted by jonp72 at 9:16 PM on January 19, 2004


Father Coughlin is not a name to be tossed around lightly...matteo? (and while i like FDR, his administration was no big friend to us jews--they didn't let anyone into the country when we really really really needed it)
posted by amberglow at 9:22 PM on January 19, 2004


This article is part of a line of reasoning that has been actively helping Bush for some time now. The opposition to Bush insists that its electoral failure is due to a rigged system and a biased media. That excuses it from its failure at effective campagning and coalition building, and especially from the hard work of finding a story that makes emotional sense to a majority of the people in a democracy (Hint: "No War for Oil", "Where's the WMDs?", "Quagmire!", and "Depression!" aren't working).

The left-wing of the Democrats is utterly convinced that the only reason people might disagree with them is that they are stupid and manipulated by the Republican conspiracy. Rather than learn the lessons from the abject failure of the anti-war movement, and Bush's huge legislative victory in 2002, the opposition prefers a kind of paranoid self-righteousness that will guarantee us four more years of Bush and create the conditions for one-party rule.
posted by fuzz at 11:20 PM on January 19, 2004


This article is part of a line of reasoning that has been actively helping Bush for some time now. The opposition to Bush insists that its electoral failure is due to a rigged system and a biased media. That excuses it from its failure at effective campagning and coalition building, and especially from the hard work of finding a story that makes emotional sense to a majority of the people in a democracy (Hint: "No War for Oil", "Where's the WMDs?", "Quagmire!", and "Depression!" aren't working).

This article would appear to focus on legislative process in Congress:

Extreme Centralization. The power to write legislation has been centralized in the House Republican leadership... Drastic revisions to bills approved by committee are characteristically added by the leadership, often late in the evening. Under the House rules, 48 hours are supposed to elapse before floor action. But in 2003, the leadership, 57 percent of the time, wrote rules declaring bills to be "emergency" measures, allowing then to be considered with as little as 30 minutes notice. On several measures, members literally did not know what they were voting for.

Sorry, No Amendments. DeLay has used the rules process both to write new legislation that circumvents the hearing process and to all but eliminate floor amendments for Republicans and Democrats alike... In 1995, Republicans pledged reform. Gerald Solomon, the new Republican chairman of the committee, explicitly promised that at least 70 percent of bills would come to the floor with rules permitting amendments. Instead, the proportion of bills prohibiting amendments has steadily increased, from 56 percent during the 104th Congress (1995-97) to 76 percent in 2003. This comparison actually understates the shift, because virtually all major bills now come to the floor with rules prohibiting amendments.

One-Party Conferences. The Senate still allows floor amendments, but Senate-passed bills must go to conference with the House. Democratic House and Senate conferees are increasingly barred from attending conference committees, unless they are known turncoats. On the Medicare bill, liberal Democratic Senate conferees Tom Daschle and Jay Rockefeller were excluded. The more malleable Democrats John Breaux and Max Baucus, however, were allowed in.

Legislation Without Hearings. Before the DeLay revolution, drafting new legislation in conference committee was almost unknown. But under DeLay, major provisions of the Medicare bill sprang fully grown from a conference committee. Republicans got a conference to include a weakened media-concentration standard that had been explicitly voted down by each house separately. Though both chambers had voted to block an administration measure watering down overtime-pay protections for workers, the provision was tacked onto a must-pass bill in conference.


Building coalitions seems rather an inappropriate phrase when legislation is made with such procedural innovations.
posted by y2karl at 11:52 PM on January 19, 2004


but if Congressional power is abused

If? If? If? How about when? As in when the corporate lobbyists write the legislation that DeLay presents for a vote the system is broken. Lawmakers are supposed to be paid to write legislation, not the lobbyists.
posted by nofundy at 6:07 AM on January 20, 2004


And then there are the cowboys, at project MOCKINGBIRD, to herd the two dawgies along in the same general direction. If the two pastries become one, well.......they'll need a few less cowboys.
posted by troutfishing at 8:59 AM on January 20, 2004


oops. I meant "parties" there, not "pastries".

But if parties were pastries, what would the Democrats be? - a donut, I'd bet. The Republicans?.....something creme-filled but more upscale and with chocolate, I'd guess.

If the US is taken over by the Republicrats, what would they be, as a pastry?

I do think this election is a pivotal moment. I'm sick of political junk food.
posted by troutfishing at 9:08 AM on January 20, 2004




troutfishing: a few comma splices and you're halfway to thomcatspike.

matteo: I'm waiting...
posted by trharlan at 10:02 AM on January 20, 2004


trharlan - that's high praise indeed.
posted by troutfishing at 10:13 AM on January 20, 2004


y2karl: Roberts’s vote has gone down in legal history as “the switch in time that saved nine,” and many people believed he simply caved in to the pressure from FDR’s Court-packing scheme.

Caved in over what?

Reflecting the extent to which Marxist thought had pervaded American culture, the majority stated,
What can be closer to the public interest than the health of women and their protection from unscrupulous and overreaching employers? ...The Legislature was entitled to adopt measures to reduce the evils of the “sweating system,” the exploiting of workers at wages so low as to be insufficient to meet the bare cost of living, thus making their very helplessness the occasion of a most injurious competition....

There is an additional and compelling consideration which recent economic experience has brought into a strong light. The exploitation of a class of workers who are in an unequal position with respect to bargaining power and are thus relatively defenseless against the denial of a living wage is not only detrimental to their health and well being, but casts a direct burden for their support upon the community.
...The second point is a related one — one that unfortunately many Americans have never wanted to face: Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal was based onIn fact, there’s a very simple reason that both Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini praised Roosevelt’s New Deal — Roosevelt’s program was based on the same principles that both of them were employing to get their countries out of their own economic depression.


Well, that's the minimum wage for you-- a socialist and fascist principle that were totally alien to the principles of liberty on which our nation was founded. Certainly a mainstream opinion rivalling opposing the use of force to defeat Totalitarianism, Facism, and Nazism in Japan and Europe.

.. But the way things are going, maybe history will correct itself with a Supreme Court finally capapble of overturning the ''Marxist'' minimum wage.
posted by y2karl at 10:44 AM on January 20, 2004


namespan wrote: The electoral college solves the problem that states like the one I grew up in would be relegated to resource colony status for the one I live in now.



I wasn't really referring to the US Presidential system but instead to the state and local representative electoral system. In Ireland in the 19th century we realised that these small, gerrymandered single-candidate regions were rigged, and they were called "rotten boroughs" or "pocket boroughs". Ireland's solution to the problem of endless incumbency was to create larger, multi-seat boroughs, and to weight the numbers so that rural areas were over-represented while urban areas were under-represented. Within multi-seat constituencies, 2 or three people are elected, based on a proportional system.

In real terms this means that each large party usually gets to return at least one rep for that area, and if it is solidly for that party then they get 2 reps. Sometimes if there is a strong third party candidate then they get the third rep. The system is both top-down and bottom-up vote balancing - redistributing excess votes above the election requirement from strong candidates and re-allocating votes for weaker, elminated candidates. Thus it tends to maximize the "utility" of votes cast. In Ireland's system, in each constituency, roughly 80% of people "get" at least one candidate elected as a result of a vote they cast. This promotes buy-in. In the US plurality system, sometimes up to 75% of people in a constituency "get" a candidate elected for whome they cast no votes. This promotes apathy and resignation.

Ireland's Presidential election system doesn't use electoral votes but instead uses instant runoff with transferable votes, which works quite well. Generally the candidate with the largest number of first preferences wins through to the end, but occasionally with a very divided electorate or a close finish the first-round leading candidate falls behind on vote transfers once weaker opponents are eliminated. Here's a blow-by-blow of how Ireland's last two Presidential elections worked - it's a good analysis of the mechanics of instant run-off voting for single-candidate elections such as Presidental campaign.

You *do* know that Irish people can talk about voting systems for *ever*? And don't get me started on the French system of US-style plurality voting, followed by a mandatory binary instant runoff. Thank goodness for the mandatory second round because the fascist Le Pen almost won through on the first round with only 20% of the vote - an almost USian result.
posted by meehawl at 11:45 AM on January 20, 2004


Sorry, brain fart. In Ireland it's 3-5 representatives returned per constituency, or district. So each party usually gets 1-2 each, and fights for the third with the "other" party and/or independents or non-party candidates.
posted by meehawl at 11:54 AM on January 20, 2004


You *do* know that Irish people can talk about voting systems for *ever*?

I wish they would all take come to the U.S. for a vacation and do so. Maybe enough people here would start thinking about changes to the voting system to actually get something started.
posted by Mars Saxman at 1:39 PM on January 20, 2004




That's a flagwrapped burrito of a case, H. Lets hope the Supremes are hungry, and that they have some Tums on hand also.
posted by troutfishing at 9:52 PM on January 20, 2004


Duckgate gets better. Is it a one-party state yet when the federal and judicial branches are indistinguishable?
posted by homunculus at 3:50 PM on January 21, 2004


Another pertinent link to the matter of this post.

Hung Up in Washington

The close division of Congress, in these times of vital questions about war, about economic policy, about equity in tax and social policy, about our natural resources, even about the very nature of government, has led to a new and more intense level of partisanship. Beyond that, the current division has brought about institutional changes, which, should they become permanent, are adverse to the future of democracy itself.
posted by y2karl at 4:08 AM on January 27, 2004


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