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The Republican Party vs. American Democracy: Only One Can Survive

The Republican Party has won for itself all three branches of national government by a combination of chicanery and sedition. They have secured the House thanks to gerrymandered districts and targeted voter suppression--strategies which evoke legitimate comparisons to the days of Jim Crow. They have fallen in line behind a president who never tells the truth, scapegoats the weak and vulnerable, and who probably conspired with the Russian government to beat Hillary Clinton last fall. They have stolen a Supreme Court nomination from a Democratic president, and radicalized their base so as to make bipartisan compromise a political impossibility.

And for all this, they have been rewarded with a once-in-a-century opportunity to remake American government into an undemocratic instrument of private wealth, programmed to transfer even more money from the poor and middle class, as well as the assets still held in common trust (e.g. public lands, natural resources, etc.), to the few at the very top.

But they haven’t won yet. To ensure the realization of these long-held goals, the entire Republican Party is now hard at work covering Trump’s messy tracks and propagating his cult of personality. At the same time, they are trying to ram through a repeal of the ACA before anyone can see it--a necessary first step toward a government exclusively by and for the hyperwealthy. And finally, Trump and the Republicans are trying to intimidate and delegitimize both the intelligence community and the free press--two of the remaining centers of opposition to his authoritarian rule. (Trump even pays homage to one of the "Great Ones" by resurrecting an old Stalinism, "enemy of the people," to castigate the press.) Should the Republicans fail in any of these endeavors, their ambitiously dystopic vision may never come to pass.

So now, we as a nation have finally reached the crossroads we’ve been moving toward since the era of Barry Goldwater. All of the antidemocratic things the Republican Party has done over decades to reach this point have gradually made it anathema to the foundational American ideals of transparent and representative governance. The GOP is now beyond accommodation, appeasement or redemption. And now that a strongman like Trump occupies the Oval Office, the death struggle between democracy and authoritarianism is no longer just over the horizon; it’s here. The foundational institutions of American democracy will either triumph or perish in the fight. The same is also true of the Republican Party.

This fight was not the will of the American people, but the choice of a handful of powerful Republicans, who deliberately made their party incompatible with America's democratic traditions in exchange for power. It's going to be ugly and destructive no matter what.

Should Republicanism/Trumpism prevail, the United States will likely become a one-party state, in which an informed and engaged citizenry plays no role. If, on the other hand, American democracy is to survive in anything more than name, the architects of this historical moment--which include names like Trump, Bannon, Sessions, McConnell and Ryan--will have to be sidelined and discredited, and the party they lead repudiated and possibly even abolished. That's where we're at. These men know very well the stakes of the game they play. Everyone else should know them too.

Eric Busch

2300 Red River Street, University of Texas at Austin, TX, 78712

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