I strongly believe that our system works best when Democrats and Republicans compromise, particularly on big problems. However, this only works if both sides a) care about solving problems, and b) both sides have a healthy respect fundamental democratic principles and institution and operate in good faith. If one side cares primarily about power, then bi-partisanship doesn’t work.
I believe congressional Republicans and GOP leadership have become authoritarian. There was a sliver of hope that might change afeter Trump leaves office, but that sliver has all but vanished for me. The way the Senate Republicans are responding to the impeachment trial–I believe 45 voted that it was unconstitutional–is part of this. If one of the rioters killed Pence, I am actually unsure if they would respond differently.
And let’s look at McConnell, who at one point publicly said that Trump committed an impeachable offense:
2/2 And, to spell this out:— James Fallows (@JamesFallows) January 27, 2021
-On January 13, when House voted for impeachment, McConnell said Senate could not consider it *until* Trump had left office.
-From Jan 20 onward, McConnell has said Senate should not consider it *because* Trump has left office.
If Republicans have become authoritarian–giving up on liberal democracy–the first step for Biden and Democrats is to recognize this–or at least be ever aware that this is a likely possibility. Professor Eddie Glaude expresses this notion fairly well:
.@esglaude nailed it on bipartisanship pic.twitter.com/Hs0uJCwgsa— Icculus The Brave (@FirenzeMike) January 28, 2021
But after this acknowledgement, what should Biden and Democrats do? First of all, I don’t think they can allow Republicans to obstruct and thwart the effectiveness of government–as a way to deprive Democrats of political victories. This seems like an unreasonable view of Republicans, but they don’t seem serious about solving problems, except in some instances. They seem to believe that ineffective government won’t hurt them politically–and it may even benefit them, as it breeds more public disgust and more people giving up on politics. Biden and Democrats can’t just let this happen. At the same time, they have to be careful not to undermine key democratic norms and institutions. Indeed, an important part of their task is to revive and strengthen both. This makes their task even more difficult.
At the same time, I think they have to be really careful not to do so in a way that doesn’t subvert or violate key democratic principles and norms and weaken important democratic processes and institutions. They have to strengthen our republic as well. Can they do this while strengthening the republic? That’s the challenge. To be continued…
2 thoughts on “If the GOP Have Become an Authoritarian Party, How Should Biden and Democrats Approach Governing?”
More evidence that the GOP has slid into authoritarianism
The following isn’t really evidence that the GOP has become authoritarian per se, but it suggests that they have few, if any, principles beyond the desire for power; whereas the Democrats at least seem to have genuine convictions in certain principles.
(Note: The Republicans support of tax cuts also can be seen a matter of power–namely, this goal serves the wealthy interests that help Republicans stay in power–and maybe personally enhance their wealthy afterwards.)
Invoking principle when it harms your adversary, while not allowing one’s self to be restricted by the same principles is something I associate with dictators. McConnell and the handling of Merrick Garland and Amy Coney Barrett are egregious examples of that. Here is another example:
Danger for Biden and Democrats
One big concern I have with accepting that the GOP has crossed a line, becoming illiberal, authoritarian is that this can justify illiberal behavior and other actions that can weaken key democratic processes and institutions. After all, why follow democratic norms and procedures if you believe the opposing party won’t respect these norms and will operate in bad faith? This could prevent Biden and Democrats from seeing instances when the GOP is being reasonable. In other words, Biden and Dems may become too dismissive and that can easily lead to thinking that will justify illiberal behavior. They have to guard against this.
One way to do that is to act in good faith–make an attempt to do things in healthy ways for our democracy. That is, always look for and encourage reasonable, good faith actions by the other side. Try to cut deals when the GOP makes reasonable concessions. Only resort to more hardball tactics reluctantly as a last resort.