Republicans fear by sticking to conventional political rules, they’ll lose even more. Economically, they’ve already lost much. According to Levitsky and Ziblatt, authors of Why Democracies Die, this sort of “do or die” strategy is a threat to democratic stability.
How so? Economics provides the underlying clue. Their congressional voting districts, rural and ex-urban, are dominated by older, whiter, less diverse males concentrated in agriculture, mining and manufacturing jobs. These are faring poorly in the aftermath of the Great Recession, compared to digital and professional workers in jobs concentrated in more heavily populate urban areas.
If your chosen occupation dries up and you live in Middle America, why not retrain, then relocate to an urban area where good jobs are abundant? What holds you back?
Likely, what holds you back is this. Many in Red America blanch at accepting reality and then moving on, to become as they may assume, little fishes in a much bigger, Bluer pond. So they resist, often mightily. They want to reclaim a sense of themselves that predates modernity. Need a vision of how that looked? Try reruns of then-popular sitcoms “Father Knows Best” and “Leave it to Beaver.”
Intuitively, one expects economic scarcity to drive working-class voters in the direction of social and economic reform. Not so in reality, however. Stagnation in Red congressional districts with high concentrations of voters “underwater” economically, fosters right-leaning dominance on culture war-issues, race and immigration included.
Economic stagnation and a “we’d rather fight than switch” mentality are powerful explanations of how Donald Trump made it to the White House, then stays anchored there amid widespread public corruption that would have sounded a death knell for prior presidents. Tragically, Trumpian corruption works at cross purposes not only with the rule of law, but also traditional American civic values.
As authors Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt explain, contemporary Republicans have embraced a “by any means necessary” strategy to preserve their political power in the face of mounting economic dysfunction. The Constitutional hardball they employ in order to win however, can damage and even destroy American democracy.
Democratic institutions function only when power is exercised with restraint, the authors observe. When political parties abandon the spirit of the law and seek to win by any means necessary, then politics likely descends into institutional warfare. This is what’s happening in Autumn, 2019 around Donald Trump’s pending impeachment.
So why is the Republican Party playing dirty? According to Levitsky and Ziblatt, because Republican leaders are driven, not by some intrinsic or ideological contempt for democracy, but simply because they fear further loss.
The norm of gracious losing they say, is essential to a healthy democracy. When the torch gets passed by voters to the other political party, it can be regained by listening to the majority, then acting accordingly. This is not what Republicans care about, however.
See more Levitsky-Ziblatt-type analysis in our next post on What Motivates Losers, Part 2.
Module 30 Grandpa’s Conclusion, It’s (NOT) Impossible: In our last episode, Professor Robinson was reflecting on how to make capitalism great again…concluding…America must get its plow horse…too-long sidelined as a hobby horse…back into the field.
Module 29 Make Capitalism Great Again: Our trio exits the film…Night of the Living Dead … mumbling something about food cravings…zombie-style.
Module 27 Who Caused the Great Recession: This episode begins with Adam Smith placing a call to fellow zombie economist Jeremy Bentham…now residing in Truthiness City. Bentham…wary of liberals…had accepted part-time work at the university there…
Module 26 Grandpa Loses His Beard: …according to our newest zombie…the paradigms…narratives…even stories…used to explain how the world works…ought to be scrutinized…shaken down…at times…shaken up…even…to assure accuracy…to assure integrity with reality…with whatever may be the actual way our world has come…