What Contempt for Democracy Looks Like

One of the old saws about the different ways partisans see the world is that both sides think the other side is more underhanded, more vicious, and more corrupt than their own side. And as far as it goes, that's true: Democrats think this, and Republicans think this. That doesn't mean, however, that they're both right. One side might in fact be more underhanded, vicious, and corrupt than the other. We can debate which one is, and both sides might have data points they'd use to support their contentions. But I'm pretty sure I've never seen a legislature controlled by Democrats do something as unbelievably shameless as what Rachel Maddow documents in this segment. All I could say after watching was, holy crap. The whole segment is a bit long (16 minutes and change), so I've clipped the part where it gets really shocking. The brief setup is this: According to the Michigan constitution, no bill the legislature passes can take effect until after the end of the session, which is usually the end of the calendar year, unless two-thirds of the legislature votes to pass the bill as an emergency. Since Republicans took over the legislature in the 2010 election, they've passed over 500 bills by this emergency procedure, including a bill that allows an appointed manager to take over any municipality in the state and fire all its elected officials. But they don't have a two-thirds majority in the legislature. So how did they do it more than 500 times on contentious bills when Democrats were united against them? Watch and see:

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In case your Commodore 64 doesn't allow you to watch videos, the answer to the question is that since they don't have a two-thirds majority, the Michigan Republicans essentially just pretend that they do. Even though they don't. They have a quick sham vote in which they ask those in favor of passing the bill as an emergency to stand, and after literally three seconds the presiding legislator, not even bothering to make a show of counting the votes, bangs his gavel and says, yep, that's two-thirds. Democrats are suing, and I can't imagine how even the most shamelessly partisan Republican judge could rule that what the Republicans are doing is legal. But thinking that would probably be naive.

We often throw around words like "tyranny" and "anti-democratic" to describe the actions of our political opponents, and it's usually hyperbolic. But I don't know how you could accurately describe this in any other way.

Comments

First of all if anything this is contempt for constitutional republicanism, not for 'democracy'. Nothing about 'democracy' would ever require 2/3 of anything for anything. Indeed, many people (including on the left) dislike current US Senate rules (that effectively require 60 votes) precisely on the grounds that they are anti-democratic. And, they have a point.

Second, seems to me one is always hearing about Democratic state senators leaving the state to deny their opponents a quorum or a supermajority or the like. Similar for this 'voice vote' maneuver in general. Not that I approve of any of these things, but the idea one party or another has a monopoly on these sorts of shenanigans is risible.

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