Can Republicans’ efforts to tilt U.S. democracy toward feudalism be stopped?.
Trump’s successes in reshaping the United States are all the more stunning as U.S. Republicans are a structural minority party. This is powerfully reflected in the fact that their candidate has not received the majority of the national vote in six of the last seven presidential elections.
However, thanks to the Electoral College, which convenes state-level officials to officially elect the president, the U.S. system can work wonders. It can turn the losing candidate into the President of the country.
Republicans cannot be blamed for any illegality in their rigorous pursuit of their form of “managed democracy.” They simply make the most of the existing forms of minority rights that have been incorporated into the age-old, effectively feudalist U.S. constitution.
The Founding Fathers were famously concerned with the preservation of special rights for the agrarian states. This is particularly evident in the marked overrepresentation of the rural population (which predominantly vote Republican) in the U.S. Senate. There, small states with less than half a million inhabitants have exactly as many votes as California and New York.
In this way, one can control 68% of U.S. Senate seats with just 30% of the U.S. population (and even 84% of seats with just half of the U.S. population). That distortion serves the Republicans enormously well.
And if you add to this equation how much the Republicans, and especially U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, are out to curtail voting rights especially for minorities as well as younger voters and lower-income voters, it becomes clear that American “democracy” is a very special construct.
But instead of modernizing the system – i.e., removing the anti-democratic elements – Republicans are aiming for the exact opposite. They want to preserve the feudal elements forever.
The shaky state of the U.S. constitutional order is also apparent in the fact that Trump has made no secret of the fact that he would pardon himself if criminal charges were ever raised against him.
That it is not crystal clear constitutionally that a U.S. president cannot misuse his office in such a grotesque way for his own benefit shows just how misguided our past belief in the solidity of American institutions has always been.
Demographic change to the rescue?
What about demographic change? Will it not put an end to the Republicans extortionate behavior?
True, the United States is becoming more multi-ethnic in the composition of its population structure. But one must also know that such shifts are only very gradually incorporated into the political system of the United States. After each U.S. Census, which takes place every ten years, certain adjustments to voting and constituency structures of the U.S. House of Representatives are made in the following years.
As to the Senate, however, since most minorities live in coastal and urban areas of the United States, the upcoming demographic changes will mean that it will become even less democratically representative than it already is.
Above all, one should never neglect the importance of the courts. They will do their utmost to protect the Republicans in maintaining their special role – turning what is a structural minority party at the federal level into the nation’s political majority party.
Next: Drowning the “monster” of the federal bureaucracy
This allows the Republicans to realize their long-time dream, which they have cherished at least since the days of Ronald Reagan, to drown the alleged “monster” of the federal bureaucracy in the bathtub, as their activists like to put it.
That is one reason why they appreciate the current retirement wave among U.S. civil servants so much. By not filling jobs, they can advance the cause of deregulation by simply arguing there is no staff to monitor industrial activity of any kind.
In addition, U.S. budget legislation is such that one must finance any suggestion for expenditure increases (such as for new hires) by presenting cuts elsewhere. That will be practically impossible, not least because Trump’s “tax reform” further reduced federal income. And to propose tax increases basically remains an instrument for political suicide in the United States.
Shaking the entire Western order
The picture drawn here is a warning call. It fundamentally shakes the traditional assumption of the solidity, fairness and balance of the U.S. political system.
And with that, it shakes the entire Western order. The institutional solidity of the United States has always been counted as one of the West’s rock-solid foundations.
No wonder then that, even among those in the West who consider themselves friends of the United States, there are currently two schools of thought. Some are firmly convinced that the mechanism of “checks and balances” will prevail and that the system will self-correct. Others lack this belief, but at least still hope for such an outcome.
In any case, we are all well-advised to abandon our long-standing belief in American democracy as the gold standard of how to organize a community worldwide.
The obstacles to root out the immense weaknesses Trump and the Republicans have exploited are very big. And one can count on the Republicans to defend their magic – turning a structural minority party at the federal level into the nation’s political majority party – with the utmost ferocity, including via the courts.
****Stephan Richter is the publisher and editor-in-chief of The Globalist, the daily online magazine on the global economy, politics and culture, which he founded and launched in January 2000.
He also is the President of The Globalist Research Center, the online thinktank — as well as the creator of The Globalist Quiz, a weekly feature exploring the global agenda in an innovative fashion that is syndicated to newspapers around the world.
Mr. Richter is a frequent guest on leading radio and television programs, including CNN, PBS Newshour, Germany’s ARD and ZDF and National Public Radio.
A sought after and thought-provoking keynote speaker at executive conferences and retreats, he has moderated more than 150 policy events during his time in Washington, D.C., featuring prime ministers, CEOs, Nobel laureates and heads of international organizations.
His articles and views have appeared in such publications as the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Financial Times, Harvard Business Review, Fortune, Salon, Le Monde, Les Echos, Die Welt, Der Spiegel, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Die Zeit, Handelsblatt, Manager Magazin, Cicero, NZZ and Foreign Affairs.
For the past ten years, he was the presenter of the Marketplace Globalist Quiz, aired on public radio stations all across the United States as part of NPR’s Morning Report. From 2002-08, he was a monthly columnist for Les Echos, the leading financial daily in France. He was also the U.S. correspondent for Rheinischer Merkur from 1990-98, as well as a monthly columnist for CEO Magazine.
In addition, he has been a keynote speaker on geopolitical and geoeconomic issues and trends at major international conferences organized by asset managers, investment banks and public policy institutions in Europe, the United States and Asia.
Prior to starting The Globalist, Mr. Richter led a global strategic communications firm based in Washington, D.C., advising ministers and CEOs of governments, leading global banks and corporations, international organizations and foundations around the world.
In that capacity, he served as North American advisor to the German Economics Ministry and Vice Chancellor in the early 1990s, when he successfully shaped the “New Federal States” campaign, designed to create a dynamic brand image for the former Communist East Germany.
In the fall of 1990, at the request of the U.S. Senator Bill Bradley, he drafted the Sense of the U.S. Senate resolution calling for forgiveness of Poland’s Communist-era public debt. It proved a crucial step in the successful conclusion of the April 1991 Debt Agreement in the Paris Club.
For those activities, he was awarded the Cross of the Order of Merit by the President of Poland in June 2014, as part of the country’s celebrations for the 25th anniversary of the arrival of freedom.
Mr. Richter received his J.D. from the University of Bonn, Germany in 1984, was a Rotary Foundation Award recipient in 1980-81 and a Congressional Fellow of the American Political Science Association in 1986-87.
His 1992 book, Clinton: What Europe and the United States Can Expect, correctly forecast the Clinton Administration’s emphasis on fiscal consolidation in U.S. public accounts.
In 2013, he was the co-editor of the book, In Search of a Sustainable Future: Reflections on Economic Growth, Social Equity and Global Governance.