Conservatives don’t understand this democracy thing

The Republicans of Alabama have just urged their state reps to kick Ilhan Omar, a Minnesota Democrat, out of congress.

The state GOP supported a resolution calling for the congresswoman’s ouster at its summer meeting in Auburn this past weekend, according to The committee reportedly approved the resolution on a voice vote after it was introduced by state Rep. Tommy Hanes.

The resolution calls on Alabama’s congressional delegation to “proceed with the expulsion process in accordance to Article 1, Section 5 of the U.S. Constitution.”

That’s just weird. I thought Southern conservatives were all about states rights and opposing federalism, but here they are, trying to interfere in another state’s politics. OK then. Can Minnesota urge the immediate expulsion of Moscow Mitch from the Senate? I wouldn’t mind that at all.

I could also mention this bizarre move by Boris Johnson to suspend parliament in order to prevent anyone from stopping by democratic means his grand plan to sunder Britain from the EU.


  1. Elladan says

    It seems to me that they understand it very well, and better than the liberal side.

    Specifically, they understand that it’s easily subverted by monied special interests, and the neoliberal variant we’re living under is built to shift inexorably towards fascism. They also understand that control of the media means they don’t need to worry about petty problems like being caught lying or engaging in hypocrisy.

    They also just happen to not think any of this is bad.

  2. PaulBC says

    Elladan@1 Sad but true. It is still worth using their own arguments back at them. Omar was elected by her constituents and it is none of Alabama’s business. What do you think they’d say if the tables were turned?

  3. PaulBC says

    Right, and they could expel Steve King too. Most recently:

    In 2002, Representative Jim Traficant of Ohio was expelled after he was convicted on numerous counts of bribery, racketeering, and tax evasion.

    Note “after”, not “because of”. Congress can expel anyone with a vote. However, I’d like to see Steve King limp along as the GOP’s racist standard bearer and (I hope) lose an election in 2020. Omar has committed no offense I can think of. (Though again, it’s about the constitutional process, not the offense.)

  4. calgor says

    Is it just me, but isn’t it ironic that a state noted for its traitorous intent against the USA in the civil war is now trying to kick out a congressperson for being “unamerican”. GOP has once again shown that that it has no relevance in modern society and its death is desperately needed. However I suspect it will be harder to kill than a B-Movie Dracula with a sequel in the works especially given how the Alt-Right have successfully resurrected the Nazi ideals…

  5. says

    It’S nOt A dEmOcRaCy It’S a RePuBlIc!!!

    I keep seeing that argument on Twitter whenever Republicans work to further destroy democracy in the United States.

  6. PaulBC says

    I knew I had posted something about this once on facebook. FWIW:

    I’m getting sick of reading rightwing mini-lectures in article comments about how “we’re a republic, not a democracy.” Anyone else? First off, yes, we are clearly not a direct democracy (and I’m not even a huge fan of it when it’s tried in California ballot measures). We vote for representatives according to various sometimes confusing rules and they are the ones who vote to pass laws. I know that!

    The question is whether our “republic” works as intended. I think if you asked an author of the US Constitution whether equal Senate representation made sense when one state has nearly 40 million people and another less than 600,000, they’d first have a long and hearty laugh at the idea. If you insisted, maybe they would say that’s so far off there is plenty of time to fix it before it happens. We didn’t.

  7. unclefrogy says

    true but only when they do it.
    additionally they will make huge fuss when the tables are turned doing and saying anything and everything they can think of to stop what they do not want to happen or get what they want to happen.
    while the liberals such as they are here in the US try to be reasonable and make formal complaints and protests and then let the steamroller carry on.

    uncle frogy

  8. anchor says

    @#1 Elladan: “They also just happen to not think any of this is bad.”

    That’s what I was thinking too. But their ‘thinking’ is perverse. They think its ok and clever and tactically shrewd and therefore ever so admirable to creatively lie and cheat and steal (the means) as long as the outcome is favorable to them (the ends of winning, so justified).

    Aren’t those the same bastards who are so muscularly well-trained in all that morals and ethics shtick based on religion?

    As you allude, the element of hypocrisy figures into it. Add an aptitude for cognitive dissonance. They are splendid at that.

    It’s a culture of organized insanity well nourished by copious amounts of money filched from the rest of civilized society and its institutions. Substitute ‘nutrients’ for ‘money’ and the analogy to cancer is exact.

  9. thirdmill301 says

    Tabby, No. 7, when someone tells me the US is a democracy rather than a republic, I usually remind them that “democracy” is Greek for republic, and “republic” is Latin for democracy. That generally stops them cold.

    Greek: “Demos” means people, “kratika” means rule, so it is rule by the people.
    Latin: “Res” means thing, and “publica” means people, so it’s the people’s thing.

    Maybe not a precise overlap, but close enough for government work.

  10. PaulBC says

    Aren’t those the same bastards who are so muscularly well-trained in all that morals and ethics shtick based on religion?

    I don’t think evangelical religion has ever been focused on ethics. Isn’t the whole thing “By God’s grace and not good works”? As someone raised Catholic, I don’t claim to comprehend it, and I also realize that a lot of conservative Catholics have thrown their lot in with the religious right. But anyway, I really would not consider ethics training one of the core competencies here.

  11. tacitus says

    Up until today, I wasn’t too worried about the UK not having a written constitution, but now I’m not so sure. All it took is one person who doesn’t give a shit about the democratic process to take advantage of a massive loophole in our unwritten constitution to suspend parliamentary democracy.
    I don’t even blame the Queen for going along with it. I would abolish the monarchy tomorrow if I could, but her refusing a request by the Prime Minister would still likely have caused a constitutional crisis, just of a different sort, and no doubt she was just doing what her legal advisers told her to do.
    We all know the pitfalls of having a written constitution in modern America, but there has to be a better way forward for the UK.

  12. Ishikiri says

    @8: I would say that “democracy” and “republic” refer to different things that aren’t mutually exclusive. Democracy is the concept of popular sovereignty. A republic is a system of government. Every nation in the world that is commonly referred to as a democracy is either a republic or a constitutional monarchy.

    Now, if a right-winger were to say that the US is an oligarchy and not a democracy, then I would gloomily agree. But they don’t use the word oligarchy because they know that it’s understood to be a bad thing.

  13. PaulBC says


    I agree. But I also think that even working as designed with free and fair elections, the US is a very broken republic. Wyoming (pop. 577,737) has two senators. California (pop. 39.56 million) has two senators. Puerto Rico (pop. 3.2 million) has no senators or other voting representation in the federal government. And to put it in perspective, California is about 67 times as populous as Wyoming. Milwaukee, WI (31st largest US city) is somewhat more populous than Wyoming. California has four cities more populous than Wyoming, and the fifth largest Fresno (pop. 530,093) is not that far behind.

    This is all according to “design” and not a recent oligarchical manipulation. It’s just a bad design. It’s doubtful that the writers of the constitution expected states to diverge this much in size or for the territorial status of a place like Puerto Rico to become so entrenched that people actually think you’re joking if you ask why it’s not a state (after overcoming their surprise that it is populated by US citizens).

    So, democracy, republic, whatever you want to call it. This edifice is in need of major renovations. (And by the way, I don’t trust anyone to do it, but that doesn’t change the fact of it.)

  14. says

    Hey, if they can do this then can Oregon, Washington, California, New York, Massachusetts, Vermont, Connecticut,New Jersey, Delaware, Connecticut, etc… do the same thing to Mitch McConnell? Do they really want to open this can of worms? I say bring it on.

  15. PaulBC says

    me@17 Correction: 67 should be 68.5. I accidentally divided by the population of Milwaukee, not Wyoming.

    Note that there was significant population divergence already at the time of the 1790 census with Virginia at 747,610 and Delaware at 59,094 (about 12.7).

    It looks like Virginia (the megastate of its day) did not have any counties larger than the smallest state Delaware so it wasn’t quite as ludicrous. Also 68.5 is a good bit higher than 12.7 (though it is within an order of magnitude; how big till I can call it ludicrous?)

    Though I can’t read minds of the living or the dead, I think its safe to say the the distribution of population by state was unanticipated by the designers of the Constitution (who were of course completely tied up in dealing the the odious distinction of free and enslaved population at the time).

  16. louis14 says

    @ 15. I’ve always been worried about it, for precisely the reason you give Tacitus. But I admit I was taken aback that Johnson went ahead and prorogued Parliament. I didn’t think even he would dare to be so blatantly hypocritical. I know he’s a downright liar (see the £350 million bus slogan), however, the Big Argument that leavers have got behind in answer to the charge that they’re all a bunch of xenophobes, is that ‘we’re not racist, we just need to take back our sovereignty’. In other words bring back sovereignty to Westminster.

    But by proroguing Parliament, he’s taken away Parliament’s sovereignty. What a precedent that sets. From now on, anyone can get whatever agenda they want enacted, no matter how unpopular, and face down any criticism by pointing to Johnson’s defenders today. Conservatives really don’t understand this democracy thing.

  17. anchor says

    @13: ” …I really would not consider ethics training one of the core competencies here.”

    I certainly wouldn’t either, but many of them are so ready and eager to judge and distinguish the good from the bad and right from wrong, etc. one gets a pretty strong impression that they think they invented it.

    Personally, I don’t think the religious right is about anything nearly as subtle as “By God’s grace and not good works”. I think they’re all about being God period.

  18. Ishikiri says

    @17: Sure, the existence of the senate and the electoral college make the US federal government quite an unrepresentative republic. But that aside, on a practical level, graft is legal and the wealthy few get what they want while everyone else gets told to fuck off unless their interests happen to align with those of the wealthy. No matter how you look at it, what we have is oligarchy. And it’s arguable that that’s how the founders wanted it, since voting rights were originally only given to white, landowning men.

    Also, oligarchy is what conservatives really want, even if they’re not willing to admit it.

  19. says

    While I’m sure that the suspension of Parliament is intended to hinder opposition to Johnson’s plan to leave the EU on 31st October come what may, he hasn’t done what was most feared – suspending parliament until after the 31st October.

    And there could be another reason behind it. By doing this, this session of Parliament will come to an end, and a new session will start on 14th October. A new session of Parliament can vote again on bills that were defeated in the previous session – e.g. the transitional arrangements deal that was defeated three times in the current Parliament because of the Irish border backstop.

    Perhaps he’s doing it to be able to give the deal one more vote in the House.

  20. slithey tove (twas brillig (stevem)) says

    re @22:
    yes, the Senate, representing States as a unit, being half the Legislature with the House being precisely proportioned to population was a tricky compromise when the states were essentially sovereign nations agreeing to a contractual cooperation.
    The first, slightest, correction was electing Senators by popular vote in their State rather than being appointed by the State Legislature.
    The Electoral College was a way to blend the two halves together for choosing the single person to administer the contract, under the title of President.
    Given the limitations of communication at that time, it seemed a reasonable approach.

    Now, with instant universal communication, and the states now considered merely subdivision of a single nation, the EC has become an antiquated artifact that needs to eliminated. It essentially holds “one vote per acre of land” rather than “one vote per person”, essentially what the objection of ‘urban voters versus farmers’ boils down to.

    excuse me for not including all the abuses wrought using the Senate and EC as implements.

  21. louis14 says

    @ 23. You’re extremely optimistic Paul, and maybe you’re right. Given Johnson’s clear public stance on May’s deal, he’d be flipping 180 degrees on a vitally important issue over which he has influence. This would be hypocritical and very dishonest…

    … oh.