07 August 2022

Letter from an American: the huge difference between Democratic and Republican politics

 A longish quote from H C Richardson's Letter from an American today (the name of her column is supposed to be reminiscent of de Tocqueville). Usually she takes Sunday off, but this is kind of a historic day, and her comments illustrate beautifully how now matter that there are some bad actors among Democrats and the party is hardly a paragon either of effectiveness or principle, the difference between the Protofascist Republicans and the ordinary political party, the Democrats, is like night and day. Not only are the only real opposition to the erosion of democratic institutions and the impetus to hold those who would have committed a coup accountable both housed entirely in the Democratic party, the Democrats have actually gotten a few ordinary policy things worth doing done. Despite headwinds and a very negative political climate (including some virtually completely uncooperative elements in our own party).  

     Republicans used [the so-called budget reconciliation process] to pass their own signature measure in December 2017: the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017. This law cut the corporate tax rate from about 35% to 21% with the now-traditional Republican expectation that such a cut would spur economic growth, although the Congressional Budget Office estimated the measure would add about $2 trillion to the national debt over ten years. The Tax and Jobs Act did not increase employment or wages as the Republicans expected; those actually dipped slightly as corporations used the tax cuts primarily to buy back their stock, making it more valuable. That measure was the signature piece of legislation during the Trump administration. 
     In contrast, in the past 18 months, Democrats have rebuilt the economy after the pandemic shattered it, invested in technology and science, expanded the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) to stand against Russia's invasion of Ukraine, eliminated al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, pulled troops out of Afghanistan, passed the first gun safety law in almost 30 years, put a Black woman on the Supreme Court, reauthorized the Violence Against Women Act, addressed the needs of veterans exposed to toxic burn pits, and invested in our roads, bridges, and manufacturing. And for much of this program, they have managed to attract Republican votes.
    Now they are turning to lowering the cost of prescription drugs—long a priority—and tackling climate change, all while lowering the deficit. 
     Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne noted accurately today that what these measures do is far more than the sum of their parts. They show Americans that democracy is messy and slow but that it works, and it works for them. Since he took office, this has been President Joe Biden's argument: he would head off the global drive toward authoritarianism by showing that democracy is still the best system of government out there.
     At a time when authoritarians are trying to demonstrate that democracies cannot function nearly as effectively as the rule of an elite few, he is proving them wrong. 
     This is a very big deal indeed.

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