In my very first post here at Political Animal, I described the possible threat from a Confederate insurgency. In his review of Charles Murray’s latest book, By the People: Rebuilding Liberty Without Permission, Ian Millhiser basically describes it as an insurgency by another name.
Before he gets to the book, Millhiser reminds us of a couple of things. First of all, he points to the fact that it was not that long ago that Majority Leader Mitch McConnell suggested that democracy wasn’t working.
At the height of 2011’s debt ceiling crisis, then-Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) offered a candid explanation of why his party was willing to threaten permanent harm to the U.S. economy unless Congress agreed to change our founding document. “The Constitution must be amended to keep the government in check,” McConnell alleged. “We’ve tried persuasion. We’ve tried negotiations. We’ve tried elections. Nothing has worked.”…
Few politicians are willing to admit what McConnell admitted when he confessed that elections have not “worked” to bring about the policy Republicans tried to impose on the nation in 2011. Elected officials, after all, only hold their jobs at the sufferance of the voters, and a politician who openly admits that they only believe in democracy insofar as it achieves their desired ends gives the middle finger to those voters and to the very process that allows those voters to have a say in how they are governed.
Secondly, he reminds us that, even though an entire industry has risen to debunk Murray, he is still revered by powerful Republicans.
Dr. Murray’s pre-Bell Curve work shaped the welfare reforms enacted in the 1990s. Former Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan cited Murray in 2014 to claim that there is a culture of laziness “in our inner cities in particular.” Last April, when Jeb Bush was asked what he liked to read, he replied “I like Charles Murray books to be honest with you, which means I’m a total nerd I guess.”
So when Murray speaks, powerful and influential men (and his acolytes are, almost invariably, men) listen, including men who shape our nation’s fiscal policy and men who could be president someday.
Millhiser then does a thorough job of explaining what Murray proposes in this book. It’s important to note that it’s title “By the People” is the exact opposite of what he recommends. Basically what Murray wants to see is an ultra-rich benefactor who would be willing to pay for a legal defense fund that would subvert the work of the federal government.
To impose these limits on society, Murray claims that his Madison Fund can essentially harass the government into compliance. The federal government, Murray claims, cannot enforce the entirety of federal law “without voluntary public compliance.” Federal resources are limited, and only a small fraction of these limited resources have been directed towards enforcement. Thus, Murray argues, by simply refusing to comply with the law and contesting every enforcement action in court, regulated entities can effectively drain the government’s resources and prevent it from engaging in meaningful enforcement.
These are not merely the ravings of a lunatic right-winger. I was immediately reminded of the fact that Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has advised states to disregard the recent EPA rulings on coal plant emissions while various entities challenge them in court.
For a while now I have been suggesting that this form of Republicanism is best described as a beast in it’s final death throes. That beast is now a minority in this country and as it lashes out, one of the only remaining possibilities for survival is to subvert our democratic process.
I hope that by now you know that I am not one given to hyperbole and conspiracy theories. I don’t say all this to ramp up a fevered reaction. But it’s important to see what is happening here with clear eyes and name it for what it is…a call to insurgency.