The Danger Zone

Democratic systems vary, but they share certain foundational assumptions. The most important of those is the starting point: We The People are the “deciders.”  Ultimate authority rests with the voters.

In democratic theory, candidates contend for support during election campaigns, voters cast their ballots, and the candidate who garners the most votes wins. (At least if there’s no Electoral College involved).

In order for this process to work, both winners and losers must respect the will of the people.

Losers may disagree with positions endorsed by the winning candidates, and as the “loyal opposition,” they may work in accordance with the rules to defeat the winners’ agenda, but democratic norms require that they acquiesce to the people’s choice.

When that doesn’t happen–when the losers disregard the rules and norms in order to frustrate the choices made by the electorate–governance can no longer be considered either legitimate or democratic.  Political actors who accept authority when they win, but defy the settled norms of democratic behavior when they lose , undermine the public trust and make a mockery of the rule of law.

The visceral reaction to Mitch McConnell’s unprecedented theft of a Supreme Court seat reflected a widespread recognition that this was no ordinary political maneuver–it was the arrogant demonstration of a cheat that he would abide by the rules only when they favored him.

When Republicans in the North Carolina legislature stripped the incoming Democratic governor of powers the office had previously exercised–because they could–it was their middle-finger-to-democracy gesture.

That “in your face” rejection of democratic norms is spreading.

In a newsletter for the Boston Globe, Michael Cohen recently pointed out, “in a normal representative democracy, if you run for office and then lose you let the other party run things for a while. That doesn’t mean a political party can’t oppose those efforts, but it does mean that you have to respect the voters’ decisions.”

That isn’t what is happening in Wisconsin or Michigan.

In these two states, Republican gubernatorial candidates were defeated in this year’s midterm elections. Democrats also won both attorney general races. And now Republicans are refusing to accept the results.

Instead they are trying to use lame-duck sessions – before the Democrats are sworn into office – to weaken the power of the incoming Democrats and put in place policy changes that will benefit Republicans.

Let’s start with Wisconsin, where soon-to-be former governor Scott Walker and his Republican allies in the state legislature have spent the past eight years making a mockery of democracy in the state.  Upon taking office they rammed through a highly controversial measure that stripped collective bargaining rights from the state’s public sector unions. Then they re-wrote legislative maps to give themselves out-sized control of the state government. In the 2018 election, Democrats won 53 percent of the vote, compared to 45 percent for Republicans. Yet, because of gerrymandering, that translates into a 64-36 advantage for Republicans in the state assembly.

But apparently that’s not enough for Republicans. Now they are enacting legislation that would kneecap Democrats once they take office….

For Governor-elect Evers, Republicans would not only force him to enact work requirements for Medicaid, but would also require him to get the legislature’s permission before submitting any request to the federal government to change how federal programs are administered. In effect, Republicans would give themselves a veto over much of what Evers would try to accomplish as governor. Walker has stated publicly that he will sign the bills.


Republicans aren’t even being shy about their agenda. In Wisconsin, Republican Senate Majority Leader Scot Fitzgerald defended his party’s actions by saying, “I’m concerned. I think that Governor-elect Evers is going to bring a liberal agenda to Wisconsin.”

He’s right. But of course Evers’s agenda is what Wisconsin voters chose.  To put roadblocks in front of it is to, in effect, say to voters that their choices don’t matter. It’s hard to imagine a statement more contemptible in a democracy than a political leader telling a state’s voters, “only the views of the people who voted for me matter.” But that’s precisely what Fitzgerald and his Republican colleagues are doing.

Changing the rules after they’ve lost the game. Undoing the results of a democratic election because they lost.

This behavior is nothing less than an attack on America and its values.


  1. The GOP are losers and if they can’t win, they will cheat. That’s their motto and their middle finger to the world.

    I really can’t stand to even speak to them.

  2. Vote NO to all GOP. Kick GOP out. Don’t forget GOP is going to try to screw you again in 2020.
    VOTE to prevent another disaster.
    Democracy is on a roll. Clean out the GOP Senate and the GOP White House.
    Save Our Ship.

  3. “Changing the rules after they’ve lost the game. Undoing the results of a democratic election because they lost.”

    “This behavior is nothing less than an attack on America and its values.”

    The Trump administration and Congress has 25 more days to continue “changing the rules” “because they lost”. Trump has three vital appointments to be made to replace his original appointees in his revolving door governing of our White House; does anyone have a full count of the coming and going? Those who appeared to have “values” when appointed, quickly lost all pretense of sustaining their own values and jumped on the Trump train. Oops; Trump has four appointees to replace; how could I forget Sarah Huckabee Sanders is also departing at the end of this year! Who else from Fox News and Fox and Friends will be available and willing?

    We can be sure he will not be appointing George Conway to any position within HIS government; anyone else wondering what Kellyanne is doing to maintain her lofty position while married to a very vocal Trump dissenter? How has George maintained his personal set of values living among the White House insiders…or is he another distraction?

  4. Way too many legislators at both the state and federal levels see politics as ONLY a game, a game where the rules are meant to be broken. They do not see the ramifications of their decisions; they do not see the lives that are damaged by their actions, and they do not see that they are the destructive force ripping democracy apart.
    Like spoiled frat boys, their actions in business and government are just a power game of the privileged… as long as they are not the ones who gets hurt. If so, they are the loudest screaming, “It isn’t fair!”

  5. Norm Ornstein and Tom Mann said it first a few years back when they wrote, “It’s Even Worse Than It Looks.” They laid the blame for much of what is wrong with America at the feet of the GOP. Hopefully, what happened in North Carolina will happen in both Wisconsin and Michigan. The State Supreme Court ruled those laws unconstitutional.

    Usually it takes a while for absolute power to corrupt absolutely, but Republicans have got it down to such a science that it now occurs in just eight years.

  6. I see what the republicans do when they control all the power, and Florida is a great example, and our recent and on going environmental problems is a great example.
    I do believe that Republican actions here and around the nation are desperate measures to hold power as the voters are slipping thru their sticky fingers. My son just 30 said his generation will never support republicans and it’s just a matter of time before their time will be over. I believe the same way as I have watched my former GOP fall into the 7 levels of greed, lies fear/hate and betrayal of our nations values while claiming they are the keeper of them.
    At GHWB memorial last week, I believe it was Baker that said , “Hate Corrodes The Vessel It’s Carried In” and fear/hate is what’s at the root of much of what republicans have become. I believe the tide is turning as it always does, but the Democrats must be ready to take that power with ideas, actions and diplomacy, while never forgetting why defeating the republicans is critical at every point until they rid themselves of the political parisites that control them now.

  7. Ray R Irvin; this morning I watched a news segment on CNN News showing scientists trying valiantly to save the Great Barrier Reef. People do not – or refuse to – understand that the oceans are our primary source of life. Preventing Climate Change and Global Warming is now a GLOBAL issue; going far beyond Al Gore, his documentary Academy Award winning movie, “An Inconvenient Truth” and the 7 Swedish scientists he shared the Nobel Prize for. A GLOBAL ISSUE and Trump and Climate Change deniers continues to deny it.

    The movie “Soylent Green” was science fiction when produced; the ending with Charleton Heston crying out, “It’s people, soylent green is people.” became a joke to many who missed the fact that it was the death of our oceans which led to that necessity. Science fiction; yes, so were H.G. Welles, “Twenty-Thousand Leagues Beneath The Sea” and “Around The World In 80 Days”. ..and don’t forget “The Day The Earth Stood Still” and our recent NASA landing on Mars.

    “My son just 30 said his generation will never support republicans and it’s just a matter of time before their time will be over.”

    Will it be “just a matter of time” before the time of”Soylent Green” and “The Day The Earth Stood Still” as science fiction becomes our reality? We have already been to the moon and back and are watching films from Middle Eastern and third world countries of human stick figures, including babies, who are starving. Those warnings are of value to the world but are being ignored by the the Climate Change deniers.

    “The Danger Zone” is a reality in parts of this country already due to corporate greed and those denying the reality of our current climate situation.

  8. The fundamental problem arises from the practice of gerrymandering, where politicians draw maps to slice and dice the electorate to give their side the advantage. This often results in minority control, as in Wisconsin, and is at odds with one of the biggest linchpins of democracy – the idea that governors are elected to represent the will not only of the governed, but of the governed who constitute the majority from one election to the next.
    Madison gave the states the right to do their own thing in terms of election procedures, which explains such varying procedures from state to state. He did not foresee gerrymandering as we know it.
    It seems to me that while the states have such rights that a federal question is involved in such travesties as Wisconsin as suggested by “one-man, one vote” and voting rights acts and I hope that Wisconsin Democrats will bring this to the attention of a federal court there while working on appeal briefs certain to be necessary however such court rules. The right to vote and even its expression at the polls are meaningless unless such vote counts for the intended result and is not cancelled out by political artificiality. Sue.

  9. Changing the rules after your party loses doesn’t matter; gerrymandering doesn’t matter; for if neither existed and we elected our favorite savior representatives, the corporate world would own them within a few weeks of their assuming office, or as soon as the checks cleared. Now, tell us what the “underlying” problem is.

  10. Lest we forget the roots for this Republican hostility to democracy… When George H.W. Bush was chairman of the RNC, he hired two strategists to promote Republicanism across the country, Lee Atwater and Karl Rove. Those two bastards are responsible for creating the anti-democratic vectors in the Republican party, beginning in North Carolina. They embraced winning is everything to the degree we see today. Newt Gingrich was their first flag bearer.

    Oh, and GHW was raised by a mother who was a martinet and browbeat winning at all costs into the heads of her children. The genesis of this situation has long, tangled roots.

  11. Add Pennsylvania to the list. A local Tea Party advocate whose posse would show up at meetings and polls with “Baby Killer” signs, said, “Sorry man, but it’s about winning at any cost.”

    Once again, this points to the essence of Einstein’s famous dictum which includes heavy criticism of capitalism because of what it does to the spirit of the individual. “Win at any cost.”

    The open admission of fearing liberal policies by a GOP official wreaks of the Koch brothers who’ve spent billions setting up a network to guarantee republican victories in the states and our federal government. The progressives in those states have done a wonderful job of countering and developing their own grassroots movements to topple the Oligarchs.

    Here’s a better question, “Why is Indiana dragging their feet?”

    Michigan has legalized marijuana while Indiana wrestles with the legality of cannabinoid oil. LOL

    I mean seriously, the Lilly Foundation spends millions having state universities study the brain drain in Indiana. Lilly cannot figure out why young men and women leave Indiana for greener pastures.

    At some point, we may even have border wars among states. Once progressivism is allowed to flourish and the people sense true freedom and power, the people will never look back. Look at all the fastest growing communities in our country.

    Indiana is flat and ugly. To compete internationally, you have to be even more progressive than states with mountain ranges and beaches. Indiana has chosen to be a cheap boring state which might be fine for aging seniors, but our young people will vanish to greener pastures. I don’t blame them one bit.

  12. Todd,

    Your take on Indiana is unfair at best, and hostile at worst. Politically, of course, Indiana sucks. But since you apparently haven’t visited Bloomington or southern Indiana, you don’t understand natural beauty. In addition, there are some Devonian exposures of fossiliferous rocks that show the first fish ever to live on Earth.

    A state is as beautiful as its people perceive it to be. Did you know, for example that “flat and ugly” Nebraska has the most miles of fishable streams and rivers in the country? I’ve been through forty-six of our fifty states, and have seen marvelous scenery and met wonderful people in all of them.

    You really should get out more.

  13. If Democrat victory came as a result of a wave of anti-Trump, then new incumbent power will fair no better than Republican incumbents who simply rode the wave of anti-Obama. When you are against something, be known more for what you are for and enduring values and ideas that advance our way of life for all. Energy focused on impeachment by the new progressive left is a colossal waste of time given the current default from our state rising to power. Focus on ideas and policy that genuinely improve our lot to strengthen our case for 2020. Constructive statesmanship for peace and prosperity … affordable healthcare supported by sustainable resources … access to educational opportunities … immigration policy that enhance workforce capacity and production for all …. etc etc. If 2020 is just another referendum who we are against then our ship of state steers closer to the edge of the iceberg and we will just rearrange the chairs on the deck of the Titantic.

  14. Vernon @ 9:29 am, thank you for pointing out the path that Bush the Elder set the Republican Party on. The Bush Family and the McMega-Media created a posthumous Victory Parade for Bush the Elder that would make any ancient Roman Emperor jealous with envy. It was a performance worthy of a Cecil B. DeMille Hollywood Movie.

    It was desperate attempt to paint Bush the Elder as someone worthy of Sainthood.

    The Republicans like Karl Rove, gave the Reactionary Right Wing Evangelical’s a Party. As Barry Goldwater said: “I would remind you that extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice! And let me remind you also that moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue!”

    “Mark my word, if and when these preachers get control of the [Republican] party, and they’re sure trying to do so, it’s going to be a terrible damn problem. Frankly, these people frighten me. Politics and governing demand compromise. But these Christians believe they are acting in the name of God, so they can’t and won’t compromise. I know, I’ve tried to deal with them.”

    Goldwater gave the go ahead for, “extremism in the defense of liberty” and neglected to think that statement would be used in the future by the Bible Thumper’s as baseline justification for their theocracy.

    The bottom line for the Reactionary Right Wing Evangelical Republicans – What is mine is mine, and what is yours is negotiable. The Republicans take no prisoners and do not surrender to the results of an election.
    The new crop of Progressive Democrats recently elected are displaying backbone, some thing the Corporate Democratic Party has lacked for decades. It irks me to hear these pundit talking heads on Cable TV telling the Progressives they have to be pragmatic, i.e., sell out.

  15. Norris @ 11:10 am, I agree with you: > If Democrat victory came as a result of a wave of anti-Trump, then new incumbent power will fair no better than Republican incumbents who simply rode the wave of anti-Obama.

    You other statement: > “be known more for what you are for and enduring values and ideas that advance our way of life for all”. Issues and a Progressive Plan will win the day.

    I rarely watch CNN or MSDNC but these propaganda outlets seem determined to want the Democrats to push impeachment. Pull back the curtain and a good brawl over impeachment would light up the ratings and profits and divert our attention.

    The Democrats need to focus on the issues of We The Proles. Let Mueller do his job in court with out the drama of some impeachment hearings.

  16. Dear Ms. Kennedy – Provided your initial premise is true then is it not fair to say that at least three of the times a Republican candidate for President has been ‘voted in, that in fact they were not; and as such the will of the People is nothing to anyone anymore – obviously. I mean if WE counted to these butchers of democracy, wouldn’t the REPUBLICANS have been voting for a removal of the entire Administration by now? Everyone is talking about ‘when the Democrats take the House!’ What about the House that IS now? This says we the People have every right to hit the RESET button about NOW. (yesterday!)

  17. Larry > I’m writing about good government, not personnel issues, and the way to end corporate control is to elect people who can’t be bought and (along with Jefferson) don’t like corporate control. That would be some Democrats today and progressive Republicans like Teddy at the turn of the 20th century. There was a time when corporations did not control our government with such as ALECs, the Kochs, Mercers et al., and if we pursue progressive policies for all the people, rid ourselves of gerrymandering, adopt some of Warren’s current bill on congressional ethics etc., perhaps we can once again follow Lincoln’s idea that “sovereignty rests with the people.”
    As for “being for something,” we Democrats are for lots of somethings, from single payer, the rich paying their fair share of the tax load etc., and we will hear of a lot more somethings when the House assumes power (and the purse strings). I am optimistic that we will enjoy a majority in both houses with a Democratic president come 2020, and with millennial help, for the next twenty years beyond that. The trick is to survive until then. Patience.

  18. “Power corrupts. Absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

    That’s why democracy. That’s why our Constitution. It was strong enough to overcome the corruption of power for almost 250 years. What changed?

    The power of pervasive entertainment media to spread fantasy across the land in order to rob voters of the information that good democracy requires has replaced democracy. Can democracy ultimately defeat fantasy?

    We know that the struggle is on. We don’t know the ultimate winner, freedom or power. Freedom is riding a small wave at the moment but the corruption fueled by power never, ever sleeps.

    2020 will be the next milestone battle. For freedom to win every election is essential. For freedom to ultimately win the use of entertainment media to influence voters has to be replaced with serious campaign informing.

  19. I fear for our democracy based on the behavior of Republicans like Mitch McConnell and the way Republicans have ignored the will of the people in N Carolina, Wisconsin, and Michigan. There is no doubt in my mind that this issue could very well end up in the Supreme Court. I can only pray that the conservative justices uphold our democracy and set a precedent which prevents either party from abusing their power when they are in the majority in a state legislature. And I hope over time that we end politicized gerrymandering in every state and have real campaign finance reform that does not have any loopholes that allow people to ignore the legal reforms.

  20. JoAnn Green mentioned the movie, Soylent Green. People at least had some value in the movie; if you volunteered to sacrifice yourself, you were allowed to see beautiful pictures of the earth as it once was. Then they sent you on an assembly line to be made into tasteless green squares.

    Sorry about the spoiler – if you have not seen the movie, there are also some (1970’s) cultural nuances you may find interesting.

    Some people in our current government seem every bit as uncaring about the value (and quality) of human life.

  21. Mary Louise; I used “Soylent Green” as a worst possible scenerio if people do not wake up to Global Warming and Climate Change; that was the basis of the movie. And just as Charleton Heston could not possibly believe Edgar G. Robinson’s description of the world as it once was, deniers cannot believe the possible descriptions of what the world can become. “Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea” was science fiction regarding travel beneath the sea; “Around The World In 80 Days ” was science fiction of traveling through the sky. Today, submarines and airplanes, as well as rocket ships, are accepted facts of life. Those “some people” you refer to as uncaring about the value and quality of human life are aware, as Donald Trump as said, they “won’t be around when it happens”.

    Government regulations are – or WERE – in place to protect the many against the few; just as criminal laws are in place to protect victims from criminals. With fewer regulations we are becoming more and more endangered; the Johnson County Indiana childhood cancer cluster is one reality due to ignoring those regulations in place and “those people” in government ignoring the reality of ignoring them and losing of them due to Trump’s deregulation. And keep in mind; the current dangers in “The Danger Zone” are all coming from man-made devices, not nature…and man is increasing the dangers in the name of greed and avarice.

    Vernon; a year ago this past June I traveled through that beautiful area of southern Indiana you referred to. Mile after mile after mile of that area is “under construction” of I-69 and has been for years with no end – and no money to end it – in sight. The plans for the construction of I-69 began under and by Governor Mitch Daniels in the mid-1990’s; it is an unnecessary road going nowhere. The destruction of start-and-stop construction is now an ugly sight; my family and I traveled the route from Indianapolis to Bloomington on a Saturday afternoon, not a work day. It was a slow, start-stop-and-wait procedure which gave us more time than we wanted to see the destruction of that once scenic area. It was more than scenic; it was one of our fast disappearing green spaces which cleanse the air we breathe as well as a nature preserve for plants and wild life. The loss cannot be undone.

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