The midterms will be decided by swing voters ready to reward the GOP for trying to kill them

Why the GOP is testing the limits of democracy

Published December 8, 2021 3:42PM (EST)

A ballot is dropped off at an official Vote by Mail Drop Box for the 2020 US Elections on October 5, 2020 in Monterey Park, California, on the first day drop boxes are available to voters. (FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP via Getty Images)
A ballot is dropped off at an official Vote by Mail Drop Box for the 2020 US Elections on October 5, 2020 in Monterey Park, California, on the first day drop boxes are available to voters. (FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP via Getty Images)

This article originally appeared on AlterNet.

My faith in democracy is being tested. Three public schools in New Haven were locked down Monday and today after a gun report in one and threats of violence in two more. These were part of a wave of school threats throughout Connecticut coming days after a high schooler in Michigan attended class to shoot four students to pieces. (Police are investigating, but luckily the local lockdowns ended without incident.)

This morning, I read about the Republicans planning to use "education" as the platform from which to reclaim white suburban voters and thus retake Congress. "Republicans say their message is resonating among parents, whose frustrations have boiled up during the coronavirus pandemic, and now include the quality of classwork, mask mandates, and transgender rights," according to Bloomberg. It worked in Virginia. The Republicans think it can work around the country.

Kevin McCarthy, the House minority leader, is feeling so good about the GOP's chances next fall that he's crafting what he calls a "Parents' Bill of Rights" for campaigning. The idea is that parents should be the ultimate authorities over their child's education. That might sound principled except that, according to the Republican view, such authority ends where the rights of guns-everywhere begins. That might sound noble if not for the fact that gun owners in America have a higher claim to government protection than parents with children.

Things like this get me to thinking the founders were right. Democracy is its own worse enemy. It gives degenerates and fools equal power in deciding the republic's business. I mean, what do you do with people who are more afraid of totally made-up threats ("critical race theory") than of totally real threats, such as an irresponsible mom and dad buying their teen son a semi-automatic handgun for Christmas before the boy takes it to high school to murder and injure his classmates. What do you do with people who look at the face of death and shrug?

With those white suburban voters in mind, McCarthy said Friday the reason the pandemic continues to rage nationwide is due to Joe Biden's failure to contain it. "I know President Biden promised America that he could handle COVID," he said. "More people have died from COVID this year than last year." The former president piled on: "They've lost more people this year than they did last year," Donald Trump said. "And we have the vaccines and we have the therapeutics and we have the Regeneron and we have all the different things, and they lost more."

While it's true more people have died this year than last, it's also true the majority of deaths were among the unvaccinated living in mostly rural counties won in 2020 by the former president. That they refused vaccines is a direct result of propaganda efforts by Republican elites to discredit the vaccine among Republican voters. According to NPR:

Recent polling data that show Republicans are now the largest group of unvaccinated individuals in the United States, more than any other single demographic group. Polling also shows that mistrust in official sources of information and exposure to misinformation, about both COVID-19 and the vaccines, run high among Republicans.

As was the case in Virginia, the next year's midterms are going to be decided by swing voters who can't or won't figure out for themselves that Kevin McCarthy, the former president and the rest of the GOP are knowingly hurting their own supporters for the purpose of prolonging the pandemic in order to blame the damage done on the Democrats. Control of Congress will be decided by voters ready to blame the people trying to save them instead of the people trying to kill them.

There's one thing that tests my faith in democracy more than anything else, though. All the above information? Widely available. Anyone who wants to know the truth can know. But what if voters don't want to? What if it feels better to believe lies than to believe truth? In that case, democracy isn't its own worst enemy on account of degenerates and fools getting to decide the republic's business. It's its own worse enemy because it rationalizes the feelings of degenerates and fools.

By John Stoehr

John Stoehr is a lecturer in political science at Yale and the 2016 Koeppel Journalism Fellow at Wesleyan.

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