Whataboutism from Texas and an A-Historical History Lesson from New Jersey

Yesterday, Bob in Texas, calling on the Republican line, played whataboutism regarding presidential phone calls with Ukraine. Though he made a fair point about the Steele dossier, much of which turned out to be poppycock, we learned about Trump’s “perfect” phone call because a principled American whistleblower blew the whistle on it. Bob wants the transcript of Biden’s phone call with Ukraine! But for what? It’s a silly practice of cynical insinuation rooted in the idea that “the media” demanded the transcript because, you know, it’s Trump. To add on to his tired tirade, he then repeated the debunked claim that Trump requested the National Guard on Jan. 6, but Pelosi denied it, yet another baseless claim that was totally debunked by Politifact in March 2021.

About a half hour later, Mickey from New Jersey calls in and attempts to give us all a history lesson on systems of government. “In a dictatorship, a dictator, the dictator dictates what rights you have. In a party system, the party decides what rights you have. In a democracy, the majority decides what rights you have…we are a constitutional republic.”

When Host Pedro Echevarria asked the caller why he thinks people have forgotten that fact, he responded “Well, people don’t realize, even the individual has rights. They’re trying to say we are a democracy where the majority decides who has rights, and that’s not how our system is set up.”

Mickey needs to catch up on the amendment process. We added on to the Bill of Rights centuries ago. Who decided that all Americans have equal protection under the law (14th Amendment)? The minority? If we didn’t have a majority’s input on rights, does Mickey think we would have abolished slavery, or see women cast ballots at the polls? Yes we are a democracy where the majority decides who has rights, and that means individual rights for ALL Americans. Without the principle of majority rule (and it should be noted that it was a principle advocated by Founders like James Madison when it came to Senate legislation), we end up in a situation where individuals who form a minority, as we saw in the 18th and 19th centuries, get to decide that this group, i.e. Black slaves, is property and is therefore not afforded “individual rights.”

I’m not sure exactly where or why this talking point about “republic vs. democracy” has been so popular lately, but it’s a really stupid distinction. Yes, America has a republican system of government, but it’s also a democratic system of government: everyday Americans don’t vote on every piece of legislation, but they vote for legislators to do so on their behalf.

If he’s right about one thing, even though he didn’t come out and say it, it’s that our system is set up to allow a candidate with 46% of the popular vote win the presidency (thanks a lot Electoral College!), while at the same time a minority of senators can object to a bill supported by the majority, filibuster (a word that’s not even in the Constitution), and require that a super-majority vote to end the filibuster in order to proceed with the bill, something practically impossible in our divided nation.

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