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November 15th, 2019

Insight

Persuasion, Power and Fraud

Laura Hollis

By Laura Hollis

Published Nov. 15, 2018

Persuasion, Power and Fraud

In a free democratic republic, public policy should be a matter of persuasion. That is, those running for elected office are supposed to propose the policies that they espouse and convince the voting public to support those policies. On Election Day, voters presumably would elect the candidates who have made the most persuasive case.

Barack Obama's two terms as president and the 2018 midterm "victories" notwithstanding, the Democratic Party has been having diminishing success with the persuasion part of governance for some time. In fact, this failure — and Democrats' refusal to admit the implications of it — is behind many of the machinations we've witnessed them engaging in for decades.

For example, when Democrats cannot muster majority support for proposed legislation, they resort to the Supreme Court to impose law by judicial fiat. (Legalized abortion is perhaps the most-cited example but by no means the only one.) Federal judges are appointed for life, not elected, and thus not accountable to the public. The only way to change the law is to wait until justices die or retire, and replace them.

This takes the constitutional lawmaking function out of the hands of elected representatives and deprives the citizens of the United States of a voice in the laws that govern them. Unsurprisingly, it also makes the appointment of federal judges — especially Supreme Court justices — fraught with disproportionate importance.

Donald Trump's election to the presidency put the Supreme Court under conservative control, much to Democrats' chagrin. The nomination of Neil Gorsuch to replace deceased justice Antonin Scalia was bad enough. But when swing-vote Justice Anthony Kennedy retired and Trump was given the opportunity to name a fifth conservative justice to the bench, Democrats went into apoplectic overdrive, violating Senate Judiciary Committee rules to leak extremely damaging last-minute, unproven (and unprovable) allegations against nominee Brett Kavanaugh in an unprecedented smear campaign. It failed, and Kavanaugh was seated on the court. But the disgusting spectacle outraged much of the nation. And if Trump gets another SCOTUS nomination, we can fully expect similar abuses of process.

Even when one considers a recent legislative "success" for Democrats — the passage of the Affordable Care Act ("Obamacare") in 2009 — their problems stand out starkly. Democrats — first and foremost, then-President Obama himself — lied repeatedly to the American public about the costs and effects of the law on the public. (Jonathan Gruber, one of the law's architects, was caught on tape saying the American public was "too stupid" to support the law unless it was deceived about it.) Lawmakers were promised sufficient time to read the proposed legislation but were given only 36 hours to read a bill that was more than 2,000 pages long. Most never read it. Not a single Republican in Congress voted for the bill. The act dramatically increased premiums and threw millions Americans out of their insurance coverage.

The public swiftly made its dissatisfaction clear, handing Republicans control of the House in 2010, the Senate in 2014 and the White House in 2016.

But Democrats still refuse to accept that most Americans aren't buying what they're selling, and so they look for ways around that fact. When Hillary Clinton lost the 2016 presidential election, they began to call for the elimination of the Electoral College — an institution placed into the U.S. Constitution to protect smaller and less populated states — and demand that the president be elected by popular vote. This would effectively disenfranchise American citizens in a majority of the states.

When Democrats failed to gain control of the U.S. Senate on Nov. 6 of this year, they hollered that the Senate, too, is "undemocratic": Why should California have the same number of senators as Rhode Island?

Democrats have called for the repeal of the Second Amendment for years. More recently, they have begun to challenge Republicans' and conservatives' rights to freedom of speech and religion under the First Amendment.

Increasingly for Democrats, it seems that the Constitution is not so much a revered document that enshrines the foundational principles of governance but an irritating obstacle to implementation of their statist policies.

And then there is the serious prospect of voter fraud. Florida is once again in the spotlight for questionable practices (missing ballots, magically appearing ballots, chain-of-custody problems) and recounts that affect the governorship and U.S. Senate seat. Whether fraud took place there remains to be seen. But we've been warned for years that our voting system is vulnerable to manipulation. Reports say that over a million dead people have remained on voter rolls — and records show that others are voting in their names. A 2012 NPR article cited a statistic that 24 million voter registrations were invalid. Driver's licenses are the most common identification for voting — and many states now issue them to non-citizens. Add to that sloppy practices surrounding provisional ballots, mail-in ballots, overvotes and undervotes, and we have a system ripe for exploitation.

The problem for Democrats is that most Americans do not support their policies (and certainly not once they are adequately informed about the costs and consequences of those policies). But what they cannot achieve by persuasion they will impose by raw power. And if it takes fraud or deceit to get and hold that power, so be it.

The problem for Republicans is: What are you going to do about it?

(COMMENT, BELOW)

Laura Hirschfeld Hollis is on the faculty at the University of Notre Dame, where she teaches courses in business law and entrepreneurship. She has received numerous awards for her teaching, research, community service and contributions to entrepreneurship education.

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