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OpEdNews Op Eds    H1'ed 3/1/21

The Fate and Future of American Democracy Hangs On the Minimum Wage

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If Biden and Harris don't act now, the window will close

It looks like President Joe Biden is going to cave on the $15 an hour minimum wage. And it looks like Chuck Schumer is going to cave on ending the filibuster.

While these are disappointing failures to progressives because of the harm they'll do to working people, they're also extraordinarily dangerous to the future of American democracy.

These failures will add to the skepticism of the American people that government as we have it today can never work on their behalf, and thus increase their willingness to accept replacing democracy with a Trump-style strongman oligarchy.

The simple fact is that the Republican Party no longer believes in democracy. They haven't for some time, which is why they've spent the last 20 years working so hard to make it more difficult for Americans to vote. It's why they're willing to promote monstrous Big Lies to achieve their political goals. It's why they refuse to use the correct name of the Democratic Party (the oldest political party in the world) and instead will only call it "the Democrat Party" (something that doesn't even exist).

Republicans now only believe in billionaire money and power, and that kind of a singular focus by a country's politicians usually leads to the replacement of democracy with oligarchy and, soon thereafter, tyranny.

We saw this movie once before in the 1930s in Europe, and are watching it play out today in Hungary, Turkey, Russia, Egypt, the Philippines, and Brazil, among others. Democratic governments in each of these countries have been or are being replaced by modern-day fascist governments with strongman leaders.

Tragically, because of Trump's rhetoric and four decades of unwillingness by the GOP to pass any legislation that benefits average people, tens of millions of frustrated Americans are on-board with the Republican's move toward fascism and the end of the American democratic republican experiment.

They believe in a zero-sum racial theory that says the prosperity of the 1950s and 60s, which they want to re-capture, was based on keeping women and minorities down, and that to recapture that prosperity we have to re-capture the old social order.

They think that having a "tough guy" strongman leader like Donald Trump, Rick Scott, Josh Hawley or Tom Cotton will mean that Black people and women will be put back in their place, and white men will thus prosper, bringing back the white, male-dominated middle class we had 40 years ago.

But what created that middle class 40 years ago was government that actually worked on behalf of the majority of Americans. While de facto segregation was real then and women were largely blocked out of positions of power in politics and the marketplace, those were not the reasons why the middle class worked. It actually worked despite those things.

Prior to the Reagan Revolution both Democrats and Republicans worked to build an America middle class where people were reasonably paid for their work, had support in purchasing and keeping their homes, weren't afraid of being wiped out by medical bills, and their kids could pay for college with a part-time job in the summer.

While most of those benefits did go to white people, as a result of civil rights successes, particularly in the 1960s, they were rapidly beginning to extend to racial minorities and women as well.

Democracy worked, America worked, and the American middle-class was growing in a pluralistic and multiracial way that was the envy of the world.

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Thom Hartmann is a Project Censored Award-winning New York Times best-selling author, and host of a nationally syndicated daily progressive talk program on the Air America Radio Network, live noon-3 PM ET. www.thomhartmann.com His most recent books are "The Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight," "Unequal Protection: The Rise of Corporate Dominance and the Theft of Human Rights," "We The People," "What Would Jefferson Do?," "Screwed: The Undeclared War Against the Middle (more...)
 

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