There is a popular saying that states are the “laboratories of democracy”. This concept explains how states act as social laboratories that test out new laws and policies. A law that proves popular and successful may spread to other states, eventually gaining enough momentum to attract the attention of Congress, who may choose to take up the issue and adopt it as federal law.
If the states are the laboratories of democracy, counties are fast becoming the petri dishes of extremism. A particularly bad idea which threatens to go viral is the proposed “Bill of Rights Sanctuary County” ordinance. It declares that the Bill of Rights would be protected in Collier County (it is already protected throughout the United States). The ordinance would allow the County to prohibit enforcement of any federal law it deems unconstitutional, but provides no mechanism for making that determination (that’s the job of our court system). It creates a ‘bounty hunter’ enforcement mechanism where anyone who is displeased with a federal law can directly sue any county employee, including the commissioners. (Do the commissioners realize they are putting themselves at risk?)
The proposed ordinance is the equivalent of a child throwing a temper tantrum in the supermarket checkout line. In 2021 Republicans were unhappy that they lost both Congress and the White House. They floated this ordinance as a way of declaring they don’t have to follow any federal law they don’t like (think of a toddler in a high chair refusing to eat his vegetables). It was defeated in 2021, but now that the makeup of the commission has changed, they are trying again. Apparently Republicans’ loyalty to the Constitution only applies when the candidates of their choice are in power.
Florida Republicans both won and lost in 2022. At the state and local levels, Republicans have complete control of government, while at the federal level Democrats control the Senate and White House. Not satisfied with accepting the will of the American people, Republicans are trying to subvert our constitution and declare Collier County a law unto itself.
The measure of a patriot takes two forms – how they wield power when elected to office, and whether they respect the results of elections that don’t go their way. The Collier Board of County Commissioners is about to fail both tests, undermining the health of our democracy. Let’s do everything we can to kill this virus before it escapes the lab.
Many thanks to David Silverberg at the Paradise Progressive for background information.
Vice-chair, Collier County Democratic Party
Over the past 50 years, the United States has been subjected to major Republican Bamboozles which have inflicted significant damage on our country. Promoters of many of these have been GOP leaders, legislators and/or party members that through either outright activism or willful negligence have demonstrated a failure to protect democracy in the face of ethical, moral, and legal incorrectness.
Fresh in our memory is Trump’s “Big Lie,” alleging the 2020 Election was stolen. The egregiousness of this proven deceit, still denied by many in the GOP, was amplified by the January 6, 2021 planned insurrection at the nation’s Capital. Intended to prevent the peaceful transition of power to a democratically elected president of an opposition party, the Big Lie was followed by additional deceptions in states and counties controlled by the GOP. These consisted of MAGA followers’ fabricated claims of voter fraud and the inappropriate actions of election officials with the goal of ensuring continued political control in voting districts by manipulating and threatening voter demographics.
Also grave are three other BIG Bamboozles of the GOP, the key factors driving their political strategy for the last fifty years. These shams include: 1) Reaganomics (a.k.a. Neoliberalism), 2) The “Citizens United” ruling, and 3) Republican Judicial Activism. These three elements have been central to the GOP political blueprint, and their implementation has been disastrous for America’s political and economic order.
Bamboozle 1: Reaganomics and Neoliberalism
Neoliberalism as an economic philosophy originated in the 19th century with free-market capitalists. It was reintroduced in the 1970’s by conservative and right-wing libertarian organizations encouraged by the market-oriented economic teachings of Milton Friedman and his Chicago School of Economics. It then gained favor with the challenges of “stagflation” and the persuasive 1981 GOP political campaign of Ronald Reagan. Reagan and his supporters challenged the growth of big government as well as the cost and benefits of the New Deal and Great Society programs launched by preceding Democratic Party administrations.
The four key elements of Reagan’s “Program for Economic Recovery” were the following:
- Reduced government spending – especially in the areas of social services
- Inflation reduction – by decreasing the money supply
- Broad and deep deregulation of businesses and markets, including financial and energy, in addition to rolling back other environmental, health and regulatory protections which allegedly place costly burdens on businesses
- Tax cuts – especially for corporations and the wealthy – also known as “Supply-side Economics”
Fundamentally, Reaganomics says that the government is the problem and cannot be a part of the solution. It posits that government should be smaller, more efficient, and that it should be run like a business on behalf of all businesses. Reaganomics postulates that government’s role should not be to provide social services, regulations, standards, or a level playing field. Rather, it asserts that the private sector should be left alone to drive the economy and that the government should stay out of it altogether, save for the national defense. Reaganomics affirms that government governs best when it governs least.
As reasonable as it sounds, it is a myth and a lie: i.e., a BIG Bamboozle. The reality is that government is an essential part of the solution in a democracy; it is NOT the problem. It provides safeguards for the rights and freedoms of its citizens, arranges for the common security and defense, and seeks to provide equal opportunities for the common good and well-being of all its citizens.
Reaganomics supply-side ideology believes that lower taxes will spur economic activity, creating jobs, more taxpayers, and increased tax revenues. On the face of it, it sounds quite reasonable. After all, who among us prefers to pay higher taxes and wouldn’t prefer a smaller, more efficient government?
Though it may appear logical to most people, the supply-side has never delivered on its promise, though the Republican Party continues to promote it as gospel today. It was originally known as the “Horse and the Sparrows Theory” and now more often known as the “Trickle Down” Theory.
The underlying idea is that you need to feed the horse first and overfeed him whenever possible because the horse is the powerhouse of the economy. The sparrows will take care of themselves, because even when the horse is overfed, there is plenty of nutrition rendered through the process. The sparrows eat well once the horse has ingested and digested all the oats it can.
Americans have bought into the supply side theory heavily since the days of Reagan. The results have been that middle-class working people have been betrayed and disinherited, while the wealthy classes have gotten richer. (A Rand Corporation study found that from 1975 through 2018 $50 trillion of wealth has moved from the bottom 90% of Americans to the top 1%.)
When taxes are reduced on corporations and ultra-wealthy individuals, little, if any, of their tax relief is reinvested into the underlying economy. This happened after the Trump tax cuts of 2017. Following these cuts, companies have used most of the tax savings to pay shareholders higher dividends and to buy back company stock in the equity markets. These actions increase the share value simply by reducing the number of shares outstanding – without doing anything to improve or expand the underlying business itself.
The above ideas are based on the fact that many conservatives believe that the world is fundamentally fair, and their mission is to preserve the status quo. They think the lazy and irresponsible fail and can’t afford the necessities of food, shelter, and medical insurance with only shameless moochers asking for help from public programs. The irony is that apart from rich energy states, red states (Republican) are consistently more dependent on federal funding than blue states (Democratic) and experience higher mortality and lower economic growth.
Bamboozle 2: Citizens United – The Political Corruption Corollary
So how has the GOP gotten away with deceiving Americans into believing in the trickle-down theory? That’s where the Citizens United Bamboozle comes into play. Thanks to this 2010 Supreme Court ruling, corporations and wealthy elites (our American oligarchy) spend a great deal of their tax relief on political campaign contributions. The only word for it is bribery, because the GOP is attempting to establish the “Best Democracy Money Can Buy.” And thanks to Citizens United vs. the Federal Election Commission (FEC), it is totally legal!
The court ruled 5-4 that the free speech clause of the First Amendment prohibits the government from restricting expenditures for political campaigns by corporations, including nonprofit corporations, labor unions, and other associations. In other words, political corruption and the bribing of politicians is perfectly legal under the First Amendment of the Constitution according to this ruling!
We know that the First Amendment applies to individual persons – i.e., individual citizens and taxpayers, and we recognize that a corporation is not a person or a citizen. Corporations are structured purposefully under business laws so that they are not like human beings. This deliberate structuring enables corporations to have limited liability and not be subject to extinction. A corporation can be closed by its shareholders, or bankruptcy, but otherwise cannot “die”.
The Supreme Court, in the Citizens United ruling, created a political donor class that can legally purchase an unlimited amount of influence. Unfortunately, money was equated with First Amendment Rights of Free Speech. This is essentially the legalization of the corruption of our political system, or the Political Corruption Corollary.
Bamboozle 3: Republican Judicial Branch Activism
Decisions in US Supreme Court (SCOTUS) cases are influenced by the values of the justices serving on the court. In the consideration of the facts and issues of cases with competing interests there exist two schools: 1) the originalists (i.e., conservatives) who proclaim to just follow the text of the U.S. Constitution and 2) the non-originalists (i.e., liberals, progressives) who seek decisions rooted in U.S. Constitutional principles and the needs of modern society.
The Originalists, supported strongly by the GOP, view jurisprudence as frozen in time. They adhere to the belief that provisions be interpreted exactly as the framers intended in their original meaning. That requires, however, a very firm understanding of history, a knowledge that SCOTUS judges and their clerks don’t necessarily have.
Opposing the above view are the non-originalists, strongly supported by Democrats. They view the U.S. Constitution as a living and breathing document, and believe that the enactment of new laws brought to the SCOTUS must be analyzed and decided depending upon both the Constitution and the changing attitudes and needs of the general populace.
Of greater concern to the country than these opposing judicial philosophies, should be the documented multi-year effort by the far right, begun in the Reagan years, to influence and reshape federal courts and the SCOTUS by promoting conservative policies and installing conservative judges. In other words, by reshaping the judiciary, the GOP has achieved its goals in recent years, all while failing to accomplish anything significant through legitimate legislation.
SCOTUS, with its new supermajority of the right since 2020, has made a pronounced lurch to the hard right in its decisions. These have been highlighted by its recent rulings, which: 1) in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization overturned the constitutional right to abortion regardless of legal precedents and wide popular sentiments for its continuance, 2) sharply limited the authority of the EPA, thereby reducing the possibilities for successfully combating climate change despite the mounting worldwide perils, and 3) significantly loosened curbs on guns amid a nationwide epidemic of mass shootings.
Today’s SCOTUS, with its supermajority, is actively embracing legal theories such as “originalism” that will affect thousands of cases throughout the country, and is setting the country back on reproductive rights, gun safety, racial justice, and voting rights, with more damage likely to result. An additional peril is that the public’s approval and confidence in the institution is significantly falling as the high court is becoming too closely aligned with far-right political ideology. Many key prior legal decisions and precedents are being changed or reversed, contributing to a widening gap between the high court’s decisions and the viewpoints and sentiments of the majority of the public, thereby further eroding its perceived legitimacy to many citizens and voters.
Moreover, their effort has been shrewdly coordinated and orchestrated by the Federalist Society, with the backing of influential ultra-wealthy donors prepared to extend very generous and undisclosed personal favors. These issues have been recently highlighted by media disclosures of SCOTUS judges receiving special gifts and courtesies from large influential business magnates affiliated with the political far right. Such initiatives have been facilitated since 2010 by the Citizens United decision of SCOTUS.
The nomination processes and appointments to state and federal courts, as well as SCOTUS, have become heavily politicized in the last 50 years. An epic moment occurred in 2016 when the Senate GOP Majority Leader Mitch McConnell refused to hold confirmation hearings for a vacant justice position because the nomination had been made by a Democratic President in an election year, even though it was approximately 8 months prior to the election. Four years later, McConnell ruled in the opposite manner when a nomination was made by a GOP president just weeks before a presidential election. These two actions by one individual directly served to achieve a majority for conservative judges on the court.
Additional concerns have arisen due to the conservative court’s increased use of shadow dockets where cases, often consequential, are decided without full briefing or oral argument and without any written opinion. These shadow docket orders often do not include information about how each Justice voted or why the majority came to a certain conclusion, potentially leaving lower courts and the public in the dark about the reasoning behind decisions and how to apply Supreme Court precedent moving forward.
So where do we go from here?
What follows is a modest proposal for the Democratic Party. Forget about campaigning primarily on all the subordinate issues. It’s a fool’s errand. Though they are on the right side of history, these debates cannot help the overall cause. It will be a major challenge to change many minds on any of the underlying issues: immigration, climate change, abortion rights, gun control/2nd amendment rights, voting rights, LGBTQ rights, and more. Positions and grievances on all these issues are firmly entrenched.
Instead, Democrats should focus primarily on the myth of supply-side economics and the other big bamboozles that the GOP continues to push. It is not difficult to prove to the public that only the ultra-wealthy have received tax cuts and benefited! The rest of us have been legally and constitutionally deceived.
Joe Biden is on the right path in speaking about the need to “build up and out” and not from the top down, and that’s a good start. But the Democratic Party needs to hammer this point home as its fundamental and central campaign focus.
Democrats need to call out the Big Bamboozles including the mythology of Reaganomics, the sham (and shame) of Citizens United, and the disgrace of policy-centered judicial activism. Joe Biden and Hakeem Jeffries have articulated their positions well. But what needs to be pounded home is the message that 99% of all Americans are demonstrably better off with “demand-side” economic policies and less than 1% are better off with the “supply-side”.
Collier County Democratic Environmental Caucus of Florida (CCDECF)
The CCDECF has a mission to elect candidates at the local, state and national level who will promote sound environmental policies. To do this, our Caucus engages in activities that educate voters and candidates about best approaches to our environmental challenges.
A Note from the CCDECF Secretary
I went to Lowdermilk Beach about 5 years ago when there was a report of Red Tide infestation. I got out of my car in the parking lot and started choking from the fumes. That experience set me on a path to investigate our water situation here in Naples. The pollution continues to worsen. The Florida Right to Clean Water group was formed and put together a proposed Amendment to the Florida Constitution that establishes a civil right for us as citizens to have our water protected.
I have been petitioning to get this Amendment on the Ballot for the 2024 election. I’ve spent countless hours talking to Collier residents at the Naples Public Library and local events and have collected hundreds of signed petitions. Just this past weekend, I started canvassing my Precinct. I knocked on 34 doors, mostly Democrats but a few of their neighbors too, and collected 17 signed petitions.
But we still have a long way to go to achieve the 900,000 signatures required. I know that is a big number, but we shouldn’t be discouraged. According to therighttocleanwater.org Collier County only needs to contribute 16,748 petitions. THAT IS ACHIEVABLE if we all do our part. Learning some basic talking points so you can network and tell people you are in touch with about our efforts is a great way to start. Read below to learn more about the critical need for this Amendment and see how you can help.
John Reynolds, CCDECF Secretary
Support Florida’s Right to Clean Water Amendment
The amendment needs 900,000 signatures by November 30th to make it on to the 2024 ballot. Florida voters have an opportunity to stop the continued polluting of our waters by supporting the “Right to Clean and Healthy Waters” Amendment. Learn more about the initiative here.
How you can help:
- Sign the Right to Clean Water amendment Petition Form and share with your friends & family (petitions must be printed and signed by FL registered voters)
- Watch the Intro to the Florida Right to Clean Water YouTube video.
- Record a video testimonial explaining why the FL Right to Clean Water amendment is important to you. Videos should be NO MORE THAN 1 minute in length and sent to email@example.com.
- Write a letter to the editor of a local newspaper in support of the amendment.
- Volunteer with CCDECF and help us collect signed petitions across Collier County.
- Become a member of the Collier County Democratic Environmental Caucus of Florida for $15 annually.
CCDECF in the News
Check out “We’re in denial about climate change, water quality” written by CCDECF Vice President, Judy Frieberg published in the Naples Daily News and The Invading Sea.
CCDECF is looking for volunteers to help with canvassing activities and petition gathering this fall. Email CollierCoDECF@gmail.com for more information.
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