Whatever you call the encroaching political darkness in Kansas and America, it’s not democracy (2024)

Kansas experienced a relative lull in tornadoes throughout 2023, but experts don't expect that to last. (AJ Dome for Kansas Reflector)

Not taking a threat seriously can have serious consequences.

Filmmaker and documentarian Ken Burns, in his recent commencement address to Brandeis University graduates, provided brilliant insight into threats facing our current Divided States of America.

The Atlantic and Pacific have kept us safe, in a sense. This helped “develop our work ethic and our restlessness, our innovation and our improvisation, our communities and our institutions of higher learning, our suspicion of power.”

But “the isolation of those two oceans has also helped incubate habits and patterns less beneficial to us: our devotion to money and guns and conspiracies, our certainty about everything, our stubborn insistence on our own exceptionalism blinding us to that which needs repair, especially with regard to race and ethnicity.”

Burns cited President Abraham Lincoln, shortly before his 29th birthday, asking: “Will some trans-Atlantic military giant step the earth and crush us at a blow? Never. All the armies of Europe, Asia, and Africa could not by force take a drink from the Ohio or make a track on the Blue Ridge. … If destruction be our lot, we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of free men, we must live through all time or die by suicide.”

Suicide? Lincoln’s stark, dark assertion puts our November choice in clear focus. The unthinkable must be thought about — and confronted.

There is no precedent. A presidential candidate promises to destroy or eliminate his competition. Whatever its name — dictatorship, fascism, autocracy, theocracy — this is not democracy.

A Trump victory plan is found in more than 900 pages of Heritage Foundation’s Project 2025. It calls for “sacking thousands of civil servants, expanding the power of the president, dismantling the Department of Education and other federal agencies” — and gutting the government through sweeping tax cuts.

Checks and balances? Fuhgeddaboudit.

Apartheid thinking has been an undercurrent, but now has oozed — or more accurately, stormed — into halls of power.

Talk show host and best-selling author Thom Hartmann offers insight about how this came to be. He spotlights the little-known “mudsill theory of labor” affecting living conditions, particularly in Republican-controlled states. The past seven years have seen “a near-fivefold increase in documented child labor violations,” attacks on books and curricula in public education, and kneecapping of schools, reallocating our dollars to families already affording private academies, religious schools, and homeschooling.

And it’s not just schooling. Inequality and social immobility are nearly guaranteed in Republican-controlled states turning the screws on unionizing efforts, ensuring the “right to work for less.” Moving on up? Nah.

“Mudsill theory” originated in 1858 from slave plantation owner and South Carolina Sen. James Henry Hammond. He asserted that “for a society to function smoothly, it must have a ‘foundational’ class of people who, (as) a mudsill stabilizes the house that rests atop it, bear the difficult manual labor from which almost all wealth is derived.”

The class constituting society’s mudsill must have a “low order of intellect and little skill (whose) requisites are vigor, docility, fidelity.” Such a class, he asserted, must exist to support “that other class which leads (to) progress, civilization, and refinement.” And who was his mudsill class? His slaves, of course.

Lincoln disagreed.

“Capital is the fruit of labor,” he said, “and could never have existed if labor had not first existed.”

In Lincoln’s spirit, the anti-Vietnam, pro-Black civil rights, pro-Latino agriculture workers, and feminist movements of the 1960s and ’70s threatened Hammond’s mudsill view. Something had to be done.

And so, Ronald Reagan was elected. He ended free college, gutted public schools, destroyed the union movement and weakened enforcement of child labor laws.

“Today’s Republicans — from Sam Alito and Clarence Thomas to Mike Johnson, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, and Donald Trump — are finally close to fulfilling Hammond’s and Reagan’s vision of … mudsill labor,” Hartmann writes.

In Kansas, the MAGA crowd crows about freedom while shutting it down. Witness Salina’s version of House Speaker Dan Hawkins’ vaudevillian, feel-good, anti-Medicaid show. His invitation was from the local “Granny Brigade” at the Knights of Columbus. Republican establishment faithful dominated, with a few interlopers.

The folks who loudly complain at nearly every local gummint meeting about not being heard herded any dissension out the door. They permitted written questions only, read and culled by the MAGA faithful.

Hawkins hawked his goods, opening with complaints he’d been misrepresented (particularly by the Kansas Reflector, by name). Here, he said, was the truth, unspoiled by alternative views. The “public meeting” was neither debate nor democracy.

Threats to Democracy are clearly visible. Keep your eyes open. And vote.

The post Whatever you call the encroaching political darkness in Kansas and America, it’s not democracy appeared first on Kansas Reflector.

Whatever you call the encroaching political darkness in Kansas and America, it’s not democracy (2024)
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