4 Weird Tricks To Blunt Bad-Faith Politics

4 Weird Tricks To Blunt Bad-Faith Politics

I've griped enough about the potency of the American right's bad-faith political arguments and its poisoning of every major political issue we face today, making almost every problem intractable as good-faith centrists and liberals try (and fail) to make nice with nihilists who do not believe what they say.

I've written about the right wing's bad faith attacks on reproductive rights and freedom, the genocidal bad-faith politics of the anti-LGBTQ movement, the bad faith that could keep student debt alive forever, the combination of good and bad faith that will undermine the January 6 Commission, and the stomach-churning bad faith that has made massacres an everyday occurrence in our gun-sick culture. I've even bemoaned the murderous bad faith of foreign autocrats who sound and act a lot like our new crop of radicalized congressional Republicans, who may soon control Congress in what could be a permanent red-pilled majority.

Enough whining. Enough bemoaning. I'm tired of bemoaning. I'm bemoaned out.

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How can the American left – and center, I suppose – short circuit the power of Republican bad faith? How can we strip the far right of their never-ending opportunities to deploy bad-faith arguments, creating circular arguments that stall progress on vital issues and constantly put them on the offensive? How, in short, can the left blunt the terrifying effects of bad-faith politics on our national discourse?

I have some ideas. Four, to be precise.

Lay Bipartisanship To Rest Forever And Ever, Amen

The Democratic Party modus operandi for at least two generations has strived for bipartisan agreements on any and every piece of major legislation. It's a loser mindset that practically invites your enemies to smash your face with a hammer when you least expect it.

Millennials who recall the horrors of Democratic capitulation to Republicans in crafting the Affordable Care Act will never forget the sting of watching an historic bill get watered down by congressional Republicans who had no intention of negotiating the ACA in good faith. They accused congressional Democrats of creating so-called death panels that would send grandma to her grave so someone without a job could go to the doctor. Democrats' all-consuming desire for bipartisan agreement destroyed any chance we had at a real first-world healthcare system.

The worst part: Democrats had overwhelming majorities in both the House and the Senate. They didn't need a single Republican vote. Though there were a few right-wing Democrats who threatened to muck up a transformational piece of legislation, the left should have completely iced out conservatives in the crafting of the new healthcare law. If you don't need support from your enemies, there's no viable reason to seek their approval. It doesn't matter.

California can be instructive here. California Democrats over the past couple decades have written off Republicans as good-faith negotiating partners while the state's GOP has descended into a fine mix of insanity and utter nihilism. Democratic legislators in the Golden State no longer engage Republicans on any issue, on any problem to be solved, because they have no reason to do so. California Republicans are so thoroughly radicalized that they've disqualified themselves from political decision making. That's their choice. Democrats aren't required by law to ask their broken-brained counterparts for input on legislation. National Democrats should take note.

The recent (shocking) passage the Democrats' spending bill addressing the climate catastrophe and myriad economic disasters offers a glimmer of hope – however faint – that the Democratic obsession with bipartisan agreement has waned. The legislation was passed without a single Republican vote in either chamber. That they had to placate Joe Manchin, the most powerful man on earth, is another issue entirely. Ramming through the bill without a shred of support from the right is a positive development, which feels weird to write in these dystopian times. Perhaps Democrats have been hit in the face with a hammer enough times to know they'll never get the Aaron Sorkinesque bipartisan wonderland they sought in vain for forty years.

The radicalization of the American right, powered by bad-acting media forces and gerrymandered congressional districts that guarantee moderates can no longer compete in much of the country, has left no reason for the center and the left to negotiate in good faith. From here on out, there's no reason to include conservatives in seeking solutions to seemingly intractable problems. It is not a choice between good and bad faith, but simply no faith at all.

Create Permanent Economic Programs Invulnerable To Bad Faith

Late-stage capitalism, which you will have to endure for the rest of your days on earth, is a cycle of nonstop crises. Sometimes the crises threaten the existence of civilization, like it did in 2008, and sometimes it simply means a complete loss of dignity for everyone who trades their labor for money, like it did during the first months of the COVID pandemic.

There will be more economic meltdowns in the coming months and years. They will get more severe, more terrifying, more high stakes, as capitalism winds toward its inevitable end. Lawmakers can't play politics with the response to such crises. The US needs a permanent program that will ensure life can and will go on for working people during the next economic disaster, and the one after that, and the one after that.

Instead of waiting on the other shoe to drop and crush our collective skull, Democrats should create a program – or series of programs – that will kick into effect when unemployment reaches a certain level. What that level is, I don't know. I'm not an economist, nor do I play one on the internet. There's no reason, however, to beg and plead with conservatives in Congress to back a half-assed bill that will provide some base level of subsistence for American workers. During a lull between economic meltdowns (now, perhaps) congressional Democrats can ensure life-saving funding is automatically triggered when the economy tanks and everyone outside of a gated community of McMansions is struggling to feed their children and pay their rent.

So-called trigger laws that would lie dormant until an economic catastrophe hits are hardly unprecedented. Some European and Scandinavian countries have such programs, and they work just fine.

The right's vicious bad faith arguments about government stimulus going into the pockets of undeserving people won't have any chance of taking hold because, by the power of political foresight, they won't have a chance to deploy such arguments.

Pass A Law That Goes Beyond Roe

You might roll your eyes at the suggestion that abortion rights and access don't have to have a prominent place in American politics. Of course abortion will continue to be a hotly contested issue, you say. It always has been, it always will be. That's only true if the left allows abortion rights to be susceptible to policy attacks, especially on the state level.

Reproductive rights advocates have for years envisioned a federal law that goes well beyond the protections provided by Roe v. Wade, which was struck down this year as part of America's far-right judicial coup. Before that, Republican-majority state legislatures had whittled Roe down to a meaningless husk of a law. They had found ways to shutter nearly every abortion clinic in those states, and make life a living hell for anyone seeking abortion services. State-level Republicans had expertly leveraged governmental powers to funnel millions to dangerous anti-abortion organizations bent on ending legal abortion in the US and flooding the public with misinformation about reproductive health. They had criminalized all kinds of standard abortion care and encouraged abortion rights opponents to use intimidation and violence as a means of driving away doctors and patients. Sometimes, they just shot the doctors.

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Roe, in many ways, did not exist in nearly half the country by the time Clarence Thomas and his fascist collaborators on the nation's highest court swept away a half century of precedent, endangering people with both unwanted and wanted pregnancies. Congressional Democrats did absolutely nothing to stop this after decades of their Republican counterparts saying they fully intended on stripping women of their bodily autonomy. As terribly shameful as that is, it doesn't have to be the Democratic Party's reproductive rights legacy.

Access to abortion care is incredibly popular in the US. We saw as much this month in Kansas, when the state's off-year election saw a threefold increase in voter turnout. By a huge margin, these voters kept abortion legal in Kansas. Around 70 percent of newly registered Kansas voters were women – a coincidence by no one's definition. The end of Roe is going to create a groundswell of support among millions of American voters who have been complacent about bodily autonomy for decades. The left and their center-left colleagues can harness this energy – this newfound urgency to create a lasting right to abortion – and address the glaring shortcomings of Roe with new legislation that would effectively stop conservatives from launching bad-faith attacks against basic human rights.

Supporters of bodily autonomy in Congress can and should craft a law that leaves no room for bad actors on the state level to interfere with a person's access to abortion services. A federal law in the tradition of the Voting Rights Act, which for fifty years outlawed southern states from implementing voting restrictions, would suck the bad faith out of abortion rights discourse. This law would presumably repeal the stunningly discriminatory Hyde Amendment, which has prohibited federal funding for reproductive health care since 1980. Hyde was passed by a cadre of racist congressional lawmakers – many of them Democrats – who wanted to punish poor and disproportionately brown and black people by making it nearly impossible for them to access abortion care.

A strong federal law guaranteeing unfettered access to abortion would mean there could be no state-level discussion about 20-week bans or 15-week bans or 6-week bans because state legislatures would have no role in creating abortion policy. It would be a federal issue, plain and simple. State lawmakers can stick to paving roads or whatever they do.

You may point out that the Supreme Court's right wing found a way to defang the Voting Rights Act – allowing Republican-controlled states to institute a raft of racist and classist anti-voting measures – and would certainly look for a chance to crush a federal right to abortion through bad-faith lawsuits filed by shadowy far-right groups. I have no answer for that beyond expanding the Court (and federal circuit courts) to stop the slow-motion fascist coup that will threaten every one of us in the coming years.

Make Voting Access A Non-Issue

The United States is the only developed country in which prominent lawmakers seek to halt the expansion of voting rights and access. Those long, winding polling place lines you see on TV every election day? They don't exist anywhere else in the world. That's not an accident.

The American right, forever repulsed by the mere idea of a democratic republic, will never stop limiting voting rights for those who refuse to vote them into power – namely brown and black people.

If you're skeptical of this claim, and if you're open to the existence of objective reality (not everyone is), consider research showing the outsized impact on anti-voting laws passed by Republican majorities in North Carolina, Florida, Michigan, and Texas. State-level Republicans have become obsessed with outlawing voting on Sundays. Why is that? Many black folks traditionally cast their votes then.

The game has to end. Liberals and centrists cannot shame conservatives into stopping their shameless assaults on voting rights. They shouldn't even try. Stopping people from voting is a central plank – perhaps the central plank – of the right's plan to seize and keep power on the state and federal level. Look no further than the aftermath of the 2010 midterms, when state-level Republicans had grabbed majorities in previously blue states. Their first priority? Gerrymandering the shit out of voting maps and implementing a host of nakedly discriminatory voting restrictions designed to suppress turnout among likely Democratic voters. They play the game well.

This year House Democrats were able to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act – a law that would shore up federal voter protections that have been hollowed out by our hyper-political Supreme Court. The new voting rights act would restore the 1965 Voting Rights Act to full strength by once again requir­ing states with histor­ies of voter discrim­in­a­tion to get approval from the Depart­ment of Justice or a federal court before enact­ing changes to voting policy.

Conservatives will whine about tyranny and cry alligator tears of state's rights, the clarion call of the American racist. Let them wail. If tyranny is the federal government striking down racist voter restrictions, then so be it. The federal government gave the green light to 99.2 percent of state-level voting changes from 1965 to 2013, when Supreme Court conservatives gutted the Voting Rights Act. My suggestion to Republicans who oppose the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act would be to simply not push racist voting laws. It's easy. Just don't be evil.

Making the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act law should be the reason Democrats blow up the Senate filibuster (Joe Biden is supposedly on board with this). We can't wait for Democrats to hold a 60-plus seat Senate majority. There's no time. Breaking the right wing's hold on power hinges on getting more people to the polls to reject conservative ideology that is – and always has been – broadly unpopular. Stripping state-level Republicans from using bad-faith arguments against expanding voter access, erroneously claiming widespread voter fraud, leaves them out of the voting rights discourse altogether. This should be the goal: Removing conservative input in any and all policymaking until they are ready and willing to negotiate in good faith.

Follow Denny Carter on Twitter at @CDCarter13.