Ratings of Freedom and Democracy, and the Concept of Zero, Zilch, Nada
There are new Democracy Ratings, and still last year’s Freedom Rating, which I have been studying for reporting. In the 2018 Freedom House ratings, the US was a healthy 86%.
My rating is less than 50%, and maybe as low as 20%. Here’s why. We cover eight bases of our government: House, Senate, White House, Executive Branch, Lower Courts, Supreme Court, Free Press, Internet (including Twitter).
The House is Democratic, slightly weighted by Representatives from Trump won districts, or who upset past Republicans. Good for some balance and representation of the general population.
On the surface, balancing the Senate versus the House, and an almost balanced Senate, 53 Republicans to 47 Democrats, sounds like almost equal representation, and, with friendliness and tradition, would produce fair compromises. Hah! Where business is concerned, that works. The budget has passed, almost totally ignoring Trump’s severely cut budget with extreme anti-science prejudice. They are also on the verge of passing the US-Mexico-Canada trade agreement. There is also farm relief, and natural disaster relief. Most of those efforts are in Republican states. Not so much after that.
The Senate, headed by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, blocked a Democratic Supreme Court appointment’s consideration. This was not done by any hearings or democratic vote! This is a gigantic Zero.
So let’s review the two concepts of Zero. Originally, there was no number zero, since anything you would measure, had a measurement, even if very small. But there still was a concept of Null, meaning a big, fat NO. If you consider a number zero, and add that in with a hundred other rating numbers, you can still get a large rating. But if you realize that the Supreme Court is the Supreme decider of the crucial issues of our democracy, and it had a 4-4 split at that time, the Null Supreme Court appointment, with the subsequent Trump victory, nullified anything backed by half, and usually much more, of our population. With a split legislature, the Senate being solidly Republican or Trump, and the House solidly Democrat, nothing is getting done on crucial and popular issues. McConnell has discarded some 400 House passed bills. Adding up numbers for eight separate categories which I am considering, will not reflect that fact that they all have the weight Zero, when Multiplied by a deciding conservative Supreme Court vote of Zero, or Null.
Trump has now appointed two conservatives, keeping the 5-4 conservative dominated court. My rating is not a final Zero, since some times the court weighs liberal. Like in the cases where the conservative vote might lead to removing health care from 30 million people, and result in many premature deaths. I have the data for when the court did not always vote conservative, in 2018-2019, but it has to be interpreted case by case, which I am not educated to do. The data is from the above reference. 67 opinions were issued this term. Usually, there are 15 close cases. In the previous term liberals only prevailed in 3 of 19. This time there were 21 that were close. There were 10 conservative crossovers in these cases, 4 by Gorsuch, 3 by Roberts, and one each by the other three conservatives. I don’t know if this should rate as almost 50%, or average with 16% from last year.
The Freedom of the Press is severely hampered by Trump’s 15,000 lies, no news conferences by his Press Secretary, none by departmental heads in such Q&A meetings, and hundreds of references to Fake News. Zilch rating.
The Web information source is hampered by Facebook’s allowing misleading political ads. All of the services seem late in removing foreign influence users, ads, and information. The Trump removal of a free internet will further affect non sponsored information sources, such as me. The Trump “Government by Tweet” has confused everybody in the administration, the country, and the world, sowing an amazing crop of chaos. A high confusion rating, with no questions asked or answered, has to downgrade our government’s support of democracy and freedoms. Sort of a close to Zero rating.
Trump has filled 150, and aiming at 200 lower federal court appointments. Most come from an outside source, the Federalist Society, funded by conservatives. They also back the “original interpretation” of the Constitution, which is so vague, you can back anything you want by it. Including ignoring the qualifying militia clause of the Second Amendment, apparently. With the Senate and the Mitch, Trump has ignored traditional local Senator’s blue card vetoes, and ratings of unqualified by the American Bar Association. These are lifelong appointments, of young justices.
Did I put off the impeachment, for trying to win a second Presidential election through foreign influence? And blocking both the first and second congressional investigation of these. Then, there is also the subversion of the Justice Department through Attorney General Bill Barr. Trump has unprecedentedly blocked all colleagues from testifying, and all subpoenaed documents from being turned over. Only by June will we hear the Supreme Court decision on this. Chief Senate Tackle Mitch already has said that he would collude with the defendant, President Trump, won’t call for witnesses, and would like to summarily dismiss the charges. There is little indication that even a handful of Republican Senators would follow their oath as a juror to actually consider the evidence fairly. Again, a Zero, meaning Null, rating.
By the way, if Impeachment were a real trial, Mitch McConnell would be doubly disqualified from the Jury. First, his wife, Elaine Chou, is an employee of the defendant, Trump, as Secretary of Transportation. Second, McConnell was called “Moscow Mitch”, because his state, Kentucky, which he represents in the Senate, is getting an Aluminum plant from Russia. Russia was behind the 2016 election hacking, which Putin has said was really Ukraine, and is behind the impeachment charges. It was now revealed that Russia hacked into Burisma, where Hunter Biden worked. Mitch is not only a juror, but the decider of the rules of the trial. The House just voted, and delivered the charges to the Senate.
Trump almost started a Middle East war, without consulting with the “Gang of Eight” leaders of the Senate and House, again eroding even the traditional road to getting good advice. The actions weren’t consulted with experts in State or Defense. Even reporting requirements did not explain or justify the actions. Again, a Zero, Null rating.
Do we really deserve anything near an 86% Democracy or Freedom rating? 86% would normally be an A minus, nearly perfect, college grade.
This article was inspired by an Op-Ed in the LA Times this morning “How autocracy takes over in Trump’s America”, by Wayne Sandholtz, a Professor of international relations and law at USC, which has links to the Democracy and Freedom databases. It was also proded by Putin’s new drive to be Russia’s leader for life. All of his cabinet has resigned today.