In the name of democracy, some claim they must usurp the people’s democratic authority. Let’s call it what it is: creeping autocracy.
It’s always instructive to hear powerful political officials declare that in the name of democracy, they must usurp the people’s democratic authority. Let’s call it what it is: creeping autocracy.
This has become all too common, as even so-called democratic regimes in France and Israel have infuriated their people by trying to ram vastly unpopular, anti-democratic schemes into law by executive fiat. Luckily, though, our U.S. of A remains committed to The People’s rule, right? Moreover, our leaders agree that local government is best, for it is closest to the people, right?
Uh… no… and no. Since the once-conservative Republican Party has turned extremist and downright goofy during the past decade, its governors and lawmakers have become knee-jerk autocrats, imposing their unpopular policies through a crude power play called “preemption.”
This is the despotic use of arbitrary state power to cancel any town, city or county policies that Republican politicians don’t like. Preemption is an extreme governing tool meant to be rarely used in emergency situations, but GOP-controlled statehouses in Florida, Texas, Ohio and elsewhere now use it routinely as an ideological sledgehammer, crushing the right of local people to govern themselves.
This creeping autocracy has let extremist Republican officials force some of their racist, homophobic and xenophobic nastiness on communities that vehemently oppose them. But most Republican preemptions are issued in service to corporate elites. For example, when local communities try to raise the minimum wage for working families, stop Big Oil fracking abuses or prevent corporate money from corrupting local politics, corporate-serving governors rush to outlaw the people’s will and preserve the abusive power of rank profiteers.
Texas lawmakers are even trying to supersize and privatize preemption with a blanket decree that all local ordinances restricting corporations are overruled by state law — even proposing that corporate executives themselves can overturn local actions. To fight these autocrats, go to www.supportdemocracy.org.
Why Isn’t the Death of Local News National News?
My city’s daily newspaper has gotten so emaciated it should be in hospice care.
Its front “section” is down to six pages, half of which are cheap ads, and nearly all of its articles are out-of-date, cut-and-paste pieces bought from out-of-state “content providers.” This embarrassment, put out by the Gannett chain of over 1,100 cadaverous papers, pretends to be the “news” source for Austin, a vibrant city of a million people and the capitol of the second-largest state in America! Gannett, owned by a multibillion-dollar Japanese hedge fund, profits by buying up local papers, firing most of the news staff, raising prices, selling off the papers’ assets and then killing the paper.
If your town’s publication is a now a Gannett property, look to Salinas, California for its future. The 152-year-old Salinas Californian was this important region’s main news artery until its hedge-funders started hacking. The paper was down to one reporter last December, but that lone journalist quit, and the Californian is now a “newspaper” without reporters — meaning no coverage of elections, city hall, sports, police, workplace issues… etc.
The Salinas paper is technically alive, overseen until recently by another Gannett paper — located 300 miles away! Now, says the chain’s comically named “Center for Community Journalism,” Salinas residents can get their news by reading Gannett’s national paper, USA Today.
In fairness, Gannett’s bosses are making major investments — in themselves. CEO Mike Reed’s salary this year is $8 million for helping gut local news. And while the global chain’s owners won’t pay for a reporter in Salinas, they will spend $100 million for a stock buyback scheme that will artificially jack up their own wealth. This is a blockbuster story of real news affecting real people and democracy itself. So, how many Gannett “news” papers do you guess are covering it?
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