Our country and our state are ill-served by the concentration of political power in one political party’s hands, regardless of which party holds it. Unchecked power pushes parties to excess. It is an inherent part of both human nature and the nature of government.
Our nation’s Founders clearly saw this danger. In Federalist 51, James Madison defended the virtue of divided government:
Madisonians brilliantly sought to limit the danger of one-party factionalism by establishing a political system with numerous checks and balances. But even with checks in place, political leaders frequently run amok when power is concentrated in the hands of one party.
Two eras in US History stand out. The complete “Republican” federal dominance after the Civil War led to an overzealous Congress in the Reconstruction Period and massive corruption in President Grant’s administration. Democratic one-party rule from the early 1930s until the mid ‘40s culminated in rigid post-World War II policies that failed to account for the vast changes in our country, and once more, led to massive cronyism and corruption.
The beauty of our democratic system is that it is self-correcting. The problem is that the corrections by an understandably outraged electorate often push the pendulum too far in the opposite direction.
Utah is a cautionary tale of unchecked political power in a state
What does Utah have in common with the Democratic People’s Republic of (North) Korea, the People’s Republic of (Mainland) China, and the Republic of Cuba?
“A one-party state has the monopoly of power, is authoritarian, and will sometimes violently suppress a political party that questions its ideologies. A single-political-party state can lead to lack of transparency. The leaders may run amok due to lack of opposition, leading to runaway spending, corruption, wastage of resources, and abuse of human rights,” states Kerry Wayne, a Utah state representative.
Wayne continues, “For nearly 40 years, the Republican Party has held power in Utah and worked tirelessly to eliminate any resistance, blaming others for their own shortcomings and bad lawmaking. Women, minorities, and families that embrace one-party politics must have an extremely low level of expectations or are one-issue voters. Intimidation and threats of violence help to silence those with opposing points of view – spineless lily-livered leadership.”
Apathy is another patron of the one-party state. When individuals believe that there is no chance of them altering the political landscape, then the party in power remains in power.
There seems to be little interest from Democrats in fielding candidates in many corners of Utah. When there is not an opposing candidate on the ballot, we teach voters to vote for the party in power.
We are starting to see that in Kentucky.
The danger for our country or our state is that with complete one-party dominance, much damage will be done before the next electoral self-correction.
There is no accountability with one-party rule
“On top of pushing a barrage of bad bills that hurt working people, KY Republican lawmakers made several shameful, antisemitic comments just days apart from each other. This is not a one-off – it’s a deeply disturbing pattern. [It included everything from] multiple legislators dropping an antisemitic slur in a committee hearing to a bizarre rant on the KY House floor about everything from Holocaust lies to the sexual behavior of Jewish women” reports Colmon Elridge, of the KY Democratic party. Nothing was done about any of these actions. Where is the accountability?
In Kentucky, Republicans have long had a problem governing for all Kentuckians, regardless of their race, creed, religion, sexual orientation, or color; and now, believing they have untouchable majorities and power, they are overreaching like there’s no tomorrow.
For example, this week the Kentucky legislature moved the following extreme Republican bills forward:
- Terminate COVID declaration of emergency
- Trans athlete ban
- Attack on library boards
- Limit abortion to 15 weeks
- Exception to employer vax mandate for religious beliefs
- More small cities in Louisville
- A trainwreck "tax reform" bill
In the meantime, Kentucky’s GOP has been attacking transparency laws to keep citizens in the dark.
For decades, Kentucky’s Open Records Act has been hailed as a standard bearer for accountability laws. But in recent legislative sessions — including the current one — the state GOP repeatedly has spearheaded troubling attempts to diminish the law by seeking to erect barriers between the public and information it has a right to know.
Republicans have also taken dead aim at newspapers’ financial health by stripping legal advertisements from many publications. And don’t forget Republican AG Daniel Cameron’s clear signal to public officials last year that they may conduct public business on their private devices, allowing them to circumvent pesky public disclosure laws.
Are we really expected to believe it’s a coincidence that Kentucky Republicans are flooding the legislature with anti-journalism, anti-free speech, and anti-transparency proposals?
What happens when power is concentrated
Most Americans prefer balance in government. Like our Founders, they understand that too much concentration of power is dangerous.
All people have heard the quote “power tends to corrupt, absolute power corrupts absolutely,” stated by Lord Acton, a British politician.
In the words of Harry Truman, “once a government is committed to the principle of silencing the voice of the opposition, it has only one way to go, and that is down the path increasingly of repressive measures, until it becomes a source of terror to all its citizens and creates a country [state] where everyone lives in fear.”
The dangers of a one-party government are real – and not just on the world stage, but also in our state. Are we seeing Truman’s words come to pass right here in Kentucky?
Written by John James Alexander, a pseudonym for a long-time Kentucky educator.
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