Mayer Declares GOP Legislators Passing Laws Is ‘Torching Democracy’

The New Yorker’s Jane Mayer is an unserious person pretending to be the opposite. She proved that on Thursday’s edition of PBS’s Amanpour and Company where she declared that legislators legislating is tantamount to “torching democracy.”

Mayer was on with NPR’s Michel Martin to discuss an article she wrote on the topic with a focus on Ohio. Martin asked, “Did you go there specifically because Ohio is just to see what would happen in the wake of the overturning of Roe or was it on your radar before that?”

After claiming that was part of the reason, Mayer elaborated, “the reason I looked at Ohio, in particular, was I was hearing from someone who I’d interviewed named David Pepper, who’s written a book about Ohio, that in fact, it’s not really the people deciding when you can give these issues back to a state like Ohio. It’s the legislature that’s deciding. And the legislatures in a number of American states no longer reflect the will of the people. That’s why we talk about torching democracy.”

Mayer didn’t mention it, but Pepper is the former chairman of the state Democratic Party and as Mayer was talking, viewers saw a picture of him on a stage in front of a giant Democratic ‘D’ logo.

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Pepper has a partisan ax to grind, but Mayer still cited him as an authority on subject. The reason why Republicans are torching democracy is because they don’t follow polls:

The people have one opinion, the general public, if you look at polls, feels one way. But the legislatures are way out of sync with what the population, in general, believes. And that’s true in Ohio and that’s what this man, David Pepper, was telling me who’s written a book that’s called, Laboratories for Autocracy. It’s a play on a phrase that came from Justice Louis Brandeis who called the state legislatures in America laboratories for democracy.

Abortion on demand-loving Democrats aren’t exactly in line with polling either, but they aren’t accused on public TV of torching democracy. Still, Mayer continued citing Pepper, “what he is saying is actually, this is where autocracy in America is—is– growing and brewing. And it’s an attack on democracy taking place in these states. And Ohio typifies it. So, that’s why I went there.”

Martin continued with the theme of the disconnect between legislators and polling, “So, how did it get to the point in a place like Ohio where there’s such divergence between what people say they want in matters of significant public concern and what the legislature is actually doing?”

Mayer then suggested that winning elections was part of some sinister plot to take over state legislatures, “It was actually a deliberate plan.”

Not only that, there were racial connotations behind it, “Barack Obama had been elected in 2008. It was a shock to many white conservatives to have a black American president who was a liberal Democrat to some extent — liberal that is to some extent. And they had lost power in both Houses of Congress and the White House. And they were looking around the country to try to figure out, well, where can we take power? And the places that seemed to be easiest to capture were state legislatures.”

“Some extent?” Mayer would also go onto condemn Republicans, and only Republicans, for gerrymandering and apply the same polling logic to gun rights.

This segment was sponsored by viewers like you.

PBS Amanpour and Company

8/11/2022

11:35 PM ET

MICHEL MARTIN: You’ve written this devastating piece titled, “State Legislatures Are Torching Democracy.” You know, very strong words. So, obviously, I’m going to ask you why you say that. But you focused on Ohio. Why Ohio?

JANE MAYER: Well, Ohio has been known as a bellwether state in American politics. It’s a—it’s a– moderate state that can swing both either Republican or Democratic so that if you look back, recent history, it was a state that elected Barack Obama in 2008 and in 2012 and then Donald Trump in 2016 in 2020. So, it’s an interesting kind of weathervane state.

MARTIN: Did you go there specifically because you wanted to see what would happen in the wake of the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade? Because as you point out in the piece, the Supreme Court anticipated when it overturned Roe that the battle of abortion rights would go to the states, like, that was the whole point. Did you go there specifically because Ohio is just to see what would happen in the wake of the overturning of Roe or was it on your radar before that?

MAYER: It — that was part of the reason. I mean — because you could hear even before the decision came down from the Supreme Court, you could hear during their arguments that the conservatives, Brett Kavanaugh particular, made a big point of saying, if we just send these issues, these hard issues
like abortion back to the states, we can just let the people decide.

And what I was hearing — and the reason I looked at Ohio, in particular, was I was hearing from someone who I’d interviewed named David Pepper, who’s written a book about Ohio, that in fact, it’s not really the people deciding when you can give these issues back to a state like Ohio. It’s the legislature that’s deciding. And the legislatures in a number of American states no longer reflect the will of the people. That’s why we talk about torching democracy.

The people have one opinion, the general public, if you look at polls, feels one way. But the legislatures are way out of sync with what the population, in general, believes. And that’s true in Ohio and that’s what this man, David Pepper, was telling me who’s written a book that’s called, Laboratories for Autocracy. It’s a play on a phrase that came from Justice Louis Brandeis who called the state legislatures in America laboratories for democracy.

And—and– what he is saying is actually, this is where autocracy in America is—is– growing and brewing. And it’s an attack on democracy taking place in these states. And Ohio typifies it. So, that’s why I went there.

MARTIN: In the piece, you site a political science professor at the University of Cincinnati that cited, a 2020 survey indicating that less than 14 percent of Ohioans support banning all abortions without exceptions for rape and incest. But that’s not the direction of the Ohio legislature is—is– heading in.

In fact, I think the story that a lot of people may be familiar with is the story of this 10-year-old girl who was sexually assaulted by an adult male, became pregnant, and then had to go to Indiana to obtain an abortion because it was impossible in her home state of Ohio. So, how did it get to the point in a place like Ohio where there’s such divergence between what people say they want in matters of significant public concern and what the legislature is actually doing?

MAYER: It was actually a deliberate plan. And there aren’t that many things in American politics that really follow anybody’s plans because it’s such a mess most of the time. But back in 2010, the Republican Party’s smartest operatives looked around and they were very distressed. Barack Obama had been elected in 2008. It was a shock to many white conservatives to have a black American president who was a liberal Democrat to some extent — liberal that is to some extent. And they had lost power in both Houses of Congress and the White House. And they were looking around the country to try to figure out, well, where can we take power? And the places that seemed to be easiest to capture were state legislatures.

And so, there was this very interesting plan that was drawn up called Red Map by the Republican Party operatives. And they set out to very deliberately flip as many statehouses as they could into Republican control. And there was a year that 2010 was very much on their mind to do that year. Because that’s a census year, every 10 years there’s a U.S. census. And every time there’s a census, the statehouses get to reapportion the districts, both for Congress and for the statehouse.

So, it gives the legislature special powers during those years. And they figured, if we can take the statehouses, you could redraw the lines and you could do it in such a way that you would totally advantage the Republican Party. And that’s exactly what they did in a bunch of states. They picked
up an incredible number of statehouses that year. They flipped them to the Republican Party, they took control of a number of them, and they set out to very systematically and scientifically redraw the district so that in many places Republicans — I mean, they can barely lose no matter what they do.

And that’s what — that was — you know, more than 10 years ago, 12 years ago. What we’re now seeing, we’re seeing the consequences. This is like a science experiment in democracy. You’re saying, well, what happens when you make it so that people can’t lose their elections? What kind of behavior do you get in the statehouses? And what you get is really extremist legislation because the only pressure on these peoples’ lives in the Republican Party is that they might be facing primary challenges from candidates who are even more extreme than they are.

And so, that’s those – who are the people who come out to vote in primaries. That’s what they’re worried about. And they couldn’t care less about the opposing party’s point of views. So, they keep moving further and further to the extreme. And that’s what’s happened in Ohio.

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