One fundamental premise of our democratic system is that Congress is a separate branch of government from the executive, and members of Congress are accountable to voters, not to the president.
Sorry, we know you know this. But one Republican congressman seemed to forget on Thursday.
During an interview on MSNBC, Rep. Ted Yoho, a Florida Republican, sought to defend Rep. Devin Nunes, the House Intelligence Committee chair who has been accused of colluding with the White House and is facing calls to recuse himself from the panel’s Russia probe.
“You gotta keep in mind who he works for,” Yoho said of Nunes. “He works for the president. He answers to the president.”
“Does he?” asked MSNBC’s Craig Melvin. “Or does he work for the constituents of his district?”
“Well, you do both,” Yoho replied.
Later that day, Yoho’s office issued a statement that said he “misspoke,” and that he understands he works for voters.
On its own, this would be sort of amusing. But it’s hard not to suspect that there’s something deeper going on here.
After all, Yoho is the guy who, while running office in 2012, complained that expanding voting access made it too easy for “uninformed” voters to vote, and suggested that people who don’t own property should be disenfranchised. Those comments, too, were later clarified by a spokesman, who confirmed that Yoho doesn’t want to impose a property requirement.
What links these two episodes is a certain contempt for democracy — for the notion that power should reside with ordinary Americans, no matter their level of wealth or status. And it’s not just Yoho, of course. As I wrote in The Great Suppression, the idea that too much democracy can be dangerous — and more specifically, that certain voters should be discouraged or even barred from voting — has in recent years begun making a comeback in the rhetoric of conservative pundits, academics, and even some politicians.
It lies behind much of the assault on democracy we’re seeing, and it can’t be called out too often.