What Americans can learn from India’s Independence Movement

How do you get rid of a corrupt, racist, elitist, and extremist minority that has hijacked your country?

That is a question Americans need to ask. “We May Be One Election From Permanent Minority Rule,” Peter Certo writes. Certo fears Republicans could use a combination of voter suppression, gerrymandering, the Electoral College, election nullification, and other tactics to stay in power despite losing the popular vote.

“And thanks to gerrymandered state legislatures and Trump’s packing of the federal courts, the GOP could be well on its way to near-permanent minority rule,” Certo writes in In These Times. Certo is the editorial manager of the Institute for Policy Studies, a left-wing think tank.

Minority Rule in America

 Moreover, gerrymandering could enable Republicans to win control of the US House of Representatives even “if the 2022 national popular vote rivals the 2020 Democratic edge of three points,” Samuel Wang of the Princeton Gerrymandering Project claims. Washington Post columnist Greg Sargent thinks control of just four state legislatures; Texas, Florida, Georgia, and North Carolina, will enable Republicans to win the House through Gerrymandering.

Meanwhile, Republicans who represent around 20% of the US population can block most legislation from passing the US Senate with help from one Senator Joe Manchin (D-West Virginia) who represents one small state. With Manchin’s help, Republicans block legislationThe For the People Act which could ban gerrymandering.

West Virginia has a population of 1.8 million people. Yet its Senator, Manchin, has the power to determine national policy for a nation of 332 million people.

The situation could be worse soon. Mother Jones estimates 70 US Senators could represent just 30% of America’s population in the year 2040.

Finally, the Electoral College allows tiny minorities in a few states to select the president. National Public Radio’s Domenico Montanaro claims “just 44,000 votes in Georgia, Arizona and Wisconsin separated Biden and Trump from a tie in the Electoral College,” in 2020. In 2016, Donald J. Trump Senior (R-Florida) won the presidential election with around 80,000 votes in three states.

Hence, the margin needed to win a presidential election shrinks as the nation grows. Notably, Joseph R. Biden (D-Delaware) won the popular vote by seven million, yet came close to losing the Electoral College.

Power Corrupts

“Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely” popular saying attributed to John Dalberg-Acton, 1st Baron Acton.

Thus, the United States faces a minority rule that violates the country’s ideals and betrays the American Revolution. All Americans need to be scared because I think minority rule will corrupt even the most honorable leaders.

Unethical behavior is now the norm among Republican leaders. For example, many Republicans endorse Trump’s blatant “stop the steal” the lies.” Other Republicans lie to cover up the violence we saw on 6 January 2021.  

Republicans and conservatives need to fear minority rule, because their ideals will become shallow justifications for a wealthy elite’s abuses of power. Most people will view Republicans as corrupt power-mad hypocrites and dismiss conservatism as a fraud.

Does India have the answer?

Thus, we come back to the question: what can you do when an unethical minority subverts, corrupts, and takes over your country. “ Fortunately, another great democracy could have the answer.

In the 20th Century, the Indian people faced a similar situation. A corrupt minority, the British Raj, hijacked their country. The Raj was an arrogant, racist, ruthless, and corrupt clique of British imperialists who took over India by subverting many of the country’s basic institutions. In particular, the Mughal Empire’s government.

For example, the Raj set up corrupt aristocrats as absolute rulers of princely states. The princes enjoyed close to absolute power and lives of luxury with British support.

Similarly, the Raj used religion as an instrument of control by manipulating prejudices and giving special rights to religious minorities. A tactic Republicans have adopted in modern America.

Some Lessons India has for America’s fight against Minority Rule include:

First, the struggle is moral

The Indian Nationalists won because their leader Mahatmas K. Gandhi realized the struggle was a moral one. The Raj’s cause was wrong and the Indian cause was good.

Essentially, Gandhi exposed the contradiction at the heart of the British Empire. The contradiction was the conflict between British notions of fair-play, honor, justice, and democracy, and the unethical behaviors needed to maintain their empire. Gandhi undermined support for the empire in the United Kingdom by exposing the Empire’s immortality.

Most Americans, including Republicans, know minority rule is wrong. In the 1930s and 1940s, most British people knew colonialism and imperialism were wrong. One way Gandhi won was by constantly reminding the British and others that the Raj’s rule in India was wrong.

Almost all the tactics of America’s practitioners of minority rule are wrong. Voter suppression, gerrymandering, lying about vote fraud, and the 6 January violence are morally indefensible. Republicans pretend that voter suppression does not exist or is good because they cannot defend it.

One of Gandhi’s most important victories was to destroy the lie that the Raj built the British Empire in India upon. That lie was that the empire was civilizing and inherently good for Indians.

Gandhi’s nonviolent tactics, especially his demonstrations, exposed the British Empire as brutal, corrupt, and exploitative. Those demonstrations destroyed the lie of Britain’s civilizing mission in India and exposed the Raj’s gangster tactics.

In America, proponents of democracy have won the moral battle against minority rule. Most Americans know what the Republicans are doing is wrong.

Second Civil Disobedience works

Gandhi exposed the Raj’s criminality and barbarism with civil disobedience such as the Salt March. The Salt March exposed one of the Raj’s worst rackets, the Salt Tax.

Colonial law created a monopoly on salt, which allowed the British government to charge a heavy tax on the mineral. In 1930, Gandhi and his followers walked to sea and made salt. The march led to arrests, which made the Raj look bad. The Salt March exposed the exploitative nature of British rule.

The Salt March was not about salt. The Salt was a prop to show ordinary people how corrupt the Raj was.

Today, some Democratic state legislators are using similar tactics against Republican vote suppressors. For example, 52 Texas state legislators are boycotting the Lone Star State legislature to stop that body from passing voter suppression laws. Texas State House Speaker Dade Phelan (R) issued civil arrest warrants for the legislators.

By staying away, the Democrats are exposing the Republicans’ undemocratic tactics. I think Republicans do not understand what Democrats are doing or how civil disobedience works. If they did, Phelan would not sign the warrants.

Instead, the Texas Speaker could create a situation in which Democratic legislators end up in jail. That will make the legislators heroes, much as the British made Gandhi into a hero by imprisoning him.

If Americans want to stop Republican minority rule, we will need constructive civil disobedience such as the Texas walkout. I think such civil disobedience could force the Grand Old Party (GOP) to abandon its minority rule project particularity if combined with large-scale demonstrations such as large year’s George Floyd protests.

Remember, the Floyd protests drove large corporations such as Amazon (AMZN) to pay lip service to the Black Lives Matter cause. I think sustained protests combined with strategic civil disobedience and boycotts could separate corporate America from the GOP.

To explain, Republican leaders such as US Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) will abandon voter suppression if corporations refuse to donate money to them. However, corporations will only turn off the donations if their executives think they will lose business.

However, boycotts work. Remember, just talk of a boycott scared Major League Baseball into moving the All Star Game out of Atlanta. Boycotts are civil disobedience, just as marches, protests, and sit-ins are.

One example of a successful boycott could be a refusal by large numbers African Americans and others to pay their wireless, satellite TV, or cable bills as long as those companies donate money to Republicans. I think many subscription services, including Amazon (AMZN), Disney (DIS), Netflix (NFLX), and AT&T (T) could be vulnerable to boycotts.

To explain, those companies rely on what Warren Buffett calls “float.” Float is the cash subscriptions generate. Disrupt the subscriptions and you reduce the cash executives have to play with. If the boycotts threaten the float, executives will pay attention.

Third, publicity is everything

Ironically, Gandhi’s civil disobedience only worked because of technology. In the 1920s, several new technologies allowed news about Gandhi’s protests to appear in London newspapers the next day.

Those technologies were the telegraph and wire services which allowed instant transmission of news between India and London. Photography which allowed pictures of the protests to appear in London tabloids in few days. Also important were newsreels which brought the protests home to neighborhood movie theaters throughout the Empire.

Those technologies made Gandhi’s protests a political embarrassment for the British government. That forced the Conservative and Labour parties to support Indian independence just to make the Gandhi nuisance go away.

Similarly, in the 1960s, Gandhi’s most famous American disciple, Martin Luther King Junior, used television to embarrass President Lyndon Baines Johnson (D-Texas). King’s constant civil rights marches made great television, which put the Civil Rights issue into Americans’ living rooms every night.

Constant coverage of the Civil Rights movement and the chaos surrounding it embarrassed LBJ and other US leaders by exposing America’s racism to the world at the height of Cold War. Eventually, LBJ forced Congress to pass the Civil Rights and Voting Rights laws to end the humiliating news from the South.

Voting rights strategists could use the same strategy to force President Joe Biden (D-Delaware), Congress, and corporate leaders to throttle the Republican Minority Rule project. Moreover, they could force Republicans to abandon minority government.

Gandhi only needed to convince a few Fleet Street editors that his efforts were newsworthy. MLK only had to convince a few network news producers that Civil Rights was good television. Today’s demonstrators will need to bring thousands of podcasters, social media influencers, and others to their side.

However, I think young Americans are smart and creative enough to achieve that goal. If we give them a chance.

Final thoughts

I think America will need a widespread campaign of civil disobedience led by an organization, or organizations, similar to the pre-indendepence Indian National Congress to defeat the Republican minority rule project.

To explain, the National Congress was both a liberation front and a shadow government with ambitious plans to rebuild India. To succeed, the opponents of minority rule will need ambitious to restructure American society. Hence, I would advise minority rule opponents to embrace policies such as Basic Income, Free College, and Medicare for All.

I think there is widespread support for such a campaign in America. However, I am not sure America has the quality of leadership Gandhi could call upon. India’s best and brightest filled the World War II-era Indian National Congress.

Gandhi had some of the smartest and most creative people on Earth, including Jawaharlal Nehru and Vallabhbhai Jhaverbhai Patel around him. Hence, the Congress could offer a political program to replace the crumbling British Empire.

 Any campaign against Minority Rule will need to offer serious governmental reforms to restore American democracy. Examples of such reforms could include proportional representation, abolition of the Electoral College, a US Senate that represents the American people, and honest and accessible nationwide elections.

Without such a group similar to America’s Founding Fathers, I think the civil disobedience will fail. Or worse, it could clear the way for a demagogue who will be a thousand times worse than Trump.

Freedom-loving Americans need to consider some sort of campaign because I think it is probable that neither Congress Democrats nor Biden can stop the Republicans. If the responsible leaders do not step up and launch an effective campaign to stop minority rule. I think the Far Left or Far Right will with catastrophic results.