Now that they control both houses of congress and soon, the White House, Republicans seem intent upon returning the country to a time when bosses reigned supreme and workers meekly complied with their wishes because they depended on them for everything. It’s not just the dismantling of the Affordable Care Act, with no replacement in the pipeline, but mucking with Medicare and Social Security, junking trade agreements, and increasing a sense of insecurity nationwide, creating a cowed population too afraid to resist them.

Less in the headlines, but in some ways even more ominous, are actions the GOP is taking to return the federal workforce to the era of Andrew Jackson, when government workers weren’t loyal to the Constitution, but to the party in power; to a time when ‘to the victor belongs the spoils.

The first scary sign was when Virginia Republican H. Morgan Griffith began efforts to revive the 1876 ‘Holman Rule.’ An obscure law named for the Indiana congressman who devised it in 1876, it allows any member of congress to propose amendments to appropriations legislation, singling out individual employees or cutting specific programs. While approval of any such amendment requires a majority of both House and Senate, the fact that an employee’s salary can be cut to $1 sends a chilling message to the 2 million federal workers now employed; do something a particular member of congress doesn’t like, and you’re screwed.

The second ominous signal is Senate Bill 11, which proposes slashing security funding for diplomatic establishments until the State Department moves our embassy in Israel to Jerusalem. Public announcements from congress and the Trump transition team regarding such a move have already created tensions, and quite possibly raised the threat profile of many of our embassies and consulates, so this move is, in my view, outright intimidation and coercion a la ‘The Godfather,’—“I’m making you an offer you can’t refuse.”

The average American has probably paid no attention to these two small items. But, the average American should. Federal workers get a bad rap, and admittedly some deserve it, but the vast majority of them labor anonymously and for modest pay to see that citizens of this country get the goods and services they are entitled to. From the rangers at the national park to the meat inspectors ensuring the product you buy is not infected with mad cow disease, they are sometimes the unseen and unheralded defense against political overreach. Politicians declaim, but it’s the workforce that has to carry out the policies they devise. They can try to minimize the negative impact of misguided policies or, if intimidated, carry them out with vigor and damn the consequences.

We the people really have to decide whether we want a professional, honorable federal workforce, or a legion of obedient drones; people whose allegiance is to the Constitution and the American people, or the Kakistocracy in power.

I don’t know about you, but I know without any doubt which I would prefer. These were not the boom of cannon shot, heard ‘round the land, but sniper rounds fired from concealment, but with an even more potentially devastating effect. We, the people, should not let them go unanswered.

Published by Charles Ray