Great op-ed in today’s NY Times by Jamelle Bouie! He writes what I’ve been saying for years—that while there are a lot of things wrong with American politics, our biggest problem is the Republican Party—a radical reactionary combat organization that willingly undermines democracy in its pursuit of power. “To even begin to fix American Democracy we have to make the Republican Party less dangerous than it is.”
How to do that? Bouie is realistic enough to acknowledge that there is no readily apparent solution to the problem of GOP radicalism. One attractive possibility would be a split in the party that allowed a moderate conservative party to emerge, but that is highly unlikely. The only alternative would be for the Democrats to achieve overwhelming dominance, forcing the Republicans to transform themselves. That, too, is unlikely, given the counter-majoritarian features of our system: First, the small state bias built into the Electoral College and the Senate advantages the more rural-oriented GOP. Second, the heavy demographic concentration of more liberal Democratic voters in a relatively small number of places results in large numbers of Democratic voters electing fewer representatives, both for the House and for state legislatures. (A system of proportional representation, common in Europe, could overcome this problem, but PR has seldom been used in this country.)
But maybe Bouie is just a bit too pessimistic. National Democratic Party dominance, even in the face of structural disadvantages, is not inconceivable. Since 2008, the Democrats’ presidential nominees have averaged a winning margin of a little better than 4%. If that 4% margin could be increased by just another 4%, with the gains distributed evenly across the country, Democrats could consistently control the presidency and the House, and would often be able to count on winning the Senate as well. To do that, the Dems would need to peel away about 10% of current Republican voters. That certainly isn’t easy, but it shouldn’t be impossible.
How to win over those 10% of Republican voters? Here is Biden’s big opportunity. It seems terrible to say, but the COVID disaster is practically made to order to prove the superiority of active, progressive government to the minimal government philosophy offered by the GOP. I think Biden has a very good chance of demonstrating a clear turnaround in the crisis after the failures of the Trump regime. With the cooperation of the minority of responsible Republicans in Congress, he can get his COVID rescue package passed and move on to the massive infrastructure program that Trump talked about but never moved on. Top off those successes with the very good prospect of a nicely reviving economy in 2022, throw in debilitating internecine GOP strife and favorable long-term demographic trends, and the Democrats are on the way to achieving an enduring advantage, if not dominance, over their radical right-wing adversaries.
Does this scenario sound too rosy? Maybe, but it’s certainly plausible. It might even be right.