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.






  1. Art Schmidt January 25, 2021 at 1:03 pm

    I like your optimism, but where will this 10% come from? Didn’t we just run the perfect experiment in persuading everyone who’s persuadable: an incompetent buffoon against a safe, genial, white, reassuring moderate? Any Republican who’s gettable was already “got” in November. Even if Biden does a great job on Covid-19, 2020 Trump voters won’t care. Good governance isn’t close to what they’re interested in. The gradual dying-off of Trump’s generation (which unfortunately includes me) may be our only hope.

    • tonygreco January 25, 2021 at 2:19 pm

      Points well-taken. My optimism rests on the belief (or hope) that even in this age of polarization, there is more softness in partisan preferences than is generally acknowledged. Not all Trump voters are hard-core. Some of them undoubtedly voted for him because he was the incumbent who deserved another chance, he was doing a good job on the economy pre-COVID, and/or they like the guy’s scrappy personality, etc. Could all those categories amount to a potentially inconstant 10%? I think/hope it’s possible.

  2. Donald Campbell January 28, 2021 at 10:07 am

    It seems what Tony is saying that Democrats must persuade a sizeable number of white working people in rural areas to support the party. I think it is doable…but only if Democrats can get people working in good jobs (decent salary and benefits). This certainly seems like the most viable path to achieving more power. However, republicans have been able to exploit weaknesses in the system and launch a powerful propaganda initiative that has accumulated much power with little in political achievement other than tax breaks for the rich and walls. With the many serious problems facing the planet it seems the limited vision of many American voters may be an impediment to progress, perhaps even a death knell. Also, there is the paradox of providing supports to white working people when there is also much need in non-white communities.

    • tonygreco January 28, 2021 at 11:10 am

      I agree that getting back a significant share of white working class voters is critical to the chances for the Dems to gain a lasting political advantage. Unfortunately, Democratic leaders from Carter to Obama have allowed the Dems’ identity as a working class party to attenuate. Some of Biden’s appointments suggest an interest in changing that course, which offers some basis for hope.

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