The GOP's 'structural welfare': Why the next 2 years will determine the fate of US democracy
Knowing that they are a shrinking party and that changing demographics do not work in their favor, Republicans all over the United States are aggressively pushing voter suppression bills in state legislatures. Journalist/author Adam Jentleson, in an article published by The Atlantic on April 12, stresses that Republicans enjoy great "structural" advantages despite becoming more and more of a "minority" party.
"President Joe Biden came into office facing four 'converging crises': COVID-19, climate change, racial justice and the economy," Jentleson explains. "But after a few weeks of fast action on a pandemic relief plan, a fifth crisis will determine the fate of the rest of his administration, and perhaps that of American democracy itself: the minority-rule doom loop, by which predominantly White conservatives gain more and more power, even as they represent fewer Americans."
The GOP has lost the popular vote in seven of the United States' last eight presidential elections, and Republicans are coping with that reality by making it more difficult to vote. Another GOP tactic is ruthlessly gerrymandering U.S. House of Representatives districts.
Jentleson, author of the book "Kill Switch: The Rise of the Modern Senate," argues that the "minority-rule doom loop" — as he calls it — "starts at the ballot box, where Republicans are making it harder than at any time in recent history for those who are unlikely to vote for them to vote at all."
The journalist/author explains, "According to Michael McDonald, a professor at the University of Florida and one of the nation's foremost experts on voting laws, 'We are witnessing the greatest rollback of voting rights in this country since the Jim Crow era.' The Supreme Court's 2013 decision in Shelby County v. Holder unleashed a new wave of voter suppression targeted at reliably Democratic constituencies such as non-White voters and young people. The pace of suppression has only increased since the November election."
Republicans, according to Jentleson, enjoy "structural welfare" in various ways — from the Electoral College to gerrymandering to the U.S. Senate, where Jentleson notes that they "have to win fewer votes than Democrats to control the chamber."
"As with the Electoral College," Jentleson writes, "Republicans owe their ability to wield minority rule in the Senate to White voters. Democrats and Republicans used to win Senate seats in big and small states at comparable rates because both parties used to be competitive with White working-class voters. But since the 1960s, the shift of these voters toward the GOP has turned the Senate's overrepresentation of rural areas into an entrenched Republican advantage."
The "minority-rule doom loop," according to Jentleson, also gives Republicans an unfair advantage with the federal judiciary.
Jentleson observes, "Control of the White House and Senate allows Republicans who came to power on the backs of a White, conservative minority to appoint judges who make it even easier for Republicans to win elections…. Overall, judges appointed by (President George W.) Bush and (President Donald) Trump make up 48% of the judiciary."
"Gerrymandering at the state level," Jentleson notes, "plays a crucial role in the doom loop, allowing Republicans to maintain control of state legislatures — which then pass restrictive voting laws in key swing states and inflate Republicans' numbers in Congress, despite representing a minority of the populations in those states."
According to Jentleson, "The loop makes it harder and harder for Democrats to win elections, despite representing more and more people. But when Democrats do fight that uphill battle and win, the last leg of the loop lets politicians who represent White conservatives wield a veto over the majority's agenda."
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