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Friday, January 28, 2022

Midterms shaping up to be test of American democracy as GOP fixates on locking in minority rule

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The overall popularity of Biden’s initiatives is a critical consideration as Democrats stare down midterm elections that historically favor the party not in control of the White House. To date, public support for Biden’s agenda also appears to be translating to congressional Democrats. As Democratic strategist Kevin Walling recently noted in The Hill, voters say they trust congressional Democrats over congressional Republicans on basically every issue tested in a recent Morning Consult survey, with the exception of national security where the two parties deadlocked at 40% each. Other than that, Democrats held an advantage in every policy area.

Who do you trust more to handle the following? (Source: Morning Consult)
Congressional Democrats congressional republicans
Coronavirus 51% 26%
health care 50% 31%
Protecting Medicare/social security 50% 30%
Education  48% 30%
Climate change 53% 22%
Jobs 43% 38%
Economy 43% 38%

While those advantages are particularly meaningful in a majority-rule democracy, Republicans are increasingly dedicating the whole of their party to achieving minority rule status rather than develop policies that woo more voters to their side. Election law lawyer and Democracy Docket Founder Marc Elias made this point rather eloquently in a recent blog post. 

Elias notes that just a decade ago, following the 2012 loss of GOP nominee Mitt Romney, the Republican National Committee autopsy report lamented,  “Republicans have lost the popular vote in five of the last six presidential elections.” But following Donald Trump’s 2016 win despite a 5 million popular vote deficit, Republicans began embracing their minority rule status like a birthright. 

“In the wake of the 2020 election, the Republican Party has completed its transformation into an anti-majoritarian party,” writes Elias. “It not only fails to win majorities; it no longer tries. Anti-majoritarian governing is no longer seen by the Republican Party as a flaw to be fixed, but a feature to be exploited.”

As Elias notes, Senate Democrats received 26 million more votes than Senate Republicans, yet the chamber is evenly split 50-50. So as Republicans eye a slate of legislative districts that will be sliced and diced to favor GOP candidates even more in 2022, they are no longer engaged in an effort to win over more voters with popular policies and competent governance. Instead, Republicans at both the state and congressional levels are dedicating themselves nationwide to suppressing enough votes to achieve minority rule. 

For Republicans, politics is no longer “a game of addition,” as the old adage goes, but rather a game of subtraction. And the midterms are just a testing ground for what a party solely dedicated to minority rule can achieve in 2024. 

“There are no longer serious discussions of how a Republican can win the popular vote in four years. Instead, today’s GOP is gaming out scenarios where they can lose by more than 7 million votes and still win the Electoral College,” writes Elias.

Next year’s midterms will be the first test of how a party that is entirely and publicly dedicated to the proposition of minority rule matches up against a party that has championed policies favored by an overwhelming majority of Americans, and hopefully delivered on many of them. 

It could arguably become the rawest test of American democracy at the ballot box since the nation’s founding. Godspeed, America.

Editor’s Note: Marc Elias will be joining Markos Moulitsas and Kerry Eleveld on The Brief Tuesday at 1:30 p.m. PT/4:30 p.m. ET. Click on this link to stream the interview live.


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