Is the System Rigged Against Democrats?

Is the System Rigged Against Democrats?

- in House of Representatives

IT’S TIME TO FIGHT DIRTY
How Democrats Can Build a Lasting Majority in American Politics
By David Faris
178 pp. Melville House. $24.99.

When you have a president who plays footsie with white supremacists and openly yearns to undermine the rule of law, it’s easy to lose sight of something: Before Donald Trump ever ran for the White House, a combination of Republican tactical nihilism and design flaws in the Constitution had already led to an alarming breakdown in the mechanics of American democracy — leaving the game systematically rigged against Democrats.

Ruthless gerrymandering has handed Republicans significantly more seats in the House and in state legislatures than their vote share deserves — an advantage that after 2020 could become semipermanent. The Senate, with its small-state bias, looks set to favor the G.O.P. for the foreseeable future, too. Voting restrictions targeting racial minorities and the young, and the evisceration of campaign finance laws, have skewed election and policy outcomes at all levels even further. Throw in Republicans’ theft of a Supreme Court seat, and you’ve got a government that’s far more conservative across the board than voters appear to want — and that’s without even mentioning the Electoral College. Little wonder fewer than half of Democratic voters say they have faith in American democracy, according to a recent poll.

Image

If the G.O.P. were a normal right-of-center party, this unequal playing field would already qualify as an urgent problem for progressives. But given its current incarnation as a conglomerate of right-wing nationalists, Randian zealots and Christian fundamentalists all laser-focused on repealing different aspects of the 20th century while consigning our children to spend their golden years in a fiery hellscape, the situation starts to look potentially cataclysmic. A New Zealand diplomat posted to Washington summed it up in a recent tweet, telling Democrats in rather undiplomatic language to get it together “or we will all die.”

So it’s not surprising that people are starting to think about ways to break out. In his short, bracing book, “It’s Time to Fight Dirty: How Democrats Can Build a Lasting Majority in American Politics,” David Faris, an associate professor of political science at Roosevelt University, argues that Democrats should immediately use every lever they have to gum up the works in Washington, to ensure they win full control of government in 2020.

Then, they should set about unrigging the system.

To end gerrymandering, Faris says, they should scrap the winner-take-all method we use to elect members of the House and replace it with a system known as “ranked choice voting” that better reflects voter preferences. To fix the problem of Democratic underrepresentation in the Senate, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico should get statehood, and California should be split into seven separate states. Democrats should add seats to the Supreme Court and fill them with progressives. And they should reform voting laws to ban onerous voter ID requirements, re-enfranchise ex-felons and automatically register everyone to vote.

With the exception of the California gambit, which would first need a ballot initiative and an act of the state legislature, all of these ideas could be achieved through normal congressional legislation. There are, of course, some obvious political obstacles. The last Democratic effort to play hardball — a plan to force a government shutdown over the fate of undocumented immigrants brought to America as young people — fizzled when several red-state Democratic senators up for re-election this year got cold feet. It’s hard to imagine those same senators would vote to create a bunch of new blue states.

But Faris’s overriding goal is less to plot out a precise legislative agenda and more to focus attention on the urgency of the crisis. And it’s telling that the only reasonable objections here are practical ones. The idea that we should think twice about this kind of hyperpartisan power grab lest it erode the mutual trust needed for effective government might have been worth entertaining a decade or more ago. Today, with the future of the country and maybe the world on the line, that notion sounds far more absurd than seven Californias.

Source

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may also like

4 Takeaways From Tuesday’s Primaries

On another night of primaries leading up to