The New York Times has been doing a series of editorial pieces that are longer and more in-depth than the usual daily/weekly editorials. The most recent such piece by David Leonhardt was published on Saturday and is titled A Crisis Coming’: The Twin Threats to American Democracy.
Leonhardt’s piece is excellent, but far too long for me to reproduce here in a single blog post. Rather, I will give you a few of the highlights and a link, and I really hope you’ll find the time to read it in its entirety, for it is well worth the time spent.
A few of the main points of the article …
- The Jan. 6 attack on Congress was only the most obvious manifestation of the movement that refuses to accept election defeat. Hundreds of elected Republican officials around the country falsely claim that the 2020 election was rigged, suggesting they may be willing to overturn a future election. “There is the possibility, for the first time in American history, that a legitimately elected president will not be able to take office,” Yascha Mounk, a political scientist, said.
- Even many Republicans who do not repeat the election lies have chosen to support and campaign for those who do. Representative Kevin McCarthy, the Republican House leader, has gone so far as to support colleagues who have used violent imagery in public comments, such as calling for the killing of Democrats.
- But there are also many senior Republicans who have signaled they would be unlikely to participate in an effort to overturn an election, including Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader in the Senate. He recently said that the United States had “very little voter fraud.”
- This combination suggests that the risk of an overturned election remains uncertain. But the chances are much higher than would have been fathomable until the past few years. Previous leaders of both parties consistently rejected talk of reversing an election outcome.
- In addition to this acute threat, American democracy also faces a chronic threat: The power to set government policy is becoming increasingly disconnected from public opinion.
- Two of the past four presidents have taken office despite losing the popular vote. Senators representing a majority of Americans are often unable to pass bills, partly because of the increasing use of the filibuster. And the Supreme Court is dominated by an ambitious Republican-appointed bloc even though Democrats have won the popular vote in seven of the past eight presidential elections — an unprecedented run of popular-vote success in U.S. history.
- Parties in previous eras that fared as well in the popular vote as the Democrats have fared in recent decades were able to run the government and pass policies they favored. Examples include the Democratic-Republican Party of Thomas Jefferson’s time, the New Deal Democrats and the Reagan Republicans.
- The growing disconnect from federal power and public opinion generally springs from enduring features of American government, some written into the Constitution. But these features did not conflict with majority opinion to the same degree in past decades. One reason is that less populous and more populous states tended to have broadly similar political outlooks in the past.
- A sorting of the population in recent decades has meant that the less-populated areas given outsize influence by the Constitution also tend to be conservative, while major metropolitan areas have become more liberal. In the past, “the system was still antidemocratic, but it didn’t have a partisan effect,” said Steven Levitsky, another political scientist. “Now it’s undemocratic and has a partisan effect.”
- Over the sweep of history, the American government has tended to become more democratic, through women’s suffrage, civil rights laws, the direct election of senators and more. The current period is so striking partly because it is one of the rare exceptions: The connection between government power and popular opinion has become weaker in recent decades.
Here is the link to Leonhardt’s excellent piece … you won’t regret it!