We’re Screwed: A Periodic Reminder

With so many Americans willing to vote for today’s radical Republican Party, it’s hard not to conclude this country is over. It’s like we’re up an extremely treacherous creek without a paddle. Jamelle Bouie of The New York Times highlights one reason we may be even more screwed in the future:

For much of the past decade, the Republican Party’s ability to win power in Washington has rested on the counter-majoritarian institutions of American politics. There is no President D____ T____ without the Electoral College [or Pres. George W. Bush in 2000] and Republicans would not have such a firm grip on the United States Senate if not for its unequal representation, which gives as much weight to the sparsely populated states of the Great Plains and the Mountain West as it does to states like New York, Illinois, California and Texas.

The Republican Party, in other words, does not need to win majorities to win control.

One result of this is that Republicans have developed a set of ideological justifications for why it is a good thing that the American political system violates basic principles of political equality, most commonly expressed in the assertion that the United States is “a republic, not a democracy.”

Another result is that Republicans, having embraced counter-majoritarianism as a principle, are now looking for ways to extend it. You see this in the emergence of the lunatic “independent state legislature” doctrine, which would give state legislatures total power to write rules for congressional elections and direct the appointment of presidential electors, unbound by state constitutions and free from the scrutiny of state courts. Under this doctrine, a Republican legislature could — with sufficient pretext (like “voter fraud”) — unilaterally assign the state’s presidential electors to the candidate of its choice, above and beyond the will of the voters.

Some Republicans want to extend the counter-majoritarian principle down to the state level as well. In 2019, the chairman of the Arizona Republican Party, Kelli Ward, floated the idea of an “Electoral College type system” at the state level. More recently, the Republican nominee for governor in Colorado, Greg Lopez, has promised to eliminate “one-person, one-vote” for statewide elections and institute a system where the votes of rural voters are given significantly more weight than those of voters in the state’s cities and metropolitan areas. He outlined his plan at a campaign stop earlier in the week:

“One of the things that I’m going to do, and I’ve already put this plan together, is, as governor, I’m going to introduce a conversation about doing away with the popular vote for statewide elected officials and doing an Electoral College vote for statewide elected officials,” Lopez said. Lopez said his Electoral College plan would weight counties’ votes based on their voter turnout percentage to encourage turnout. “I’ve already got the plan in place,” Lopez said. “The most that any county can get is 11 Electoral College votes. The least that a county can get is three.”

Under this plan, according to the local CBS affiliate, Republicans in the state would have easily won the previous governor’s race, in 2018, despite losing the popular vote by 10 percentage points.

It’s unlikely that this will happen. First, Lopez would have to be elected . . .  Second, he would have to persuade the legislature to go along with the plan. And third, it would have to survive judicial review, specifically the precedent established by the court in the early 1960s, which held that such schemes were unconstitutional. (Although, given this court’s contempt for voting rights and indifference to extreme gerrymandering, I’m not so sure that it would uphold that decision.)

But this proposal isn’t noteworthy because it’s likely to happen; it’s noteworthy because of what it says about the ideological direction of the Republican Party. It’s not just that Republicans have rejected majority rule . . . [It’s that, when they lose,] it’s just time to change the rules.