Republicans are right: democracy is rigged. But they are the beneficiaries
Photo: Kevin Dietsch / EPA
The Republican establishment was in no hurry to reject Donald Trump's ridiculous claim, despite being unfairly favored by the skewed composition of the electoral college, over-representation in the House of Representatives due to partisan competitions, and in the Senate due to equal state suffrage. The American electoral system is rigged to favor Democrats to favor. The party leaders sweating the Georgia runoff appear to be afraid of traversing the mad king who owns their constituents lest it cause their ratings to drop like he does on Fox News. The Republicans' complicity in this unprecedented attack on American democracy, however, is not a matter of short-term expediency or fear of reprisals. It's a lot worse than that. Mitch McConnell and the others don't just humor the president until his mania subsides. Trump's voters are Republican voters, and the Republican Party cannot easily cut them off, and their insane conspiracy theories continue to fade after January 20th.
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This has important implications for how Biden is supposed to respond to the incalculable damage Trump has done to the country, including how his Justice Department's approach to restoring the rule of law.
The Republican Party is deeply indebted to the outrageous playing field that allows a minority of voters to elect the majority of senators and, indirectly, the majority of Supreme Court justices, not to mention the occasional president as it did in 2000 and 2016. brazenly anti-democratic party in this sense alone, even if we give up its brazen efforts to suppress voters and intimidate voters. This is perhaps the main reason its leaders have shown themselves reluctant to distance themselves from Trump's flimsy claim that the 2020 presidential election was "rigged". They know the system is tampered with. It's rigged to favor Republicans. And they not only enjoy the irony of Trump's bold inversion of the truth, but the way it diverts attention from the truly incomprehensible manipulation that gives an American minority the power to impose its will on the American majority.
Republican officials are slowly distancing themselves from the embarrassingly delusional president's refusal to accept the reality of his defeat. But the fact that it is taking so long reflects a deep truth about the politics of the country, namely that Americans are still waging civil war. When Trump and his crazy surrogate mothers shout “election fraud,” it does not mean fraud in the technical sense of ballot filling or miscounting of legal votes. They claim that the Democrats have downgraded the electorate by making it easier for Afro-Americans in Detroit, Atlanta, Philadelphia and Milwaukee, the most reliable Democratic voters in the country, to register and vote. Trump would have been elected in a landslide, they imply, if only "real Americans," which means exactly who you think were allowed to vote.
Nixon's famous "Strategy of the South," devised with the help of Strom Thurmond, the infamous segregationist from South Carolina, is enough to remind us that the Republicans facing white fears of demographic flooding agreed with Donald Trump have not started and will not end. Key to the historical origins of Republican approval of Trump's efforts to destroy American democracy is his final and doomed move to convince Republican-controlled lawmakers in Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania to approve the pro-bids -Replace the delegates of the electoral college of their state with a pro -Tump of voters.
Trump's advisors apparently believe this anti-democratic maneuver is entirely constitutional, as Article II, Section 1, Clause 2 of the US Constitution states that "every state" appoints presidential voters "in ways that the legislature can direct. This clause seems pretty straightforward until we remember that the amendments made by the Civil War radically overhauled the drafters' constitution, something Republicans seem to oppose. In particular, Section 2 of the 14th Amendment, 1868, was intended to punish any state that attempted to deny an American citizen "the right to vote in any election for the election of voters for the President and Vice-President of the United States". Allowing Republican lawmakers to nominate voters would seriously contravene this important clause. It has been fiercely competitive in the former Confederation states for the same reason that Trump's die-hard supporters refuse to accept his defeat. Section 2 of the 14th Amendment was seen at the time and is apparently still seen today as a betrayal of the racist solidarity of the white majority for its purpose of reshaping American voters by disenfranchising African Americans. Trump shamelessly echoes the howl of post-civil war betrayal in the South and shows why he should be remembered forever as the Confederation's second president.
None of this implies that Joe Biden's well-meaning appetite for some level of bipartisanism is completely hopeless, but it does suggest that he may be wrong thinking about it. As mentioned earlier, the Republican establishment is panicking because it may alienate Trump's voters. But they also have strong reasons to put Trump into political oblivion himself after January 20. This is the wedge that the elected president should take advantage of. After all, the president's hopes of Nikki Haley, Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz and even Mike Pompeo depend on the current darling of their electorate being ousted from the scene. And if his stern voice can be silenced, the party can hope to retreat into its pre-Trump habits, just making the kind of discreet appeals to white resentment acceptable in polite company.
Although Biden says he wants to restore the rule of law that has been desecrated by outgoing Attorney General William Barr, he can imagine that the best way to convince at least some Republicans to work with his government is to read the books on the Law closing the past by instructing its new Justice Department to let the past be the past. Trying to "heal the soul of the nation" by discouraging a thorough investigation into Trump's possible federal law violations recalls Robert Frost's definition of a liberal as "a man who cannot stand his own side in an argument."
If Biden has in mind retreating from the confrontation, he may underestimate the Republican leadership's tacit desire to break free from the agitator who is holding their constituents hostage. You may implicitly but heartily agree if Biden keeps his promise not to interfere in his new attorney general's efforts to expose the extent of Trump's abuse of office. Even prosecution, when it comes to it, could be an act of bipartisanism, as the public shame of Trump would leave a few more Republicans free to cooperate on occasion. This possibility should appeal to an elected president who, with 80 million voters behind him, is not only ready to take the aisle, but is also ready to side with his own side in a dispute.
Stephen Holmes is Professor of Law at the NYU School of Law and co-authored with Ivan Krastev of The Light that Failed: A Reckoning (Penguin 2019).
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