Not even the president's most depraved and shameless lackeys are pretending he will win more citizens' votes than his opponent in the election on Tuesday. They say he'll win the election all the time, but they do not even bother to claim he will earn the support of a majority of American citizens. These are people who will share stories calling Joe Biden "brain dead," but they don't bother saying Donald Trump will win the popular vote. They'll say it's the president's opponents who are the "crime family," rather than the guy whose administration's operating principle is conflicts-of-interest, and who got rich through a multigenerational tax scheme. But they rarely, if ever, say the president enjoys the support of a majority of Americans. It's unlikely that they find it too absurd—that would be a first. They may just see it as unnecessary.
This is not just some parlor game, or a vehicle for lefty resentment. The United States is mired in a crisis of democratic legitimacy, where the American people have lost faith in public institutions—and with good reason. These institutions no longer even much pretend to represent them. The major media has often come up short when it comes to concentrating on the issues that everyday citizens actually care about. The Democratic Party failed for a long time to adequately represent the interests of working people, though that may be beginning to change.
But it is the Republicans who have waged outright war on the mechanisms of the republic in order to entrench their position, insulating corporate power and the special interests who make campaign donations from the popular will while spooning resentment of a changing world to their loyal base of Real Americans. With the elevation of Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court, forming a 6-3 majority that will reliably advance the interests of Federalist Society donors on the issues that matter, that project is nearly complete. But capturing the court system to preserve and forward conservative policy is just the capstone of an effort that has truly accelerated over the last decade.
The Republican Party has for years fought tooth and nail to stop people from voting, and make their votes count for less. The captured Court, let by Chief Justice John Roberts, gutted the Voting Rights Act in 2013 and unleashed a wave of voter suppression in Republican-controlled states. (This, after the Court unleashed unlimited money into our elections with Citizens United.) To dilute the influence of inconvenient people who do vote, the Republican Party has ruthlessly gerrymandered themselves into power, both at the congressional level—where Democrats took back the House in 2018 only through extraordinary margins of victory at the ballot box—and at the state level, where Democrats in states like Wisconsin regularly win a majority of votes but a significant minority of seats.
The Republican Party has also leaned on the most undemocratic elements of our constitutional system, controlling the Senate despite, again, winning many millions fewer votes, thanks to its ingrained preference for rural representation. The majority that confirmed Barrett represent 14 million fewer Americans than the minority that voted against her confirmation. Mitch McConnell has turned the national legislature's upper chamber into a right-wing judge-confirmation machine that no longer concerns itself with passing legislation. And of course, thanks to the anti-democratic abomination that is the Electoral College—a feature tied to the Senate's construction—they've won three out of the last five presidential elections despite winning more citizens' votes just once.
But even those entrenched advantages are proving insufficient this time around, with a historically unpopular incumbent who has comprehensively botched the defining crisis of his tenure. So they have not just abandoned the prospect that the president might win majority support nationwide—you know, the kind of thing that might be required in a democratic republic. They've now abandoned trying to get a legitimate majority in the handful of states that determine the outcome in our boneheaded system. This has reached a fever pitch in Pennsylvania, where the Trumpists are fighting tooth and nail to throw out as many ballots as possible with the assistance of the pliant courts. The president and his allies have blurted out this strategy in public, and suggested their handpicked Supreme Court justices, including Barrett, will be part of it. This is matched by efforts on the ground to intimidate voters, and by the president's clumsy embrace of far-right paramilitary groups who are itching for political violence.
At root, the Republican Party has chosen to vandalize the republic rather than put forward a platform that appeals to a majority of American voters. They faced the choice after Mitt Romney's defeat in 2012, and even drew up a report on how they might adapt to a changing country. They chose to double down on white Christian nationalism while forcibly diluting the power of other groups. This is incompatible with democracy, so it's no surprise they are now marching in lockstep with an authoritarian installed in the White House thanks to, you guessed it, these same undemocratic mechanisms. If they succeed this time, however, it raises the prospect that we will have a president who got 5 or 6 or 10 million fewer citizens' votes than his opponent. More than that, he might have outright stolen the Electoral Votes in key states. It is difficult to see how this country could stay duct-taped together in those circumstances, not that these vicious lunatics seem to care. Power is the means and the end. It is the only thing.
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