Supporters of Donald Trump assaulted the capitol on January 6, 2021, but American democracy has been under siege for far longer—from both former President Trump and the Republican Party. Trump’s transgressions against democracy are well known: They include having attacked the press as the “enemy of the people,” assailed sitting judges, politicized the Justice Department and the intelligence agencies, undermined transparency in government, encouraged political violence, and delegitimized elections.
The Republican Party’s undermining of democracy began much earlier. Since about 2000, the party has tried to suppress Democratic votes through stringent voter-identification laws and purges of voter rolls. In addition, Republican legislatures have grotesquely gerrymandered legislative districts, enabling Republicans to maintain control of state legislatures and, at times, the House of Representatives, while failing to win majorities of the vote. Republicans have also erected obstacles to college students’ voting, delayed elections that they anticipated they would lose, and eviscerated the powers of Democratic governors. Republican state legislators have also rejected the results of voter initiatives and imposed obstacles to putting such initiatives on the ballot in the first place.
In 2020, Democrats overcame such hurdles and won control of Congress and the presidency. One of their first legislative initiatives will be a wide-ranging measure to protect the right to vote, end legislative gerrymandering, reduce the influence of money in politics, and secure other democratic reforms. However, because of a combination of structural advantages Republicans have enjoyed in the Senate and the Electoral College, and because of Senator Mitch McConnell’s Machiavellian stratagems to pack the Supreme Court, this and other Democratic reform efforts remain potentially vulnerable to a constitutional veto from today’s Republican-sympathizing Supreme Court. Unless Democrats expand the size of the Court, small-d democratic reform will be doomed before it even begins. They must do this now, as they are unlikely to have another chance. [Continue reading…]