Opinion: American Democracy is in Even Worse Shape than You ThinkHistorians in the News
tags: Republican Party, conservatism, democracy
Joe Biden so far has been an effective president, particularly in terms of managing the coronavirus vaccine rollout and making hard but necessary policy decisions such as moving to withdraw U.S. troops out of Afghanistan. But even with a terrible president out of office, America is still headed in a terrible direction — and at a much faster pace than I expected when Biden took over.
We have four huge problems. I don’t see solutions to any of them.
By far the biggest problem is the Republican Party. Presented with a clear chance to move on from Trumpism after the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, the GOP has instead continued its drift toward anti-democratic action and white grievance. The future looks scary. A Republican-controlled House could attempt to impeach Biden in 2023 and 2024 on basically any pretext, as payback for Trump’s two impeachments. If Republicans win the governorships of Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin next year, taking total control in those key swing states, they could impose all kinds of electoral barriers for the next presidential election. The Republicans are laying the groundwork to refuse to certify a 2024 Democratic presidential victory should the GOP hold a House majority.
“The radicalization of the Republican Party has outpaced what even most critical observers imagined,” Georgetown University historian Thomas Zimmer told me. “We need to grapple with what that should mean for our expectations going forward and start thinking about real worst-case scenarios.”
Further, Republicans are poised to take a lot of undemocratic actions at the state level, where they already have total control in 23 states. Expect to see Republicans elsewhere gerrymander legislative districts the way they have in Wisconsin, where it is now virtually impossible for Democrats to win a majority in either house of the legislature. GOP-controlled state governments are both blocking cities from implementing new policies and reversing old ones, preventing the Democratic-leaning jurisdictions from determining how their communities are run. America won’t be much of a democracy, Zimmer said, if it has a federal system in which more than 20 states “resemble apartheid South Africa more than a functioning multiracial democracy.”
And all indications are that another group of Republicans, the six GOP appointees on the U.S. Supreme Court, either embrace the party’s anti-democratic drift or aren’t going to do much to halt it.
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