- Democrats are forced to win a presidential election by 10 points in order to overcome the institutional disadvantages of the Electoral College and avoid potential violence incited by Donald Trump and his modern Republican Party.
- The U.S. Senate is a deeply flawed legislative chamber, one in which North Dakota, population 762,062, has as many senators as California, population 39.51 million. In fact, metro Houston, population 7.1 million, is larger than 35 states. Thirty-five! Or put another way, Texas and California have 21% of the nation’s population, and only 4% of its senators. This is inherently disenfranchising to … pretty much everyone.
- Small states cling to the Electoral College as a way to protect their interests in a presidential election under the presumption that they would be otherwise ignored in favor of urban interests. The reality, from right now:
- The Republicans have packed their courts through procedural maneuvers—denying judges nominated by President Barack Obama, most famously Merrick Garland, while spending the last four years furiously filling those vacancies. Furthermore, Donald Trump was elected with the help of foreign interference while still losing the popular vote, giving him zero national mandate to pack the courts. And here we are, two weeks before the election, and Republicans are desperately and hypocritically rushing to fill Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s seat after claiming no such seat should be filled in the last year of a presidential term. Thus, conservatives are poised to invalidate critical components of the liberal agenda—including voting rights—while the country moves sharply leftward. And with lifetime sinecures, that conservative influence, so out-of-step with the national mood, can extend for decades.
- Every state has different voting rules, many of them promulgated in order to deny Black representation and voting power. For example, Georgia requires nonpresidential candidates to get over 50% of the vote to avoid a January runoff election, specifically to deny Black candidates the chance to win plurality elections. Some states allow ex-felons to vote, others do not. Some states start counting their mail ballots weeks before the election, others don’t allow counting until Election Day, all of it in order to sow chaos, confusion, and create the kind of conditions where their ill-gotten judicial majorities can skew elections to the GOP. And they will. This isn’t a hypothetical. All we have to do is look at Bush v. Gore in 2000, where the Supreme Court literally ordered Florida to stop counting ballots, then amazingly demanded that no one use that decision as precedent ever again.
Democrats have to set out to fix this. We can’t allow conservatives to use institutional mechanisms to subvert our democracy, make it harder for our people to vote, disenfranchise Americans in the legislature, and use the courts as their last resort to accomplish judicially what they can’t get done electorally.
THE DEMOCRACY AGENDA
Should they win this election and garner a real Senate majority, Democrats should announce a “Democracy Agenda,” one designed to better deliver the promise of American democracy to its citizens.
1. Uniform national voting laws
The federal government should institute uniform standards for voter registration, ballot box access, vote-by-mail, and vote counting. Make voter registration automatic upon turning 18. At the very least, mail vote-by-mail registration cards to all registered voters. Start counting mail ballots upon receipt, like they do in Arizona and other rational states. There’s lot more to add here, but you get the point. We can even distill this down to a single point: No one should have to wait more than 15 minutes to vote, period.
2. Statehood for disenfranchised Americans
We can’t fix the Senate’s inequities without a Constitutional amendment, and too many small states are vested in the current system to want real reform. Why would Wyoming want to cede its ridiculous level of power to Florida or North Carolina or any other state with more than 1 million residents? So next best thing? Enfranchise American citizens in Washington, D.C. (Douglass Commonwealth) and Puerto Rico (if they vote for it) who are currently denied representation in Congress and a presidential vote by granting them statehood. All that requires is a simple law.
Wyoming and Vermont have fewer residents than Washington, D.C., which is just slightly more populous than Alaska. And Puerto Rico? At 3.2 million residents, it has more people 19 other states. Make it happen.
There is even a case to be made for statehood for Navajo Nation, but that is complex and, at best, a long-term project.
3. Eliminate the filibuster
“Simple laws” are not so simple when the already undemocratic Senate requires 60% of the vote to pass legislation. Ditch the stupid undemocratic filibuster once and for all.
4. Expand the courts
The courts can be expanded by simple law. And not just the Supreme Court, which should be bumped to 13 or 15 seats. But the appellate and circuit courts, which are already bursting at the seams from population growth and should’ve been expanded years ago anyway. Read this. Sure, there is a vengeance case to be made, but the practical one is just as good. Here is The Nation’s Elie Mystal making the case in our weekly YouTube show The Brief:
5. Finish up the census
The Trump administration is doing everything possible to stop the census count before we can get a full and accurate count, thus disenfranchising marginalized communities. So Democrats should simply mandate that the Census Bureau get extra time to finish its work early next year.
So there you have it: Five things Democrats can do without resorting to Constitutional amendments or infringing on state rights (on things like gerrymandering): Uniform voting laws, statehood for Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico, killing the Senate filibuster, expanding the courts, and completing the census.
All five of those items would serve to enhance and expand American democracy, and lessen the ability of conservatives to use institutional machinery to enshrine minority rule. And yes, they create the kind of democracy that could someday benefit the other party as well! You know, as should be the case in any real democracy! So yes, some people will ask, “But what if Republicans take power down the line, and THEY want to expand the court or add states or … ?” That’s called democracy. Every election matters, and knowing that the Supreme Court is at stake every election is not a bad thing. Let the victor rule, and the minority power sit helplessly on the side making its case as to why it should win the next time around.
Comments are closed on this story.