Outrage Over Minority Rule

There is a frustration and a growing sense that the American political system is illegitimate.

A series of narrow Supreme Court decisions and the prospect of what a second Trump appointee might do the balance of that institution has sparked a new conversation over an old topic: the extent to which American institutions are undemocratic.

Dana Milbank‘s latest WaPo column, “An explosion is coming,” presents a mild version of that argument.

Now we have a Supreme Court nomination — the second in as many years — from an unpopular president who lost the popular vote by 2.8 million. The nominee will be forced through by also-unpopular Senate Republicans, who, like House Republicans, did not win a majority of the vote in 2016.

Compounding the outrage, each of the prospective nominees is all but certain, after joining the court, to support the eventual overturning of Roe v. Wade, which has held the nation together in a tenuous compromise on abortion for 45 years and is supported by two-thirds of Americans . For good measure, the new justice may well join the other four conservative justices in revoking same-sex marriage, which also has the support of two-thirds of Americans. And this comes after the Republicans essentially stole a Supreme Court seat by refusing to consider President Barack Obama’s nominee, Merrick Garland.

You can only ignore the will of the people for so long and get away with it.

Republicans have been defying gravity for some time. As New York magazine’s Jonathan Chait reminds us in a smart piece, they lost the popular vote in six of the last seven presidential elections. Electoral college models show Republicans could plausibly continue to win the White House without popular majorities.

Because of partisan gerrymandering and other factors, Democrats could win by eight percentage points and still not gain control of the House, one study found. And the two-senators-per-state system (which awards people in Republican Wyoming 70 times more voting power than people in Democratic California) gives a big advantage to rural, Republican states.

The Supreme Court’s conservative majority has protected Republican minority rule. It gave the wealthy freedom to spend unlimited dark money on elections, while crippling the finances of unions. It sustained gerrymandering and voter-suppression laws that reduce participation of minority voters. And, of course, it gave the presidency to George W. Bush.

Control of the judiciary, and the resulting protection of minority rule, has been the prize for Republicans who tolerated President Trump’s starting a trade war, losing allies while getting cozy with Kim Jong Un and Vladimir Putin, flirting with white supremacists, paying off a porn star and attacking the justice system while his former advisers are indicted and convicted.

Now Republicans will seize their solid fifth vote on the court without pause or compunction. But how long do they think they can sustain this? What happens when Roe is overturned?

The backlash is coming. It is the deserved consequence of minority-rule government protecting the rich over everybody else, corporations over workers, whites over nonwhites and despots over democracies. It will explode , God willing, at the ballot box and not in the streets.

You can only ignore the will of the people for so long and get away with it.

The refrain “You can only ignore the will of the people for so long and get away with it” is a callback to an angry speech by then-House Minority Leader John Boehner when Democrats rammed Obamacare through on a pure party-line vote, even after Republican Scott Brown was elected in Massachusetts precisely to prevent that bill from passing. Millbank rightly notes that Boehner’s prediction of a backlash was correct—Republicans took back the Congress in a midterm wave election later that year.

Milbank contends that the Democrats’ outrage now is more justified than the Republicans’ then:

The Affordable Care Act was the signature proposal of a president elected with a large popular mandate, it had the support of a plurality of the public, and it was passed by a party that had large majorities in both chambers of Congress and had attempted to solicit the participation of the minority.

While the first part of that isn’t quite right—the Affordable Care Act was a Frankenstein’s monster created precisely because Obama didn’t have a signature proposal and instead left it up to the Congress to draft the law—the rest is correct. Obama easily won election and Democrats had huge margins in the House and Senate. Indeed, they briefly had a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate until Teddy Kennedy’s death and subsequent replacement with Brown. And, to much criticism from his base, Obama did make a genuine attempt to make concessions to moderate Republicans to secure their buy-in, with nothing to show for it.

Republicans, including myself, were nonetheless outraged by the machinations the Democrats used to force the measure through. Recognizing that Brown’s election meant they wouldn’t have the votes to get the revised bill through Conference, the House passed the Senate bill intact and then abused the reconciliation process to pass amendments. The GOP, including Boehner, howled in protest but there was nothing they could do to stop it.

Now, the shoe is on the other foot in what is arguably an even more high-stakes situation: deciding the long-term balance of the Supreme Court. If Trump nominates and the GOP successfully confirms an arch conservative to replace the relatively moderate Kennedy, all manner of cherished Democratic policies are in danger. What’s different—and at the core of Milbank’s argument—is that the Republicans have power because the system is weighted towards their constituency. The Electoral College gave them a President who lost the popular vote by a huge margin. They control the Senate because rural states with populations smaller than Washington, DC get the same number of Senators as California. And they control the House of Representatives because Republican-controlled state legislatures have drawn district lines so as to overrepresent their voters at the expense of the demographic distribution in said states.

Those arguments are all familiar and, indeed, Steven Taylor and I have both made variations of them for years here at OTB, including when the system redounded to our benefit. Indeed, going back to well before our blogging careers, when we were lowly assistant professors together at Troy, we both thought the natural and reasonable outcome of George W. Bush’s slight-minority victory in 2000 would be a Constitutional amendment to abolish or seriously reform the Electoral College.

Rebecca Traister, writing at The Cut, makes a more visceral, targeted point in her essay “Summer of Rage: White men are the minority in the United States — no wonder they get uncomfortable when their power is challenged.” As the title suggests, the tone is rather inflammatory, born of extreme frustration. But her core argument is worth paying attention to:

[T]his country, our purported representative democracy, is ruled by a powerful minority population.

[…]

White men are at the center, our normative citizen, despite being only around a third of the nation’s population. Their outsize power is measurable by the fact that they still — nearly 140 years after the passage of the 15th Amendment, not quite 100 years after the passage of the 19th Amendment, and more than 50 years after the passage of the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts — hold roughly two-thirds of elected offices in federal, state, and local legislatures. We have had 92 presidents and vice-presidents. One-hundred percent of them have been men, and more than 99 percent white men.

But it’s not just in the numbers; it’s also in the quotidian realities of living in this country. The suffocating power of our minority rule is evidenced by the fact that we’re always busy worrying about the humanity — the comfort and the dignity — of white men, at the same time discouraging disruptive challenge to their authority.

Consider the #MeToo movement, in which so much public sympathy has redounded to powerful men who lost their jobs (though not their millions) after being accused of harassment, a phenomenon that philosophy professor Kate Manne has smartly dubbed “himpathy.” Sometimes this himpathy has stretched the bounds of credulity, as when the former television journalist Charlie Rose, accused of harassment and assault by more than 35 women, many of them his former employees, was described in a recent profile as “brilliant,” “broken,” and “lonely.” These days, we learned, when Rose goes to the swank Manhattan media eatery where he used to be a star, he finishes his dinner alone, in less than an hour.

The problem is, Rose’s superficial social banishment can be presented as a grave sentence without any acknowledgment of how his behavior was the kind that keeps many women from ever becoming denizens of media hotspots in the first place, that blocks their chances for professional success, not to mention impinges on their bodily integrity. This same blindness is on display every day in the political press.

We’ve spent the last week hearing mewlings of concern over interrupted dinners and movie nights of Trump administration officials out on the town. In the wake of DSA protesters heckling Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and presidential adviser Stephen Miller at Mexican eateries, and the decision of one restaurant owner in Virginia not to serve Trump’s spokesperson Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the Washington Post editorialized that these White House power players should “be allowed to eat dinner in peace.” After all, the Post wondered, “how hard is it to imagine” how those on the left might feel if “people who strongly believe that abortion is murder” decided not to let them “live peaceably with their families”?

[…]

And it’s not just mainstream Democrats who are getting their boxers in a knot. On Wednesday, Vermont Independent and left-wing hero Bernie Sanders came out on the side of civility, arguing that Trump officials had “a right to go into a restaurant and have dinner” without being harassed. That Sanders, a man who made his name by channeling the righteous rage of the 99 percent, a politician who was credited, along with Donald Trump, in 2016 for his ability to hear, respect, and channel the fury of the electorate — where Hillary Clinton could not — is now throwing water on another kind of righteous rage, is pretty rich.

These people had nice dinners in restaurants interrupted. They did not have their children pulled from their arms, perhaps forever; they were not refused refuge based on their country of origin or their religion or the color of their skin; they were not denied due process; nor were they denied a full range of health-care options, forced to carry a baby against their will, separated from their families via the criminal justice system, or shot in the back by police for the mere act of being young and black.

[…]

Of course, the kind of fury that both the press and political Establishment in 2016 deemed so important, so American, was the fury of white men: angry at the diminishment of their status, angry at the ways in which the economy was not working for them as it once might have, but also angry at their fantasized sense of devaluation in a country that had elected one black president and was considering a woman for the job. And Sanders and Trump weren’t the only candidates who seemed to direct much of their messaging toward white men. Hillary Clinton picked a dull white man with a bad history on abortion rights as a running mate, in an effort to placate the white male voters everyone was so petrified of offending.

There’s a lot more in the piece, including a defense of Maxine Waters and other arguments with which I disagree, but her central point is one that we ought to recognize. There is a soft form of white nationalism inherent in much of our political dialogue. In contrast with the “hard” white nationalism of the Ku Klux Klan, Aryan Nation, or the so-called “alt-Right,” the “soft” form of which I refer is the notion that white America is the “real” America. It’s what allows such nonsensical notions as “Trump won the popular vote . . . if you don’t count California” to make perfect sense to so many. It’s why there’s so much fear about the notion that whites will become a minority—still by far the plurality, but no longer a majority—in the near future. And it also fuels much of the hysteria about illegal immigration of people who aren’t white and English-speaking. There’s certainly an overlap with old-fashioned racism. But there’s also a sense that, while of course non-whites deserve equal rights and respect, they ought to conform to white norms, culture, and political preferences.

Steven and I have written dozens of posts over the years arguing for a more democratic system in the United States. Both of us are advocates for direct election of the President, who not only the most powerful political figure by far in our country but the only one who ostensibly represents all of us rather than a mere district or state. I haven’t polled Steven lately, but I’m uncomfortable with the US Senate, which, as Milbank notes, effectively gives a resident of Wyoming 70 times the representation of a resident of California.  Similarly, while I think the Supreme Court got it right in ruling that the Constitution does not preclude states from drawing House districts in a way the maximizes the likelihood of the success of the party that controls the state legislature, I find that process extremely troubling.

While I disagree with much of Traister’s argument, she’s right to note that, while the core debate on all of this is about the power of states and the representation of ideological and political party preferences, the effect is to dramatically enhance the representation of white males to levels that far exceed our number in the society. And, while I benefit from that, I also recognize that it’s extremely problematic from the standpoint of justice, according to pretty much any framework one wants to employ.

It’s not obvious how we get off this merry-go-round.

Residents of small-population states have no incentive whatsoever to change a system that not only benefits them greatly but which, if changed, might fundamentally change their fortunes. At the political level, there’s enough justified Whataboutism to make the party in power feel like they have to maximize their advantage—including such awful norm-breaking as denying Merrick Garland a vote because, hey, they could—since there would is no reason to think they’ll be rewarded for their forbearance once the other guys have the leverage.

Still, it’s quite reasonable to wonder how long the majority will continue to view being ruled by a minority with very different values legitimate. Our system is built on the notion that separation of powers and various protections for the minority will be used to forge consensus, precluding massive changes in policy without consensus. But the system has turned on its head, with the minority party controlling the Presidency, the Senate, the House, and the Supreme Court—the latter, quite possibly, for decades to come.

It’s bad enough that the President thumbs his nose at pretty much every norm we’ve established in the modern era and that the Republican Congress is aiding and abetting that. If we add to that a Supreme Court that rejects longstanding norms of stare decisis and starts overturning precedents on abortion, gay marriage, and voting rights in a way inconsistent with the preferences of a solid majority of Americans, the legitimacy of that institution will be shattered. Thus far, Chief Justice John Roberts has been quite mindful of that. One hopes he continues once he no longer has to court Kennedy’s vote.

FILED UNDER: *FEATURED, Society, US Politics
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. teve tory says:

    It’s bad enough that the President thumbs his nose at pretty much every norm we’ve established in the modern era and that the Republican Congress is aiding and abetting that. If we add to that a Supreme Court that rejects longstanding norms of stare decisis and starts overturning precedents on abortion, gay marriage, and voting rights in a way inconsistent with the preferences of a solid majority of Americans, the legitimacy of that institution will be shattered.

    Oh Roe v Wade is definitely done. Look at Roberts’s dissent in that 2016 Texas case. He basically thinks any state can put any arbitrary restriction of abortion it wants, a death-by-a-thousand-cuts strategy that’ll make abortion defacto illegal in 29 states.

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  2. Andy says:

    What’s wrong with this whole thesis is that “Majority” and “Minority” are discussed purely in terms of partisanship. This is problematic for several reasons, but fundamentally each party actually represents a minority of the American population (and of the voting age population, and of registered voters), even if you include “leaners.” Since we have a two-party system where voter choice is bipolar, many voters are forced to vote strategically for what they believe is the lesser evil. As long as the parties continue to grow more insular and in thrall to their narrow bases, this trend will only continue.

    In 2016, Clinton got a total of almost 66 million votes (rounding up). That’s 20% of the total US population, 26% of the voting age population, 33% of registered voters and 48% of those who actually voted. So in no case did Clinton ever garner a majority of anything (and the same is true for Trump except for electoral votes).

    Now, Traister and Milbank would have us believe that the American people will have a “backlash” because the “minority” is running things. What they should really worry about is a backlash by the silent majority who may, one day, grown sick and tired of this partisan bullshit and make their voices heard.

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  3. James Joyner says:

    @Andy: I’ve never understood the argument that there is a massive group of people simultaneously too lazy and apathetic to vote yet a danger to organize into some malevolent force.

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  4. TM01 says:

    which awards people in Republican Wyoming 70 times more voting power than people in Democratic California)

    As usual, no one ever talks about ending the EC by comparing Democrat Rhode Island to GOP Texas. (At least Joyner is consistent about it.)

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  5. Andy says:

    And a few other things:

    – The Senate cannot be reformed in the way that you and Steven would like except for an actual civil war or every single State legislature agreeing to such a change. People can state they are uncomfortable with the Senate all day long, and, through repetition, they may eventually undermine the legitimacy of the Senate as an institution. What is the end-game here? How is a delegitimized Senate that can’t be reformed without throwing away our entire system of government a good thing?.

    Additionally, the Democrats and GoP made choices about their constituencies – I have a hard time crying for Democrats over rural states when they chose to essentially abandon them to the GoP.

    – Not everything needs to be a national issue and not everything should be. Increasing the authority of the federal government and using it as a cudgel against political opponents only makes control a bigger prize which makes political conflicts worse. And here again, our two parties are both bent on increasing the power of the federal government in order to ram their agendas down the throats of the entire country. Lowering the stakes would bring more sanity than anything else.

    – Candidates who are not white men cannot win elections if they aren’t nominated for office. The responsibility or that problem entirely rests with the two parties.

    – Partisanship needs reforming, badly. The evidence is overwhelming. There are too many items to list here. Like lowering the stakes, this is one needed change that is generally ignored by people like Milbank.

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  6. Andy says:

    @James Joyner:

    I’ve never understood the argument that there is a massive group of people simultaneously too lazy and apathetic to vote yet a danger to organize into some malevolent force.

    At some point, they may no longer be lazy and apathetic. As the two parties grow less diverse and come closer to circling the drain, the more likely they are to wake up. Additionally, I’m including those who are politically active and do vote but are not rank partisans.

    That, to me, seems more likely than riots over the unfairness of Wyoming’s Senate seats.

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  7. TM01 says:

    @teve tory:

    Oh Roe v Wade is definitely done. Look at Roberts’s dissent in that 2016 Texas case. He basically thinks any state can put any arbitrary restriction of abortion it wants, a death-by-a-thousand-cuts strategy that’ll make abortion defacto illegal in 29 states.

    It’s getting hard to find an honest liberal who still thinks RoeVWade was a good ruling.
    So if that does get over ruled, then what? It goes back to the states where yes, you’ll have to finally accept some common sense abortion restrictions.

    It’s never going to become illegal. Why? It’s been legal for too long. Businesses would move to states where it is legal because that’s where you’d get better employees. Good people will leave states where abortion is totally illegal. It doesn’t make economic sense to totally ban it.
    Sure you see a couple of states putting in big restrictions now, but they all know that they’ll be struck down.

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  8. Mikey says:

    @James Joyner: Well, the true “silent majority” are the dead, so if there’s ever a zombie apocalypse…

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  9. James Joyner says:

    @TM01: it’s not a partisan point. The reason people use California and Wyoming is that they’re the most and least populous states.

    @Andy: The outrage isn’t so much over philosophical views of electoral fairness but of outcomes. The rural, white minority is imposing it’s will on a country that is urban and increasingly diverse. That can’t go on forever in a representative democracy.

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  10. Andy says:

    @James Joyner:

    And really, I’d include you in that group at this point. You voted for Clinton, a completely reasonable strategic choice – what about the future where it’s Bernie Bro’s vs. Trumpers? What will you do when no one on the ballot represents your political preferences?

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  11. Mikey says:

    @Andy:

    At some point, they may no longer be lazy and apathetic.

    Well, why stop?

    If there is, in fact, this “silent majority” just waiting to spring forth, it’s going to have to be for some specific reason or set of reasons. We keep hearing this “eventually the silent majority will be completely fed up, and man, then there will be hell to pay!” But there are never any specifics. WHY will this amorphous mass of Americans, who heretofore could not be arsed to get out and vote, suddenly self-organize into a political force so substantial it will upend the system?

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  12. Gustopher says:

    @Andy:

    How is a delegitimized Senate that can’t be reformed without throwing away our entire system of government a good thing?

    How is a legitimized Senate that leads to a broken, undemocratic government a good thing?

    A lot of the institutions in our government made sense at a time when people considered themselves citizens of Virginia or Massachusetts first, and the United States second. Now that people are way more mobile, states are something of an anachronism.

    If the new, conservative Supreme Court brings back States Rights in a real way, I don’t see how this country functions long term. It certainly won’t resemble the country I grew up in — it would be more like the EU, except with an aggressive race to the bottom on individual rights vs. corporations.

    We fought a civil war over state’s rights, and the states lost.

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  13. Gustopher says:

    @TM01: Is your argument that the Republicans have just been joking for the past thirty years about wanting to overturn Roe v. Wade and ban abortion wherever they can? Well, the joke is on those Republicans, because they keep electing true believers.

    I agree that companies are going to flee states where abortion is illegal because they need workers — at least the high wage companies that need specialized workers — and that the states that ban abortion will become poor, backwater holes. Federalism has problems with a mobile workforce and economy.

    But, anyway, I’d take the Republicans at their word — after trying to do something for so long, and not having the power to do it, they will keep trying once they get power, just out of sheer habit if nothing else.

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  14. Gustopher says:

    @Andy:

    What they should really worry about is a backlash by the silent majority who may, one day, grown sick and tired of this partisan bullshit and make their voices heard.

    While I share the skepticism of others that this currently apathetic mass will suddenly start moving and making their voices heard, I would welcome it.

    People should have a say in their government.

    I do think you might be surprised by the wishes of this apathetic mass, however. I think they mostly don’t bother voting because they don’t care, rather than that they are too disgusted with both sides. They will break give or take along the same lines as the voting population. People will always disappoint you.

    The people who care and are disgusted with both sides and all the partisan bickering vote third party.

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  15. teve tory says:

    @James Joyner: Indeed, shockingly so. The total population of Wyoming is significantly less than that of San Joaquin County. “San Joaquin County? What’s in San Joaquin County?” Exactly.

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  16. James Joyner says:

    @teve tory: Indeed, my own county of Fairfax, Virginia is roughly two Wyomings.

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  17. Gustopher says:

    Our systems skew to making small states more powerful — probably too much of a skew — but not so much that it cannot be corrected by a motivated populace.

    Minority rule is not fundamentally terrible, if it is a large enough minority and the minority is looking after the interests of the whole. That’s not what’s happening now, and the minority is overreaching, and there will be a backlash.

    I expect that once the backlash happens, that the Democrats won’t behave any better than the Republicans, and will do things for their advantage just because they can — mostly putting things on an even keel with a packed Supreme Court, etc. and after a decade of chaotic swings in governments, we might be ready to address the problems.

    But, it will only happen once the smaller states, who have disproportionate power to block changes to the status quo, get royally screwed over and want change. So it is only with the best, noblest and most pure intentions that I want to see Wyoming destroyed and humiliated.

    I think an end to lifetime Supreme Court nominations (in trade for a set number of justices, after the court packing crisis), and a popularly elected President are both doable.

    I don’t think we are ever going to get to the point where we decide we don’t need both a North and South Dakota and merge them though.

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  18. @TM01:

    As usual, no one ever talks about ending the EC by comparing Democrat Rhode Island to GOP Texas. (At least Joyner is consistent about it.)

    WY to CA is the typical comparison because it is the smallest and largest states, respectively, in terms of population. A partisan point is not being made, but rather a mathematical one.

    If you prefer the TX to RI comparison, have at. There is a profoundly problematic disjuncture when we think only in terms of arbitrary lines on a map instead of people.

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  19. @Andy:

    Partisanship needs reforming, badly. The evidence is overwhelming

    If we were to have a more proportional electoral system, partisanship would be reformed (so to speak) because we would end up with more parties.

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  20. @Steven L. Taylor: Also, you really can’t reform partisanship.

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  21. @James Joyner:

    The rural, white minority is imposing it’s will on a country that is urban and increasingly diverse. That can’t go on forever in a representative democracy.

    Indeed. The more the system does a poor job of representation, the closer we come to a real crisis.

    And yes, the Senate is problematic. Power is too concentrated in small population states. And, to Andy’s point, I certainly understand how hard a change to that institution will be.

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  22. Andy says:

    It’s interesting that the responses to my rebuttal focused on the one bit of speculation I made about the “silent majority” and little else.

    @Gustopher:

    How is a legitimized Senate that leads to a broken, undemocratic government a good thing?

    That’s an oxymoron. Governance is ultimately about legitimacy. If the government is viewed as legitimate by the people it is, by definition, not broken.

    Again, for those who believe it is important to delegitimize the Senate as an institution, what is your end game?

    @Mikey:

    If there is, in fact, this “silent majority” just waiting to spring forth, it’s going to have to be for some specific reason or set of reasons. We keep hearing this “eventually the silent majority will be completely fed up, and man, then there will be hell to pay!”

    Of course it would take a specific set of circumstances. That is different than saying it’s impossible. I’m merely suggesting that Milbank’s version of a “backlash” isn’t the only possibility, especially if he and the other elites have their way with internecine partisan conflict.

    Frankly, I think things would have to get much worse than they currently are.

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  23. Andy says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    If we were to have a more proportional electoral system, partisanship would be reformed (so to speak) because we would end up with more parties.

    We’ve discussed that before and, as I’ve said many times, I would much prefer a multi-party system. Reforming the Senate doesn’t do that. Straight popular vote for the Presidency (which I support) also doesn’t do that. Neither will Milbank’s explosion.

    We are stuck with partisanship and the two parties for now and likely for a long time. They used to be a lot better than they are today – more diverse and inclusive and more representative of the interests of Americans.

    I think trying to reform the way our parties work is a more reasonable and achievable goal than fantasies about changing the Senate or the other speculative schemes that might bring fundamental changes to our political system.

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  24. James Pearce says:

    The Rebecca Traister quotes reminded me of these Andrew Sullivan quote I read the other day:

    When the Democratic party and its mainstream spokespersons use the term “white male” as an insult, when they describe vast swathes of white men in America as “problematic,” when they call struggling, working-class white men “privileged,” when they ask in their media if it’s okay just to hate men, and white men in particular, maybe white men hear it. Maybe the outright sexism, racism, and misandry that is now regarded as inextricable from progressivism makes the young white men less likely to vote for a party that openly advocates its disdain of them.

    I hoped reading the rest of the article would ameliorate that feeling, but no:

    Similarly, a majority of white women voted for Trump, and always vote for his party, because they benefit from white supremacy even as they are subjugated by patriarchy.

    Yeah….that’s not it.

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  25. teve tory says:

    OT: Trump Foundation fraud trial starts in October 😛

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  26. Mikey says:

    @Andy:

    Of course it would take a specific set of circumstances. That is different than saying it’s impossible. I’m merely suggesting that Milbank’s version of a “backlash” isn’t the only possibility, especially if he and the other elites have their way with internecine partisan conflict.

    OK, that’s fair.

    Frankly, I think things would have to get much worse than they currently are.

    No doubt. There’s a great deal of inertia to overcome.

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  27. wr says:

    @TM01: “It’s getting hard to find an honest liberal who still thinks RoeVWade was a good ruling.”

    That’s certainly true, if you define “honest liberal” as “someone who thinks RvW was not a good ruling.” Aside from that, your argument is, as usual, a pile of lying garbage.

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  28. Gramx3 says:

    After reading this and all the comments, and not being familiar with “Outsidethebeltway.com”, I clicked on the “about” button. Whew! Look at all the white men!

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  29. James Joyner says:

    @James Pearce:

    The Rebecca Traister quotes reminded me of these Andrew Sullivan quote I read the other day

    So, I agree with Sully that that sort of rhetoric from the left and from women/POC isn’t likely to win over many converts among conservatives/white males. I think it’s too charged. But, stripping Traister of the frustration, I see points in there worth paying attention to.

    Oddly, though, I find this part of Sully’s article more interesting:

    Kennedy’s pragmatic libertarianism — his belief in limited government, pluralism, moderation, and social cohesion — didn’t fit into either of our two political tribes’ worldview. He favored marriage equality but also the religious freedom of fundamentalists; he opposed racial preferences but found a way to accommodate some version of affirmative action; he believed in free markets but saw a role for government in preventing climate change; he sided with the conservatives on the court much of the time (including in his final term) but defended the habeas corpus rights of Gitmo prisoners, ended the death penalty for the mentally ill and minors, protected the right to burn the flag, and when push came to shove, defended Roe. For all this, he frustrated a lot of people, in both tribes. Many Republicans loathed what his rulings meant for gay equality, affirmative action, abortion, and his refusal to be an Antonin Scalia clone. They mocked his rhetoric for its highfalutin vagueness. Many Democrats expressed their contempt for him as he left, decried his consistent federalism, and simply couldn’t grasp how a social moderate could also favor defending the rights of fundamentalists unfairly treated by the state government or of big money in politics because of the First Amendment.

    I have to say, I respected him for all the reasons the partisans hated him. What he was able to do was to hold two ideas in his mind at the same time: that history moves forward and laws and institutions need to adjust to those changes or die; and that the core conception of individual liberty should remain the animating principle of America and the West.

    As an academic, I prefer Scalia’s strong philosophical structure and sharp writing style. But a Supreme Court comprised of 9 Kennedys would be infinitely preferable to one comprised of 9 Scalias.

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  30. @Andy:

    If the government is viewed as legitimate by the people it is, by definition, not broken

    The problem is that we are headed for a crisis of legitimacy around the issue of representation. I have thought this for a while. Legitimacy does not continue when the promises made by a set of institutions are not kept by those institutions.

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  31. James Joyner says:

    @Gramx3:

    Whew! Look at all the white men!

    There are only three of us writing with any regularity and yup we’re all middle-aged white guys. The only woman we’ve had on the team–Kate McMillan, one of the original crew once it expanded beyond just me—is a Canadian and, certainly at this juncture, far to the right ideologically of any of the remainers. We’ve not had any POC representation to speak of on the staff.

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  32. @Andy:

    We’ve discussed that before and, as I’ve said many times, I would much prefer a multi-party system. Reforming the Senate doesn’t do that. Straight popular vote for the Presidency (which I support) also doesn’t do that.

    Actually, it would depend on the reform. Some changes would increase parties, other not. A two-round process to elect the president would very likely create some new parties and it would definitely increase the vote share of existing third parties in the first round.

    In regards to the Senate, the effects of reform would depend on what the reform would be.

    I don’t want to sound like a jerk, but I have been studying this stuff for a long time now (over 25 years) and based on what you are saying, I don’t think you understand the way that institutional design affects things like the number of parties in a system.

    I know we have two parties now. But change the system enough and we will have more.

    We are stuck with partisanship and the two parties for now and likely for a long time. They used to be a lot better than they are today – more diverse and inclusive and more representative of the interests of Americans.

    The conditions under which the two parties worked better together are gone and unlikely to return. And the reasons they worked together better was less about them being more representative in the past than they are now, but about other factors that I discussed before.

    I think trying to reform the way our parties work is a more reasonable and achievable goal than fantasies about changing the Senate or the other speculative schemes that might bring fundamental changes to our political system.

    I understand the political obstacles that stand in the way of reform. But if we don’t talk about it, we will never fix a damn thing because the broader public will never understand what the problems are.

    Some less fantastical reforms (but still really difficult) we should pursue:

    1. Increase the size of the House of Representatives.
    2. Popular election of the president.
    3. Less partisan redistricting. (Although no matter what we do there, the rural/urban problem continues).
    4. A system of fixed, staggered terms on the Supreme Court.

    And yes, those are all pretty hard.

    In my more developed fantasies: a Mixed Member Proportional system for electing the House.

    And, yes, massive overhaul of the Senate. That could go a variety of directions.

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  33. @Andy:

    I think trying to reform the way our parties work

    On that point I would suggest doing away with primaries as a nominating mechanism.

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  34. I am not sure what “reform[ing] the way our parties work” means–the incentives for behavior are to be found in the institutions that get them into office and empower them once there.

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  35. Kari Q says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    The problem is that we are headed for a crisis of legitimacy around the issue of representation.

    Yes, this is true. When the majority of the voters consistently vote one way (for a Democratic president and legislature in this case) and yet they ‘lose’ the election, why would they continue to support the system?

    Look at Virginia: the Democratic candidate won by 9 percentage points. It’s safe to assume that the voters preferred a Democratic legislature by a similar margin, yet the legislature is still Republican. If the margin was 1 or 2 points, the majority might shrug that off, but 9?

    Also, if the differences between the majority and the minority were relatively minor issues, there wouldn’t be a problem. People wouldn’t care enough to want to throw the system out if we were arguing about a few points on capital gains tax rates. But these issues are literally life and death for some people, and go to core identity.

    If Democrats win the Congressional vote by 7 point and yet don’t take over the House, why should Democrats not want to throw the system over? It would no longer serve their interests and, given the restrictions on voting enacted and extreme gerrymandering, there is not prospect that it will in the future.

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  36. An Interested Party says:

    If the government is viewed as legitimate by the people it is, by definition, not broken.

    Ask all those people who are harmed by gerrymandering if they think government is legitimate…

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  37. Todd says:

    The 30% or so of our citizens who are fully under the spell of right-wing propaganda (and currently enjoy power far out of proportion to their numbers) also happen to own most of the 300 million civilian held guns in this country. When Robert Mueller delivers incontrovertible evidence of Donald Trump’s corruption and these people refuse to believe it, I fear that our country may become a very dark and dangerous place (even more so than it already can be for many).

    Making any sort of an anti-authoritarian argument to people who currently enjoy outsized power is likely to be a losing proposition. These are people who thought that a middle of the road, market based, not even universal health care plan was “tyranny” … and if they could outlaw the “liberal media” most of them would be fully in favor of it.

    When Donald Trump makes authoritarian moves, he is doing EXACTLY what many of his supporters want him to. To them, “Freedom” means that they (and only they) get to impose their will on others.

    This is a scary time we live in.

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  38. JKB says:

    We could ask the people of Upstate NY or non-coastal California how they like pure majority rule dominated by one or two dense urban areas. How interior areas are deprived of water for agriculture as it is drawn off to keep the city dweller in green laws. There are other states where population outside the big city feel they have no voice in government, especially when the urban corpse is driven by DemProg fantasies.

    But should you like something different, the solution is simple. War. A nice civil war to impose a new “constitution” upon those you hope to defeat. As it is, Presidents may not win the facile popularity contest, but they are required to build a Constitutional majority that is diverse in geography. A shift to favor dense urban centers would only shift those who feel slighted. Perhaps we should consider breaking up the Union peaceably?

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  39. James Pearce says:

    @James Joyner:

    But, stripping Traister of the frustration, I see points in there worth paying attention to.

    Oh, I do too. I just think these points would be way more convincing without the blatant resentment against white dudes. But that’s on Traister, not you.

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  40. Kari Q says:

    @JKB:

    We could ask the people of Upstate NY or non-coastal California how they like pure majority rule dominated by one or two dense urban areas.

    This is indeed a frustration of low population areas, but the solution is not to let the low population areas determine how the majority of the population will be governed.

    How interior areas are deprived of water for agriculture as it is drawn off to keep the city dweller in green laws.

    This is fantasy, at least if it’s referring to California. Persistent fantasy, but fantasy. Statewide, average water use is roughly 50% environmental, 40% agricultural, and 10% urban. There is room for debate about what percentage should go to environment versus agriculture, but urban dwellers aren’t robbing farmers of water.

    But should you like something different, the solution is simple. War.

    Yeah, that’s what we want to avoid. That’s why we’re talking about these issues.

    As it is, Presidents may not win the facile popularity contest

    I love this. Really, I do. I’ve never before seen an election described as “a facile popularity contest.” Nice to see what you really think of democracy.

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  41. MBunge says:

    This whole thing is so silly it almost defies parody. I could go on and on but I frankly don’t have the patience. So, just these points:

    1. This is a “crisis” only because people like Milbank are making it a crisis and they’re making it a crisis because they’re butt hurt Donald Trump won. These same sort of arguments could have been made in 2000 with even more validity because that really was a case where the system broke down and a President was installed in office by five partisan lawyers in DC. But not only did people like Milbank not object, they rallied round the flag and worked to banish this sort of talk from mainstream political discourse.

    2. I understand why liberals embrace this nonsense but why so-called conservatives would go along with such a blatant attack on federalism puzzles me, beyond their own butt hurt over Trump’s election. If states don’t matter when it comes to electing the President, why do we need them at all? Why do we need counties or cities or districts or wards? Why not simply have one single authority that stretches from the central government into the home of every citizen? Why do we need any mediating institutions getting in the way?

    3. What happens to this entire argument if Donald Trump’s approval rating goes over 50%? What if he gets a majority in 2020? If you think it can’t happen, I’ll tell you again to look at Trump’s approval ratings in the wake of your family separation spazz-out.

    4. What’s wrong with waiting for the next election? A nearly ludicrous number of things had to turn out exactly right for Trump to win in 2016, chief among which was Democrats nominating a dumpster fire of a candidate. As proven, I believe in 2006, no amount of gerrymandering can withstand a big enough wave. If the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade and the backlash is severe enough, we could have Democrats in control of the White House by 2020 and they can pass a federal law legalizing abortion. And if you are going to say the Trumpist Supreme Court will just overturn that law, how would that be any different from the MANY times in the past when the Court has ruled against the will of the American majority?

    5. You know what really can’t stand in a democracy? The arrogant presumption that the way things are now is the way they always have to be and that only a certain kind of person gets to be in charge, no matter how badly or continuously that kind of person screws up.

    6. If the Supreme Court is so damn powerful that the prospect of people who disagree with you having a majority on the Court is so intolerable that you are virtually calling for a revolution, you will never be able to fix anything because you don’t understand the actual problem.

    7. Donald Trump and his supporters played by the rules that governed this country when we elected Reagan, two Bushes, Clinton, and Obama. Just 17 months ago, you were absolutely sure those rules were going to lead to your victory…or at least Trump’s defeat. But then the other guys won. If your reaction to that is to change the rules so the other guys never get to win no matter what, go get a gun and learn how to use it because this won’t be the America of the Founding Fathers any longer. It will be Chairman Mao’s country in all but name.

    Mike

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  42. An Interested Party says:

    What happens to this entire argument if Donald Trump’s approval rating goes over 50%?

    What happens if the sky turns green?

    What if he gets a majority in 2020?

    What happens if the sun blows up?

    …in the wake of your family separation spazz-out.

    Nice to know that you think concern for families being forcibly separated is a “spazz-out”

    A nearly ludicrous number of things had to turn out exactly right for Trump to win in 2016…

    Indeed, like help from the Russians and the head of the FBI…

    Donald Trump and his supporters played by the rules …

    Oh sure, the rules of Vladimir Putin…

    It will be Chairman Mao’s country in all but name.

    Oh please, talk about butt hurt…you need to lay down and calm yourself…perhaps you should drink some warm milk or something…give your jaw a rest…

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  43. Andy says:

    @James Joyner:

    The outrage isn’t so much over philosophical views of electoral fairness but of outcomes. The rural, white minority is imposing it’s will on a country that is urban and increasingly diverse. That can’t go on forever in a representative democracy.

    What outcome are you seeking? Is that outcome available in the Overton Window of one or both political parties?

    My fundamental point here is that the representation we both desire is not available because we are limited to two choices and neither choice actually represents a majority. In my view, this explains the cycle of reaction and counter-reaction.

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    The problem is that we are headed for a crisis of legitimacy around the issue of representation. I have thought this for a while. Legitimacy does not continue when the promises made by a set of institutions are not kept by those institutions.

    I agree there is a crisis of legitimacy. But I disagree on the cause.

    I don’t want to sound like a jerk, but I have been studying this stuff for a long time now (over 25 years) and based on what you are saying, I don’t think you understand the way that institutional design affects things like the number of parties in a system.

    I hope you do understand that I have tremendous respect for your credentials, deep knowledge and moderate demeanor. All three give your arguments a weight that demands they be taken seriously. But that doesn’t mean they are correct.

    Where I think you err is in terms of practicality. I agree with almost everything you propose from a theory perspective. But I look at things primarily in terms of practicalities how to operationalize change; how can it be accomplished. And this is where your arguments fall short.

    As noted many times, I would much prefer a representative multi-party system here in the US, but it’s not enough to want it. How do we get from here to there? I have thought a lot about how it actually might be achieved and examined the experience in other countries and came to the conclusion that it is a very dangerous path and one that isn’t guaranteed to result in the desired end. The historical instances where countries, much less large, diverse countries, were able to peacefully change their form of government into something better is exceedingly small. That is a historical record that cannot be ignored.

    Here are a couple of examples of what I mean in terms of practicality:

    Senate Reform. Because of the last part of Article V in the Constitution, reforming the Senate will either require the agreement of every state or imposition by force on some states by others. How will that be accomplished?

    If we are going to purposely damage the credibility of the Senate as an institution, and declare that we would like to replace it with some alternative (or reform it), don’t we have an obligation to have some kind of plan to get there? No one seems to have an answer to this.

    Here’s another example:

    If we were to have a more proportional electoral system, partisanship would be reformed (so to speak) because we would end up with more parties.

    How do we get the present parties, who control all of government at the federal and state levels, to agree to changes that would materially reduce their power and influence?

    Yes, I agree in theory that if we had a more proportional system then partisanship would be reformed. The problem is you can’t actually achieve a more proportional system unless partisanship is reformed.

    1. Increase the size of the House of Representatives.
    2. Popular election of the president.
    3. Less partisan redistricting. (Although no matter what we do there, the rural/urban problem continues).
    4. A system of fixed, staggered terms on the Supreme Court.

    And yes, those are all pretty hard.

    I agree with all of that and agree it’s hard, but more realistically achievable without blowing up the Constitution completely. Of course, neither party is interested in such reforms – so again, it is the parties and partisanship that is blocking reform.

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  44. Andy says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    I am not sure what “reform[ing] the way our parties work” means–the incentives for behavior are to be found in the institutions that get them into office and empower them once there.

    Some ideas I’ve already noted in this thread. I also agree with you about the primary system. The bulk of changes would need to take place in the states. I acknowledge that necessary reforms suffer from the same chicken-egg criticism I laid at your feet.

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  45. Andre Kenji de Sousa says:

    @James Joyner:

    So, I agree with Sully that that sort of rhetoric from the left and from women/POC isn’t likely to win over many converts among conservatives/white males. I think it’s too charged. But, stripping Traister of the frustration, I see points in there worth paying attention to.

    Traister might have a point. But the problem is that Minority Women with low incomes have more economic interests in common with White Males with Low Income than with Upper Middle Class Women like Rebecca Traister.

    For instance, both Low Income White Males and Low Income Black/Hispanic Women have an economic interest on raising the minimum wage. For people like Rebecca Traister that’s against their economic interests.

    No wonder, Democrats see their share of the White Vote flunk on the same time that there is lower turnout among minorities.

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  46. @JKB:

    how they like pure majority rule

    I have carefully and repeatedly noted that “pure majority” rule is not the point.

    Although minority rule is worse than pure majority rule, especially when the system purports to be representative.

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  47. @AndyAndy: One thing I would point out: there is a difference to be had between diagnosing the problem and the probability that the appropriate fixes can be implemented.

    My impatience, such as it is, is not with your correct assessment that all of the things I am talking about are either very hard to accomplish, if not practical impossibilities at the moment, it is with what comes across as “because it is hard, let’s not talk about it.” I firmly believe that we have been, before Trump, at the point that we need to talk about the hard and near-impossible just to let people know that those options exist and what they might mean.

    Yes, political reform is extremely hard because those who are in power and benefit from the current system do not want to change it.

    However, there never is reform if people don’t know that it can exist. Americans are mostly highly ignorant of the fact that any other options even exist.

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  48. steve says:

    I am not very hopeful about the changes we need to make to keep a minority of the country from ruling the majority on a long term basis. First, the party in power has no desire to change. Second, even if the majority party takes enough seats to initiate change, it is at best temporary w/o constitutional change and that means the states would need to agree. Isn’t happening.

    Steve

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  49. The Olde Man says:

    @TM01:On Roe v Wade, if Planned Parenthood had stuck to 20 weeks of gestation or so, we would not have a debate. But they went to the point of birth where the kid was aborted at the point of screaming and then they sold the parts. And the public cringed. R v W will probably go back to the States for local control. You can thank Planned Parenthood for that. What they did was supposedly constitutional but stupid.

    As for reforming the political system, I thought it worked as intended. Our girl ignored the small states and lost. The whole system was set up to make sure the small states counted.

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  50. michilines says:

    Here’s the bigger issue in my view. It takes an overwhelming amount of people voting for Democrats to win the presidency, house and/or senate. The problem is that the way things are now, Republicans can control both federal and state governments without winning a majority of votes for the most part. When Democrats had the senate, house and presidency, at least they had won the majority of the votes on all counts. Can anyone point to a time when Democrats had the presidency, senate, and house but had fewer votes than Republicans overall for each part (as we have now)?

    @Gramx3:

    After reading this and all the comments, and not being familiar with “Outsidethebeltway.com”, I clicked on the “about” button. Whew! Look at all the white men!

    There are more than a few females that comment here. Some are not so obviously female, others are, and some, you just can’t be sure about :).

    Comment more and make an impact.

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  51. michilines says:

    @The Olde Man: I’m not going to copy and paste what you have written because it is not true. You seem to be missing the point. Roe will not be overturned because of anything anyone or any organization has done wrt protecting a woman’s right to control her body. If is is overturned, it will be because of the actions of people — mostly politicians but not all — who have fought against a woman’s right to control her body for decades by any means necessary.

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  52. Andy says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    My impatience, such as it is, is not with your correct assessment that all of the things I am talking about are either very hard to accomplish, if not practical impossibilities at the moment, it is with what comes across as “because it is hard, let’s not talk about it.”

    Well, I don’t really understand that criticism. If I thought reforming our political system should not be talked about or discussed, I would not take so much of my time to chime in on these kinds of threads to…talk about and discuss it.

    However, there never is reform if people don’t know that it can exist. Americans are mostly highly ignorant of the fact that any other options even exist.

    And I would respond that telling people that options exist is perfectly fine, but honesty demands also telling those people about measures necessary to achieve those options as well as the effects of attempting to do so. In other words, full disclosure is a necessary element.

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  53. An Interested Party says:

    The ridiculous comments above about Planned Parenthood and the selling of body parts is just one example of why any kind of meaningful political reform in this country will be extremely difficult, if not impossible, to achieve…

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  54. Gustopher says:

    @Andy:

    Senate Reform. Because of the last part of Article V in the Constitution, reforming the Senate will either require the agreement of every state or imposition by force on some states by others. How will that be accomplished?

    That restricts amendments from adjusting the representation in the Senate, but not from changing the function of the Senate. All of that is fair game, I believe.

    Amendments do require 3/4ths of the states to approve them, so an agreement to hobble the Senate would only come from a crisis severe enough to basically require rewriting the entire constitution — a crisis which we are on our way towards, with minority candidates winning the presidency in 2016, 2000, 1996 and 1992; large swaths of the population effectively disenfranchised by being in non-swing states; a failure of political parties to work together on common issues; an overreach by the minority in power; and an increased federalism in a society where states have no real value in most people’s lives. America isn’t working.

    America as originally intended hasn’t been working for years, but we’ve been papering over the cracks by expanding interpretations of the commerce clause, and incorporating the bill of rights to protect the people from the states.

    We will either have a constitutional convention, a civil war, or figure out how to get the current system working again. (Or be vaporized by nuclear weapons, killed by emergent diseases, or choked to death by climate change spiraling into an unpleasant place… but let’s focus on the rosier scenarios where we aren’t all dead).

    I don’t think we will get the current system working again. America of the 21st Century doesn’t really resemble America of the 18th Century. Our constitution was written to balance the rigts of the states rather than of the people — and one constant in American history is that people are being made increasingly important. We’ve had to explain to our people that we don’t live in a democracy, and the people are generally surprised.

    America has always been a pluralistic society that has to balance the interests of majorities and minorities. In the 1790s, the groups were New England landowning white males and Southern landowning white males. Now we have different divisions, and the systems we built to handle the old divisions just don’t work with the new ones

    We’re either going to have to rejigger our notions of federalism, or accept that people are less free than they ought to be. The tyranny of the majority is bad, but the tyranny of the minority is worse.
    .

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  55. Andy says:

    @Gustopher:

    We will either have a constitutional convention, a civil war, or figure out how to get the current system working again.

    That’s mostly how I see it. However, I prefer the latter option – or at least I think it should be tried first.

    A Constitutional Convention or civil war may be inevitable, but I do not support hitting the gas pedal to get their quicker because both are fraught with uncertainty and the outcome cannot be controlled.

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  56. @Andy:

    In other words, full disclosure is a necessary element.

    Of course.

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  57. teve tory says:

    @An Interested Party:

    An Interested Party says:
    Saturday, June 30, 2018 at 22:05
    The ridiculous comments above about Planned Parenthood and the selling of body parts is just one example of why any kind of meaningful political reform in this country will be extremely difficult, if not impossible, to achieve…

    They really are the party of Trump, in terms of telling obvious, dumb lies.

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  58. wr says:

    @The Olde Man: Oh, goodie, baby J@nos has a new name.

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  59. gVOR08 says:

    Traister is wrong. Well, not wrong, but missing the bigger picture. The issue isn’t white men. Or race. Quoting “Cabaret”, the issue is money money money money money money money money. That almost all wealthy, powerful individuals are white males is a fact contingent on our history. If we had large numbers of wealthy, powerful black women some of them would be abusers.

    In politics the root cause is money. Our wealthy fear democracy as people coming to take their stuff. They’re trying to buy the government. And doing a good job of it. Better since Roberts and his ilk decided money is speech.

    And Millbank is wrong. You may not be able to deny the will of the people forever. But you can control the media and thereby the will of the people. IIRC Putin is quite popular in Russia. We already have a large chunk of the media that’s aggresively conservative. Where are we if , for instance, Adelson or someone like him buys NYT?

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  60. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @gVOR08: I am more than a little surprised that it took till the 57th comment before the outsized influence money has on our politics was noted by someone.

    When our country was founded only white men of property were allowed to vote. It took awhile but by 1856 all white men were allowed to vote. A while longer and black men too, then women, etc etc. In 2010 the Supreme Court decided that only people of “property” had meaningful free speech, that their voices should be the loudest and that all other voices could be drowned out.

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  61. teve tory says:

    @wr: Yah i was wondering which troll decided they’d screwed up so badly they needed a name change. Same ultra-stupid content.

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  62. george says:

    Your average white male has no power. Putting it in terms of minority rule by white males is upping the actual percentage of the the white males who actually have power (less than 1% of them) by two orders of magnitude – basically, its an argument I’d expect from someone backing those 1% (ie that they constitute a much larger percentage of the population than they actually do).

    This is obvious from someone looking in from outside (indigenous male); the idea that the average white male on the street has influence is a joke. Maybe if that lie wasn’t repeated so often those average guys would realize the 1% with power aren’t governing with their welfare in mind.

    Racial divisions are horrible and play a definite role, but are smaller than financial divisions. Its why an indigenous billionaire (which sadly I’m not) has way more power than a white guy working as a grocery clerk. Lets get those clerks on our side, instead of telling them they belong with the billionaires.

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  63. @george: But, a conversation like this isn’t about individual power. It is about aggregated interest.

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  64. And if you want to talk average individuals the test is: who is more likely to be privileged in some way by the system, the average white male or the average anything else?

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  65. george says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    But the aggregation is imaginary, unless you white males have some telepathic power which lets you share in each others enjoyment. From what I’ve seen, a white man living on the street doesn’t feel the warmth and good meal of the rich white man in the mansion across town.

    That poor white man’s interests are very different than the rich white man’s, and its a mistake to tell him that he belongs to the same group as the rich white man and should vote accordingly.

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  66. JKB says:

    @Kari Q: Yeah, that’s what we want to avoid. That’s why we’re talking about these issues.

    The matter can only be solve by civil war because only 2 or 3 states have an interest in changing the current Constitution, but it requires not only legislation through Congress but also 3/4 of the states to ratify.

    And after you impose it, you no longer have the only country where the People are sovereign, but revert to some element of government, representative or not, as able to rule the people. Consider Britain: The Parliament imposed stringent gun control over the last 40 years and now they throw their subjects in prison for disfavored Facebook posts.

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  67. @george: Aggregation of interests is not about having a group mind.

    Let’s take a start example: the Jim Crow South. Would you rather be a poor white male in that context or a poor black male (let alone a poor black female)?

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  68. al Ameda says:

    @JKB:

    As it is, Presidents may not win the facile popularity contest, but they are required to build a Constitutional majority that is diverse in geography. A shift to favor dense urban centers would only shift those who feel slighted. Perhaps we should consider breaking up the Union peaceably?

    Thank you for the fan-fricken-tastic two-fer.
    A couple of points:

    (1) As for the presidential election being “the facile popularity contest” … Would that it could have been possible for Jill Stein to win the election with an astounding 1.06%, we’d all be better off, right? I happen to think so, given that our ‘facile popularity contest’ gave us the worst person in at least 118 years.

    (2) And, that “consider breaking up the Union peaceably” … I’ve often come back to the notion that Lincoln should have let the South go. After all, we had a Civil War, slavery was abolished, yet we settled into another 100 years of Southern control of Congress, and segregation, apartheid, and Jim Crow laws. Which is to say, we ended up in a slightly better, but not much better place.

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  69. @JKB:

    you no longer have the only country where the People are sovereign

    This is such a bizarre defense of minority rule.

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  70. MBunge says:

    Oh, and one more thing…

    It’s what allows such nonsensical notions as “Trump won the popular vote . . . if you don’t count California” to make perfect sense to so many.

    It’s embarrassing to have to dumb stuff down for a supposedly educated person like Mr. Joyner (though not for many around here) but it’s obviously required.

    The “don’t count California” thing has nothing to do with stating or implying that California or Californians don’t matter. They do, and in fact they usually matter a great deal. It’s to try and wean people off this fetish of pointing to the popular vote like trained monkeys. If Donald Trump is more popular than Hillary Clinton in the other 49 states combined, THAT MATTERS. It does not become irrelevant because of her overwhelming popularity in one state.

    Here’s a scenario.

    Presidential Candidate A wins 40 states by an average of 100,000 votes.
    Presidential Candidate B wins 10 states by an average of 400,001 votes.

    According to James Joyner, Candidate B should win the White House. But how many times could we have a similar result before those 40 states decide there’s no reason to remain in an alleged union where they’re more like indentured servants that equal members?

    Those people in Wyoming whom Mr. Joyner jerkishly dismisses? They are citizens with their own economic, geographic, and cultural interests. Those interests are different in many ways from the interests of people in California or Alabama or Rhode Island. What benefits the people in one state or one area of the country may harm people in another state or area. This is a problem the Founding Fathers anticipated and, despite what Mr. Taylor might like to claim, specifically and intentionally designed our system to try and handle it.

    If we could cram all the Founders into Doc Brown’s DeLorean and bring them to 2016, I have no doubt they would be extremely troubled by both Donald Trump’s character and him winning the White House with fewer popular votes than Hillary Clinton. But there is absolutely no doubt they would also be concerned by Hillary Clinton trying to win the White House while either ignoring or antagonizing whole regions of the country and whole segments of the population.

    The problem is that because you are stuck cycling through the first two stages of grief over and over and over, you ignore the latter while getting hysterical about the former.

    Mike

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  71. @MBunge:

    But there is absolutely no doubt they would also be concerned by Hillary Clinton trying to win the White House while either ignoring or antagonizing whole regions of the country and whole segments of the population.

    No, they wouldn’t BECAUSE THE ELECTORAL COLLEGE WAS NOT DESIGNED TO WORK LIKE THIS as I have noted numerous times. Read Hamilton’s entry on this in The Federalist Papers.

    One simply cannot make original intent arguments about the Electoral College of this nature.

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  72. If one want argue HRC made tactical errors, fine. But don’t play original intent games.

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  73. Lit3Bolt says:

    I think the odds of America having another Constitutional Convention are less than it having another Civil War.

    I think we’re going to look back at Citizens United as what ended the American Republic. If ANY country can simply form a rando LLC in America then pour infinite money into negative politic ads against American politicians they hate, then I think everyone, conservative and liberal alike, will lose faith in the government.

    Of course, the only way to fix this is to buy more guns.

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  74. Yank says:

    The outrage isn’t so much over philosophical views of electoral fairness but of outcomes. The rural, white minority is imposing it’s will on a country that is urban and increasingly diverse. That can’t go on forever in a representative democracy.

    Exactly.

    This isn’t sustainable. For example, Democrats might win the popular vote by 8-10 points in this year’s election and yet they is still a decent chance they won’t control the house. How can a government be legitimate when you get results like that?

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  75. Paine says:

    It’s easy for Trumpsters to sing the praises of the wisdom of the Founding Fathers for putting in place a mechanism that installed their guy against the preference of a plurality of the voters, but never forget that in 2000 the Bush campaign had a contingency plan in place to challenge the legitimacy of the election should Gore win the EC vote while losing the popular vote, and in 2012 Trump himself said the EC is a “disaster” for the country.

    Jefferson himself was a proponent of majority rule. It’s time to get rid of the EC and let majority rule prevail.

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  76. wr says:

    @MBunge: “The “don’t count California” thing has nothing to do with stating or implying that California or Californians don’t matter. ”

    Unless, of course, words have actual meaning. In which case “don’t count California” means exactly that California and Californians don’t matter.

    I realize that “what I said isn’t what it means because words don’t actually convey their proper meaning when I use them” may be an argument Trump can use in his tweets, but it doesn’t actually work if anyone else gets a chance to respond.

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  77. Andy says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    And if you want to talk average individuals the test is: who is more likely to be privileged in some way by the system, the average white male or the average anything else?

    A good example where averages are misleading even if “privilege” could be accurately quantified in some way.

    I’m surprised we still have to say this in the 21st century, but people need to be treated as individuals on the basis of their particular character, background and circumstances, not on skin color, much less some amorphous, averaged group identity loosely based on skin color.

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  78. @Andy:

    people need to be treated as individuals on the basis of their particular character, background and circumstances, not on skin color, much less some amorphous, averaged group identity loosely based on skin color.

    On the individual level, of course.

    But until everyone is truly treated that way, then this things matter and at least some of the analysis has to be dealt with in the aggregate.

    I could cite a rather long list of examples, but just the issue of police violence and black men is enough to make the point. I will note incarceration rates for blacks as the exclamation point.

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  79. Katharsis says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: I’m curious as to what you mean by this? In conjunction with a direct popular vote? Reform the Primaries?

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  80. wr says:

    @Andy: In other words, until Andy has as much money as Bill Gates, there’s no reason to do anything about institutional racism because it’s not all that important.

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  81. Andy says:

    @wr:

    In other words, until Andy has as much money as Bill Gates, there’s no reason to do anything about institutional racism because it’s not all that important.

    Yes, that’s EXACTLY what I meant (rolls eyes).

    If you’re going to troll, at least be a bit creative.

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  82. @Katharsis: I have come to conclusion that, as counter-intuitive as it might sound, primaries are damaging the democratic quality of the parties because the parties, as organizations, do not control who uses their label. This makes performing their representative functions problematic.

    Two recent posts that elaborate on this are as follows:

    The Roy Moore Case and the Nature of US Political Parties

    An Analogy on Hierarchy (and the Lack thereof) in Party Behavior

    I have in my head another post on this that I will hopefully find time to write soon.

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  83. KM says:

    Instead of changing the EC, why don’t we just do what our ancestors did and colonize the troublesome lands? Seriously, the amount of people it would take to put most Midwest states into play is *ridiculously* small. Why not get a bunch of liberal billionaires together and start forming homestead again? Find little dying towns, rebuild them with liberal majorities (everyone’s allowed in but stack the deck) and suddenly those solid-lock Reds are Purple at the very least. Hell, you could even market it as MAGA because you’re helping rural areas and take advantage of Trump for tax breaks.

    In the long run, it will be cheaper then a team of lobbyists in DC to get 300K people to move to Wyoming – plus, you get a Senator and Representative out of it. Long term investments, people. Don’t waste time trying to reform the system, just do what they do. They want to argue empty land > higher population in a small space, then give them what they want and make sure the “empty” land has enough liberals on it to count!

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  84. SC_Birdflyte says:

    As to how we got here: I think it was truly a pity that John Kerry didn’t carry Ohio in 2004. If he had, he would’ve won the electoral vote, while losing the popular vote by over a million votes. If that had happened, a constitutional amendment to prevent it ever happening again would’ve gone through Congress so quickly, it would’ve made heads spin.

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  85. @SC_Birdflyte: Yep. Right now one party is advantaged by the EC and therefore change is highly unlikely.

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  86. george says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    Clearly a poor white male. However, you’re taking an example where financial situation is constant, and varying race. Lets take a situation where we vary both financial situation and race:

    Would you today rather be a white man living on the street, or a black billionaire? I suspect most would go with the black billionaire. Which suggests that for any given financial situation, the white person is going to be better off than the black person, but for the real world of varying financial situations, wealth (or the lack thereof) is more important than race.

    To a large extent there’s a very large overlap between race and wealth, but its not a 100% correlation. In the case of white males, most have almost zero power, and telling them they should identify with rich white males instead of poor minorities is a game the GOP has been playing – so why in the world would a progressive help the GOP by telling them the same thing?

    If you tell poor white males they’re on the same team as rich white males, of course they’re going to vote for rich white males – you vote for your team. Maybe progressives shouldn’t be telling them that?

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  87. george says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    I could cite a rather long list of examples, but just the issue of police violence and black men is enough to make the point. I will note incarceration rates for blacks as the exclamation point.

    Its a huge issue. However, the police manage to kill 500 average white men in America every year too (a rate an order of magnitude or more than the rate in any other developed country). So while blacks and indigenous peoples have it three times worse, white males still have an awful situation with police killing compared to any other country. However, my guess is the rate of police killing rich white males is pretty much zero – orders of magnitude less than that of average white males. Again, your average white’s condition is much close to that of black males (ratio of 1:3) than it is to rich white males (ratio 1:1000).

    The problem is getting them to see that.

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  88. @george: Yes, sure, we would all rather be Oprah. I get that.

    But when you are talking about understanding broader social issues, you have to talk about the aggregate.

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  89. @george: Yes, but even in your own numbers you note “blacks and indigenous peoples have it three times worse.”

    So, yes, there is a broad, general problem but also, yes, race is major variable.

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  90. george says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    Race is indeed a major variable.

    But I’ll bet that while race makes a factor of three variation (300% is huge) in the likelihood of being killed by a cop, being rich will make a much larger variation. How many people worth say more than 10 million, let along billions, are killed by cops every year? Is it even one on average? The chances of your average white male being killed by a cop is orders of magnitude closer to the chances of your average minority being killed by a cop than it is to the chances of a rich person being killed by a cop.

    Again, your average white male has way more in common with minorities than with rich white men.

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  91. @george: Being rich is better than being poor. Yes, of course.

    But in terms of societal analysis, you can’t stop there.

    And, I suppose to your point, the entrenched racism and a racial politics we have are part of why it is so hard for the working class white to see their true shared interest with working class minorities.

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  92. george says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    Being white and being rich are both unfair factors which gives huge privileges; but being rich gives bigger ones.

    As you say, analysis should definitely include race. It should also definitely include class. However lately it seems progressive analysis downplays the class component, perhaps because pointing out class distinctions leads to accusations of socialism which is considered political suicide for the Democrats.

    And yes, racial politics is part of what keeps white people from recognizing their shared interest with working class minorities. However its far from all of it, or I suspect even most of it. You only have to look at the phenomena occurring in homogeneous countries (past and present)- even in countries/times with very small minority numbers, where race simply isn’t/wasn’t a political issue, many poor people have voted for the rich people’s party, because the rich people convince them they’re on the same team (the same religion, or loyalty to the monarch, etc), and people vote team.

    I see no upside in telling the majority of white men that they’re in the same boat as the 1% of white men who actually have power. White men are 35% of the vote, why basically tell them that the GOP has their backs?

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