The Democrats Need To Govern Like Republicans
The country is presently living under a GOP tyranny of the minority. Despite the fact there are more Democrats than Republicans and that this is a center left country, the GOP controls the White House, the US Senate and the federal courts. The only Democratic toehold is control of the House.
At the state level, due to the big Democratic victory in 2018, the Republicans have less of an advantage. At the present time, there are 27 Republican governors and 23 Democratic governors. 30 state legislatures are controlled by the GOP compared to the Democrats’ 18.
The question that arises is just how did we get in this predicament even though a majority of the American people support Democratic priorities like universal health coverage, higher taxes on the rich and gun safety legislation. At the same time, a solid majority of Americans oppose Republican priorities like taking away insurance from tens of millions of Americans and ending pre-existing condition protections.
We are facing this tyranny of the minority due to two key factors. The first factor was that millions of Democrats stayed home in 2010, 2014 and 2016. This complacency led to the second major factor. The anemic Democratic turnout in 2010 allowed the GOP to impose extreme gerrymandering schemes in over 30 states beginning in 2011. Democratic apathy in 2014 and 2016 then cost Democrats control of the presidency, the U.S. Senate and the federal courts.
Once the Republicans take control of a state, the first thing they do is to change the rules to allow them to maintain control even if they are out voted in subsequent elections. The Republicans use gerrymandering to maintain control of the legislature and a majority of U.S. House seats in a state that they control. The Republicans gut union political participation and pass partisan and racist voter identification and suppression laws to knee cap the opposition.
Wisconsin is the poster child for how the Republicans operate. Before 2010, Wisconsin was a progressive state that had largely been controlled by the Democrats for decades. In the 2010 cycle, Scott Walker was elected with a GOP majority legislature. The Wisconsin Republicans then passed laws gutting the unions and a voter suppression law. The voter suppression law made it possible for Trump to narrowly carry Wisconsin in 2016.
Even though the Republicans lost the popular vote for the Wisconsin legislature in 2018, they still maintained a majority in both houses due to gerrymandering. A Republican majority Wisconsin Supreme Court recently affirmed that gerrymandering scheme. See how it works!
At the federal level, the Republicans use power aggressively to enact their agenda even though it is opposed by a majority of the voters. A good example are the 2017 Trump tax cuts. The 2017 tax cuts were only supported by 34% of the voters when it passed late that year. A handful of Republicans drafted the bill in complete secrecy, there were no hearings and debate was limited to a few hours. This law turned out to be so toxic that the Republicans ran away from it in 2018 even though they initially planned to run on it.
What the Republicans do after they win elections is to change the rules so they never face any accountability from the voters. The Republicans govern like they will never face the voters again. That allows them to enact their toxic agenda. And their rules changes make it possible that they don’t face a backlash from many of the Americans they have just harmed — they make sure those harmed can’t vote or participate in the political process.
It is time for the Democrats to govern like Republicans. I’m not talking about enacting an unpopular agenda — our agenda is supported by a majority of Americans. I’m talking about using power the way Republicans use it. As Jill Lawrence of USA Today recently wrote: “ We need a nominee who understands, as today’s Republicans seem to know from birth, that paeans to bipartisanship won’t cut it. Not after the decade we’ve had. This is a time for Democrats to be as clear as Republicans about their hopes and dreams, whether they are achievable or not. It is time for them to be as tough and relentless as Republicans. And it is time for them to make sure their gains cannot be erased by technicalities that thwart the will of the people.”
If we achieve the trifecta in 2020, the filibuster rule must be abolished. If the filibuster rule is maintained, about the only thing the Democrats could accomplish would be to roll back the Trump tax cuts for the rich. Progressive legislation on health care, immigration, labor law reform, judicial reform, gun reform, and climate change would be blocked. The filibuster rule must go. That should be the first order of business.
The abolition of the filibuster rule would open the door to much needed structural reforms that would end the GOP’s tyranny of the minority.
The first reform we need is an expansion of voting rights protected under the 14th and 15th Amendments to the Constitution. As a starting point, we must pass the Voting Rights Advancement Act (VRAA.) This bill would reverse the 2013 Supreme Court decision in Shelby County and restore the right to vote guaranteed by the 15th Amendment. In addition, we must pass laws providing for automatic voter registration and restoring the right to vote for ex-felons.
We must next pass the Employee Free Choice Act. This common sense reform would allow the recognition of a union if a majority of employees sign cards indicating that they wish that the union represent them. Moreover, this proposal would stiffen the penalties on companies who threaten — or terminate — workers for engaging in union activities. This would restore the right of the middle class and working families to participate in the political process. Before they were gutted by the GOP, unions were essential to the Democratic Party to turn out the vote. If unions didn’t matter, the Republicans and the oligarchs wouldn’t be trying to destroy them.
While the radical right has been restricting the right of working families, the young and minorities from being a part of the political process, it has expanded the rights of the corporations and the top 1% to buy elections. We need to reverse that trend by committing ourselves to a Constitutional amendment to reverse the Supreme Court’s infamous decision in Citizens United in 2010.
But that isn’t enough. Laws need to be passed at both the federal and state levels to protect the middle class and working families from the predatory political activities of the top 1%. Contrary to what Mitt Romney said, corporations are not people. Instead, they are mere legal entities. Corporations should be barred from contributing to campaigns, sponsoring PACs or lobbying.
We must protect these procedural reforms I’m discussing from an activist, right wing majority on the Supreme Court and the lower federal courts. That means we must expand the number of federal judges in both the lower courts and the Supreme Court to make up for theft of hundreds of federal judges and two Supreme Court justices by Mitch McConnell in 2015–16. The number of Supreme Court justices and federal judges is set by statute. A simple majority vote in both Houses of Congress can rectify this injustice and stop a runaway judiciary that is in the pocket of the GOP and the top 1%.
The electoral college has made it possible for the GOP to pack the federal courts with right wing extremists selected by the Federalist Society and the top 1%. The Democrats have won the popular vote in 6 out of the 7 last presidential elections but the Republicans have selected 9 out of the last 13 Supreme Court justices. We must abolish the electoral college. It simply isn’t good for the county to have a president who finished second. Moreover, it isn’t equitable to allow only 12 states to decide the next president. Under the electoral college, most of the U.S. is flyover country.
Both the electoral college and the U.S. Senate have a bias in favor of the smaller and red states. Another step to reduce that bias and restore majority rule is to admit Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia as states. That would provide those people with representation and add four Democratic U.S. Senators.
We’ve been playing under a set of rules written by the Republicans since the Reagan era in the 1980s. Senator Elizabeth Warren said it best: “This business that Democrats play by one set of rules and Republicans play by a different set of rules, those days are over when I’m president.” That’s why we need to elect Elizabeth Warren president and elect Democrats up and down the ballot. We will only restore government by the people and for the people, if we win elections. Nobody else will save us. If not us, who? If not now, when? Now let’s get to work!