When Joe Biden ran for president in 2020, he declared that if Republicans lost, they would seek “consensus” after having an “epiphany.” Republicans denied his win for weeks, and even after Donald Trump incited a violent insurrection to overturn the outcome, GOP leaders are now gravitating to Trump’s defense.
A new piece from the Atlantic’s Ron Brownstein spells out the stakes of the failure to accept the true implications of this GOP radicalization. It argues that the single most consequential decision for Democrats is whether to end the legislative filibuster to pass reforms that would expand voting rights and unwind GOP counter-majoritarian advantages going forward.
Congressional Democrats are coalescing around a package of reforms that would dramatically expand access to voting by requiring states to implement automatic voter registration, extensive early voting and same-day registration. It would restrict voter suppression tactics and hurdles on vote-by-mail.
The reforms would also require nonpartisan redistricting commissions — a strike at the next round of GOP gerrymanders — while restoring protections in the Voting Rights Act and blocking states from disenfranchising felons. The reforms would go far in curtailing Republican counter-majoritarian tactics for years to come.
Any such package will be filibustered by Senate Republicans. That would mean the wielding of yet another counter-majoritarian tool to further entrench GOP counter-majoritarian advantages for the foreseeable future.
There are three reasons why a filibuster of this package could have truly far-reaching effects, as Brownstein spells out.
The first is that Republicans are responding to their 2020 loss by intensifying their voter suppression efforts in numerous states, fake-justified by the same lies about voter fraud that animated Trump’s effort to overturn the election results.
That effort was supported by a large swath of the Republican Party, which shows that the GOP is only getting more radical in its willingness to wield counter-majoritarian tactics going forward.
The second reason this decision will be so consequential is that the conservative hold on the Supreme Court makes it more likely that GOP voter suppression efforts will be upheld.
The third is that the Democratic coalition will be increasingly reliant on younger and non-White voters, as the more diverse millennial and Generation Z voters swell into a larger share of the electorate.
Measures expanding the franchise and nixing voter suppression tactics would likely bring large numbers of those voters into the electorate, Brownstein notes. So the question of whether these reforms happen could have a large impact on the makeup of the electorate going forward.
For all these reasons, many experts in voting and elections believe that the choices Democrats make regarding their democracy and voting-reform agenda represent a fundamental crossroads in American politics. Passage of these laws wouldn’t guarantee a sustained period of Democratic political dominance: In both 2016 and 2020, Trump’s incredible mobilization of infrequent white voters demonstrated that Republicans could compete in a high-turnout environment.
But failing to pass the laws might ensure the reverse: a lasting Democratic disadvantage. The absence of national election standards would further entrench the current system, which has allowed Republicans to frequently control Congress, the White House, or both during the past three decades, even though Democrats have won the popular vote in seven of the past eight presidential elections.
As democracy scholar Lee Drutman tells Brownstein, if these reforms don’t happen, “there is a very good chance that America will wind up under an extended period of minority rule in which the party that represents 45-46 percent of the country can have a majority of power in Washington.”
Democrats might tell themselves various stories about these inconveniences. One is that Trump had a…