“For the past few years, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), a far-right Hindu nationalist faction, have dominated national politics. Since coming into power in 2014, Modi and BJP have attacked the foundations of India’s political system, gradually undermining the guardrails protecting democracy.
But this weekend saw a notable setback for Modi: an electoral defeat by a larger-than-expected margin.
In local elections held in five states, the BJP lost the biggest prize: control of the Legislative Assembly in West Bengal. The defeat came amid gathering signs of trouble for Modi’s quest to dominate India — the world’s worst Covid-19 outbreak, attributable in no small part to government policy, foremost among them.
A large and diverse cultural hub ruled by a communist faction for three decades, West Bengal can roughly be understood as India’s California. The BJP under Modi is a bit like the GOP under Donald Trump, only far more popular and politically effective. This anti-Muslim faction winning control of the local government in a left-wing bastion would have been a sign that its efforts to snuff out the political opposition had been successful, and that Indian democracy was going further down the path of its deceased cousins in Turkey, Hungary, and Venezuela.
Pre-election reporting suggested the BJP had a real shot at defeating incumbent Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and her left-wing Trinamool Congress party (TMC). The national party poured resources into the fight; Modi held a number of large campaign rallies in the state, while India’s Election Commission tilted the rules of the contest in its favor, scheduling the vote in a way that facilitated BJP campaigning and turnout in BJP strongholds.
Yet results released on Sunday showed that Modi‘s gambit had fallen short: The current count shows the TMC holding a supermajority in West Bengal’s parliament, around 213 seats out of 294. The BJP, which some exit polls suggested would win outright, will hold fewer than 80.”
“In the 2010 midterm election, voters from all over the place gave President Obama what he himself called “a shellacking.” And oh boy, was it ever. You could be a total moron and get elected just by having an R next to your name—and that year, by the way, we did pick up a fair number in that category.
Retaking control of the House of Representatives put me in line to be the next Speaker of the House over the largest freshman Republican class in history: 87 newly elected members of the GOP. Since I was presiding over a large group of people who’d never sat in Congress, I felt I owed them a little tutorial on governing. I had to explain how to actually get things done. A lot of that went straight through the ears of most of them, especially the ones who didn’t have brains that got in the way. Incrementalism? Compromise? That wasn’t their thing. A lot of them wanted to blow up Washington. That’s why they thought they were elected.
Some of them, well, you could tell they weren’t paying attention because they were just thinking of how to fundraise off of outrage or how they could get on Hannity that night. Ronald Reagan used to say something to the effect that if I get 80 or 90 percent of what I want, that’s a win. These guys wanted 100 percent every time. In fact, I don’t think that would satisfy them, because they didn’t really want legislative victories. They wanted wedge issues and conspiracies and crusades.”
“There is nothing more dangerous than a reckless asshole who thinks he is smarter than everyone else. Ladies and gentlemen, meet Senator Ted Cruz.”
“For four decades now, that historic upheaval and the quest for the support of Reagan Democrats has defined American politics, from the rise of Bill Clinton’s “New Democrats”—which Greenberg, as Clinton’s pollster, had a central role in crafting—to George W. Bush’s “compassionate conservatism,” to Barack Obama’s poll-tested evisceration of Mitt Romney’s venture capital experience, to Donald Trump’s white-grievance mongering and tirades against NAFTA. After Obama won Macomb in 2008 and 2012, Trump captured it in 2016 and 2020.
Then something important happened: In leaning too hard into white identity politics—and perhaps being too focused on what he thought Reagan Democrats wanted—Trump accelerated the rise of a new voting bloc that is, in many ways, the mirror image of the Reagan Democrats.
Call them the Biden Republicans.
Like the Reagan Democrats, they’re heavily white and live in suburbs. But where the Reagan Dems are blue-collar and culturally conservative, Greenberg sees the Biden Republicans as more affluent, highly educated and supportive of diversity. Historically, they identified with the Republican Party as their political home. But the leaders who were supposed to fight for them seem to care more about white grievance and keeping out immigrants; seem to care more about social issues and “owning the libs” than about child-care payments and college tuition. They don’t consider themselves Democrats—at least not yet—but they are voting for them, delivering them majorities in the House and Senate, and making Joe Biden just the fourth candidate in the past century to defeat an incumbent president.”
“Far from being a gateway to rampant fraud, when done correctly mail-in balloting is more secure than in-person voting. Even after an election in which 46 percent of votes were cast by mail—a huge increase that threatened to overwhelm election offices—there is nothing more than anecdotal evidence of problems with the process. In places where mail-in voting has been the norm for years, like Oregon, there is scant evidence of fraud.
Despite what critics claim, “no-excuse absentee voting still must undergo the same rigorous process to ensure ballots are legitimate, including ballot tracking measures and signature verification,” write Hyden and Greenhut (a Reason columnist) in the new R Street study. “These safeguards are highly effective, too.””
“While presidential contests have been consistently competitive since 1988, it’s true that not every race has sat on a knife-edge. For instance, there wasn’t much doubt that Bill Clinton was going to win reelection in 1996, and he won by 8.5 points, the largest margin of victory in the nine elections from 1988 to 2020. But before you doubt that a 10-point margin is a helpful barometer of competitiveness, consider that from 1904 to 1984, 12 elections were settled by double-digit margins compared to just nine by single-digit ones. By comparison, not a single election from 1876 to 1900 or from 1988 to 2020 was a blowout.
It’s no coincidence that the late 19th century is the most comparable period to the present. Few people in the 1880s could mistake a Democrat for a Republican because the parties differed sharply in their views — something that is also true today. Case in point: the last time the average Democrat and Republican in Congress were this far apart ideologically was between the 1870s and early 1900s, according to Voteview, which measures the relative liberalism or conservatism of senators and representatives based on their voting records.”
“how did Georgia go from light red to blue — or at the very least, purple?
The answer is pretty simple: The Atlanta area turned really blue in the Trump era. Definitions differ about the exact parameters of the Atlanta metropolitan area, but 10 counties1 are part of a governing collaborative called the Atlanta Regional Commission. Almost 4.7 million people live in those 10 counties, or around 45 percent of the state’s population.
Until very recently, the Atlanta area wasn’t a liberal bastion. There was a Democratic bloc that long controlled the government within the city limits of Atlanta and a Republican bloc that once dominated the suburbs”
“Imagine that, four years ago, Donald Trump lost the presidential election by 2.9 million votes, but there was no Electoral College to weight the results in his favor. In January 2017, Hillary Clinton was inaugurated as president, and the Trumpist faction of the GOP was blamed for blowing an election Republicans could have won.
The GOP would have been locked out of presidential power for three straight terms, after winning the crucial popular vote only once since 1988. It might have lost the Supreme Court, too.
And so Republicans would likely have done what Democrats did in 1992, after they lost three straight presidential elections: reform their agenda and their messaging, and try to build a broader coalition, one capable of winning power by winning votes. This is the way democracy disciplines political parties: Parties want to win, and to do so, they need to listen to the public. But that’s only true for one of our political parties.
Take the most recent election. Joe Biden is on track to beat Donald Trump by around 5 million votes. But as my colleague Andrew Prokop notes, a roughly 50,000-vote swing in Arizona, Georgia, and Wisconsin would have created a 269-269 tie in the Electoral College, tossing the election to the state delegations in the House, where Trump would’ve won because Republicans control more states, though not more seats. Trump didn’t almost win reelection because of polarization. He almost won reelection because of the Electoral College.”
“The simplest way to understand American politics right now is that we have a two-party system set up to create a center-left political coalition and a far-right political coalition.
Two reinforcing features of our political system have converged to create that result. First, the system weights the votes of small states and rural areas more heavily. Second, elections are administered, and House districts drawn, by partisan politicians.
Over the past few decades, our politics has become sharply divided by density, with Democrats dominating cities and Republicans dominating rural areas. That’s given Republicans an electoral advantage, which they’ve in turn used to stack electoral rules in their favor through aggressive gerrymandering, favorable Supreme Court decisions, and more. As a result, Democrats and Republicans are operating in what are, functionally, different electoral systems, with very different incentives.”
“To reliably win the Electoral College, Democrats need to win the popular vote by 3 or 4 percentage points. To reliably win the Senate, they need to run 6 to 7 points ahead of Republicans. To reliably win the House, they need to win the vote by 3 or 4 points. As such, Democrats need to consciously strategize to appeal to voters who do not naturally agree with them. That’s how they ended up with Joe Biden as their nominee.”
“For Republicans, the incentives are exactly the reverse. They can win the presidency despite getting fewer votes. They can win the Senate despite getting fewer votes. They can win the House despite getting fewer votes. They can control the balance of state legislatures despite getting fewer votes.”
“If Republicans were more worried about winning back some of Biden’s voters rather than placating Trump’s base, they wouldn’t be indulging his post-election tantrum. It would be offensive to the voters they’re losing, and whom they’ll need in the future. But they’re not, and so they have aligned themselves with Trump’s claims of theft — with profoundly dangerous consequences for America.
Trump is not in the White House, refusing to accept the results of the election, because America is polarized. He is there because of the Electoral College. Mitch McConnell is not favored to remain Senate majority leader because America is polarized. He is favored to remain Senate majority leader because the Senate is the most undemocratic legislative chamber in the Western world, and the only way Republicans seem to lose control is to lose successive landslide elections, as happened in 2006 and 2008.
In politics, as in any competition, the teams adopt the strategies the rules demand. America’s political parties are adopting the strategies that their very different electoral positions demand. That has made the Democratic Party a big-tent, center-left coalition that puts an emphasis on pluralistic outreach. And it has let the Republican Party adopt more extreme candidates, dangerous strategies, and unpopular agendas, because it can win most elections even while it’s losing most voters.”
“Despite being a contentious issue across party lines, voters..in cities in six states overwhelmingly approved 18 of these ballot measures, including creating and improving police oversight boards, changing police department staffing and funding, and requiring public access to police body and dashboard camera recordings. While most of these measures are a step toward reform, almost none are radical in terms of reimagining policing. Many are standards already implemented in other cities — and a bare minimum for police accountability, activists say.”
“Trump, it seems, isn’t the only dead-ender holding out more than a month after the election, refusing to acknowledge defeat. Even as Trump lost again in court on Friday, with the Supreme Court rejecting a long-shot effort to overturn the election, he remains a lodestar for denialists of the GOP.
In California, a Republican congressional candidate trounced in Democratic-heavy Los Angeles is still refusing to concede — while simultaneously announcing he’s running for governor. In Maryland, a congressional candidate beaten by more than 40 percentage points is still complaining about “irregularities” in her election. And in Tennessee, a House candidate defeated by more than 57 percentage points has reached out to the ubiquitous pro-Trump lawyer Sidney Powell to air her grievances about an election that no Republican had any chance of winning — but that she’s convinced she did.
The down-ballot parroting of Trump’s baseless claims of widespread voter fraud began right after the election. But in the weeks since, it has evolved into a self-sustaining phenomenon of its own. Republican candidates for House, legislative and gubernatorial races in more than half a dozen states are still refusing to concede.
Echoing the president, these candidates are an early sign of what Republicans say will be a sustained, post-Trump effort to tighten voting restrictions and to reverse measures implemented in many states to make voting easier. They also may mark the beginning of a Trump-inspired trend of candidates who never fold — they just fade away after weeks and months of unsubstantiated allegations of fraud.”
“On Friday, after the Supreme Court’s rejection of an effort to overturn the presidential election, Webber suggested on Twitter that even the court’s action was a sign of something sinister.
“That’s how you know it’s deeper than anyone could have ever imagined,” he said.”
LC: This could lay the groundwork for further deterioration of democracy.