“Republicans across America are pressing local jurisdictions and state lawmakers to make typically sleepy school board races into politicized, partisan elections in an attempt to gain more statewide control and swing them to victory in the 2022 midterms.
Tennessee lawmakers in October approved a measure that allows school board candidates to list their party affiliation on the ballot. Arizona and Missouri legislators are weighing similar proposals. And GOP lawmakers in Florida will push a measure in an upcoming legislative session that would pave the way for partisan school board races statewide, potentially creating new primary elections that could further inflame the debate about how to teach kids.
The issue is about to spread to other states: The center-right American Enterprise Institute is urging conservatives to “strongly consider” allowing partisan affiliations to appear on ballots next to school board candidates’ names, as part of broader efforts to boost voter turnout for the contests. A coalition of conservative leaders — including representatives of Heritage Foundation, Manhattan Institute and Kenneth Marcus, the Education Department civil rights chief under former Secretary Betsy DeVos — have separately called for on-cycle school board elections as part of sweeping efforts to “end critical race theory in schools.”
In Florida, school boards are among the last elected officials who blocked policies of Gov. Ron DeSantis. If Republicans succeed in pushing the state to strip school board elections of their nonpartisan status and gain more representation on school boards, they could break the last holdouts who regularly defy the governor.”
“Making school board races partisan could make an already heated political landscape even more contentious”
““I do think party labels would produce more informed voters,” West said. “But, at the same time, it would likely accelerate emerging trend of nationalization of local education politics.””
“First, Trump is endorsing more candidates earlier. So far in the 2022 midterm cycle (as of Dec. 7), he has endorsed 32 candidates in Republican primaries to fill roles in the U.S. Senate, U.S. House and state governorships. That’s more than double the number of candidates Trump had endorsed by the end of December 2019.”
“Trump has actively tried to unseat eight incumbent members of his own party: He has endorsed primary challengers to Rep. Liz Cheney, Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, Idaho Gov. Brad Little, Sen. Lisa Murkowski and Rep. Fred Upton, and he also endorsed challengers to Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker and Rep. Anthony Gonzalez — before bothannounced they would not seek reelection (decisions that may have been influenced by Trump’s opposition). Opposing the reelection of an incumbent from your own party is quite rare, even for Trump. In 2018 and 2020 combined, Trump endorsed only two candidates who were challenging incumbents”
“not only is Trump endorsing earlier in national races, but he’s also backing candidates in state-level elections, particularly for secretary of state.
Trump has endorsed candidates for secretary of state — a state’s top election official — in Arizona, Georgia and Michigan. This is an unusually niche endorsement for a president to make; Trump didn’t endorse in any secretary of state primaries in 2018, for instance. But the logic here is clear: These three secretaries of state in question refused to overturn the 2020 presidential result in their states, and Trump is now attempting to fill these positions with officials who baselessly think the 2020 presidential election was stolen from him.”
“Campaign money flows to those holding power or those positioned to do so, and those in the lobbying business are incentivized to play up their role in facilitating it. But corporate America’s potential embrace of the congressional GOP is notable for what preceded it. Following the Capitol riot on Jan. 6, many top corporations vowed to withhold their political donations to the Republican lawmakers who objected to the certification of Joe Biden’s electoral college victory, which includes members in the House GOP leadership ranks. Comcast, Mastercard, American Express and others announced they would not give to those lawmakers; others suspended political contributions entirely.”
““Where we are today from where we were six to eight months ago is a fundamentally different political environment,” said David Tamasi, managing director of Chartwell Strategy Group and a lobbyist with ties to former President Donald Trump. “I think people are realizing that you know it’s likely that the House is gonna flip, and that you’re gonna have to engage with some of the folks that are going to have greater political profiles than they did previously.”
For those on K Street, corporate PAC donations serve as a key tool for access and favors. And the decision to withhold donations vexed GOP lawmakers, two Republican lobbyists said. Additionally, GOP lobbyists at major companies have grown frustrated with expectations that they are supposed to deliver results for their businesses while unable to give to those members who objected to the results of the election, according to one K Street insider. The same lobbyist speculated that the GOP’s frustration with the business community over the lack of donations could cause the party to be less amenable to corporate interests.”
““I think they’ll want to figure out how to repair relationships with people that hold gavels and hold chairmanships that are important,” Geduldig said.”
“in the U.S., one party has become a major illiberal outlier: The Republican Party. Scholars at the V-Dem Institute at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden have been monitoring and evaluating political parties around the world. And one big area of study for them is liberalism and illiberalism, or a party’s commitment (or lack thereof) to democratic norms prior to elections. And as the chart below shows, of conservative, right-leaning parties across the globe, the Republican Party has more in common with the dangerously authoritarian parties in Hungary and Turkey than it does with conservative parties in the U.K. or Germany.”
“People in countries with majoritarian(ish) democracies, or two very dominant parties dominating its politics like in the U.S. — think Canada, Britain, Australia — have displayed more unfavorable feelings toward the political opposition.”
“another team of scholars, Noam Gidron, James Adams and Will Horne, shows that citizens in majoritarian democracies with less proportional representation dislike both their own parties and opposing parties more than citizens in multiparty democracies with more proportional representation.1”
“This pattern may have something to do with the shifting politics of coalition formation in proportional democracies, where few political enemies are ever permanent (e.g., the unlikely new governing coalition in Israel). This also echoes something social psychologists have found in running experiments on group behavior: Breaking people into three groups instead of two leads to less animosity. Something, in other words, appears to be unique about the binary condition, or in this case, the two-party system, that triggers the kind of good-vs-evil, dark-vs-light, us-against-them thinking that is particularly pronounced in the U.S.”
“Blocking an inquiry into the January 6 attack on the Capitol, embracing Trump’s “Big Lie” that the election was stolen, making it easier for partisans to tamper with the process of counting votes: These are not the actions of a party committed to the basic idea of open, representative government.
It’s common to call this GOP behavior “anti-democratic,” but the description can only go so far. It tells us what they’re moving America away from, but not where they want to take it. The term “minority rule” is closer, but euphemistic; it puts the Republican actions in the same category as a Supreme Court ruling, countermajoritarian moves inside a democratic framework rather than something fundamentally opposed to it.
It’s worth being clear about this: The GOP has become an authoritarian party pushing an authoritarian policy agenda.”
“When people think of authoritarian governments, they typically think of police states and 20th-century totalitarianism. But “authoritarianism” is actually a broad term, encompassing very different governments united mostly by the fact that they do not transfer power through free and fair elections.”
“competitive authoritarian systems survive in part by convincing citizens that they are living in a democracy. That’s how they maintain their legitimacy and prevent popular uprisings. As such, they do not conduct the kind of obvious sham elections held in places like Bashar al-Assad’s Syria (he won the 2021 contest with 95 percent of the “vote”).
In competitive authoritarianism, the opposition does have some ability to win a bit of power through, well, competition — even if the scope of their possible victories are limited.
It’s a tricky balance for the regime to pull off: rigging elections enough to maintain power indefinitely while still permitting enough democracy that citizens don’t rise up in outrage. Many competitive authoritarian regimes have collapsed under the stress, either transitioning to democracy (like Taiwan) or forcefully repressing the opposition and becoming a more traditional autocracy (like Belarus).”
“Happily, the United States still passes the most basic test of whether a system is democratic: whether the public can vote out its leaders. But it is hard to deny that the Republican Party has begun chipping away at that baseline principle, using the flaws in our political system to entrench their power.”
“In order for democracy to work, competing parties must accept that they can lose elections, and that it’s okay. But when partisans see their political opposition not just as the opposition, but as a genuine threat to the well-being of the nation, support for democratic norms fades because “winning” becomes everything. Politics, in turn, collapses into an all-out war of “us against them,” a kind of “pernicious polarization” that appears over and over again in democratic collapses, and bears a striking similarity to what’s currently happening in the U.S.
There’s no shortage of plausible explanations for why U.S. politics has become so polarized, but many of these theories describe impossible-to-reverse trends that have played out across developed democracies, like the rise of social media and the increased political salience of globalization, immigration and urban-rural cultural divides. All of these trends are important contributors, for sure. But if they alone are driving illiberalism and hyper-partisanship in the U.S., then the problem should be consistent across all western democracies. But it isn’t.
What’s happening in the U.S. is distinct in four respects.
First, the animosity that people feel toward opposing parties relative to their own (what’s known as affective polarization in political science) has grown considerably over the last four decades. According to a June 2020 paper from economists Levi Boxell, Matthew Gentzkow and Jesse M. Shapiro, the increase in affective polarization in the U.S. is the greatest compared to that of eight other OECD countries over the same time period.
Second, the change in how Americans feel about their party and other parties has been driven by a dramatic decrease in positive feelings toward the opposing party. In most (though not all) of the nine democracies, voters have become a little less enthusiastic about their own parties. But only in the U.S. have partisans turned decidedly against the other party.”
” Third, more so than in other countries, Americans report feeling isolated from their own party. When asked to identify both themselves and their favored party on an 11-point scale in a 2012 survey, Americans identified themselves as, on average, 1.3 units away from the party that comes closest to espousing their beliefs”
“This gap is the highest difference Rodden found among respondents in comparable democracies. This isolation matters, too, because it means that parties can’t count on enthusiasm from their own voters — instead, they must demonize the political opposition in order to mobilize voters.
Fourth, and perhaps most significant, in the U.S., one party has become a major illiberal outlier: The Republican Party. Scholars at the V-Dem Institute at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden have been monitoring and evaluating political parties around the world. And one big area of study for them is liberalism and illiberalism, or a party’s commitment (or lack thereof) to democratic norms prior to elections. And as the chart below shows, of conservative, right-leaning parties across the globe, the Republican Party has more in common with the dangerously authoritarian parties in Hungary and Turkey than it does with conservative parties in the U.K. or Germany.
The U.S. is truly exceptional in just how polarized its politics have become, but it’s not alone. People in countries with majoritarian(ish) democracies, or two very dominant parties dominating its politics like in the U.S. — think Canada, Britain, Australia — have displayed more unfavorable feelings toward the political opposition.
In fact, in a new book, “American Affective Polarization in Comparative Perspective,” another team of scholars, Noam Gidron, James Adams and Will Horne, shows that citizens in majoritarian democracies with less proportional representation dislike both their own parties and opposing parties more than citizens in multiparty democracies with more proportional representation.”
“there is also something particular about what’s happening in the U.S., even compared to other majoritarian(ish) democracies. For example, the major parties on the right in Canada and Australia have not become as illiberal as their American counterpart.”
“While it is both easy and appropriate to criticize Trump and fellow Republicans for their anti-democratic descent in service of the “Big Lie,” it takes more work to appreciate how the structure of the party system itself laid the groundwork for the former president’s politics of loathing and fear. A politics defined by hatred of political opponents is a politics ripe for hateful illiberalism.
The new scholarship on comparative polarization is crucial in understanding this dynamic. In one sense, it offers a very depressing view: Given the current binary structure of American party politics, this conflict is mostly locked in. No level of social media regulation or media literacy or exhortation to civility is going to make much of a difference. But it also offers a kind of master key: If the structure of a party system is as crucial as these studies suggest it is, then the solution is obvious: The U.S. may want to change its voting system to become more proportional.”
“Broadly speaking, there are two kinds of voter suppression laws. Many provisions currently being pushed by Republican state lawmakers make it harder to cast a ballot in a certain way — such as by mailing in the ballot or placing it in a drop box. Or they place unnecessary procedural obstacles in the way of voters. These provisions often serve no purpose other than to make it more difficult to vote, but they also are not insurmountable obstacles.
Other provisions are more virulent. They might disqualify voters for no valid reason. Or allow partisan officials to refuse to certify an election, even if there are no legitimate questions about who won. Or make it so difficult for some voters, who are likely to vote for the party that is out of power, to cast their ballot that it’s nigh impossible for the incumbent party to lose.”
“the most common kind of law that seeks to make the results of an election impervious to the will of the voters: gerrymandering. The Census Bureau expects to provide states with the data they need to draw new congressional and state legislative districts this fall. Once that data is available, states like Georgia and Texas are likely to draw maps that seek to entrench Republican rule as much as possible. (Democrats also engage in gerrymandering, but blue states are more likely to use independent commissions to draw district lines, or to have other safeguards that limit partisan redistricting.)
Gerrymanders can potentially make the fight to control a legislative body all but impervious to the will of the voters. In 2018, for example, Democratic candidates for the Wisconsin state assembly received 54 percent of the popular vote, but Republicans won nearly two-thirds of the seats.”
“So far, Democrats and Republicans have made some headway on the bipartisan deal. They have agreed to a very vague framework that includes funding for roads and bridges, public transit, passenger and freight rail, electric vehicle infrastructure, clean drinking water, and broadband internet, among a few other areas. The agreement goes into almost no detail beyond those broad categories — with lawmakers now working to get more specific as they transform that framework into actual legislation.
Where both sides haven’t reached any agreement yet is how all of this will be paid for. Democrats want to pay for it largely by undoing parts of former President Donald Trump’s tax law, while Republicans suggested raising the gas tax and electric vehicle charging fees. With both sides rejecting each other’s ideas, they instead put out a list of potential revenue sources, ranging from stronger enforcement of current tax laws to spending caps to public-private partnerships. But the sides haven’t reached any concrete agreements here, and all of these ideas may not even be enough to fund the full bill.
Democrats have also promised to pass an additional infrastructure bill through reconciliation (to bypass the filibuster on a party-line vote). This bill would aim to fill in the other parts of Biden’s agenda left out of the bipartisan deal, including broader action on climate change and “human infrastructure” measures like an expanded child tax credit and elder care.
But the party hasn’t come to an agreement on this measure. Manchin suggested the bill could be as little as $2 trillion, while Sanders has worked on a $6 trillion proposal. There is, suffice to say, a very wide space in between.
In short: A lot is up in the air. The specific details are still being worked out. It’s not clear if any of this will happen.”
“Senate Republicans spent months praising Joe Manchin for his insistence on cross-party compromise. Next week they will almost surely end his hopes for a bipartisan deal on elections.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said he believed all 50 Republicans would oppose Sen. Manchin’s (D-W.Va.) slimmed-down elections compromise, which focuses on expanding early voting and ending partisan gerrymandering in federal elections. And it’s not clear there’s a single Republican vote to even begin debate on the matter, potentially dooming Manchin’s proposals before they can even make it into the bill.”