29 July 2019

Restoring democracy

If the Democrats win next year's election, then aside from "normal" legislation in areas like health care and taxes, it will be necessary to repair the damage the Republicans have done to American democracy and restore a level playing field.  This is what I believe will be necessary to accomplish that.  It assumes the Democrats hold the House and win the Presidency and a Senate majority.

1) Abolish the filibuster so legislation can be passed by simple majority in the Senate.  This will be necessary to get anything else done, since there's no realistic possibility of Democrats winning 60 Senate seats.  Allowing 41 Senators to block legislation that would otherwise pass is grossly undemocratic, especially when each state has two Senators regardless of population, so that those 41 may represent far less than 41% of the American people.

2) Pass legislation to enlarge the Supreme Court, and appoint and confirm non-wingnut judges to the new seats.  This is necessary to offset the effect of two judges (Gorsuch and Kavanaugh) having been appointed by a President illegitimately elected due to foreign interference and laws calculated to suppress the minority vote, one of those seats having been stolen from President Obama anyway by McConnell.

The objection was raised in a comment here that this "would make the Court look partisan", but in fact the Supreme Court already not merely looks partisan, it actually is partisan, with those two judges who are there only because of flagrant violation of democratic norms and the process by which such judges have always been selected.  One might also object that the Republicans would merely enlarge the court again and appoint more wingnuts as soon as they get a chance, but doing so would require a majority of both Houses plus the Presidency, a trifecta the Republicans would be very unlikely to achieve in the foreseeable future (see below).

3) Pass federal legislation sweeping away all state-level gerrymandering and vote-suppression laws.  The Republicans rely on gimmicks like these to keep political power beyond what the number of actual votes they get would justify.  Eliminating such gimmicks would restore the "one person, one vote" principle; the Republicans would need to either broaden the base of voters they appeal to, or see their legislative power shrink to what the size of their voting base justifies.

4) Pass federal legislation guaranteeing election security by whatever means are determined to be most effective -- mandating paper ballots, increasing security on computers that handle election-related data, or whatever else.  Yes, this would be legal.  Article 1, section 4 of the Constitution gives the states the authority to manage elections, but also gives Congress the power to "by Law make or alter such Regulations".  Congress has successfully intervened in corrupt state voting practices in the past.  It would also be a good idea to enact a nationwide version of the vote-by-mail system used here in Oregon, where it has proven highly effective at increasing voter turnout.

The Republicans would, of course, scream bloody murder, but they are pretty much guaranteed to crank it up to 11 no matter what the Democrats do.  Maximal outrage and hysteria is their default setting now.  Trying to make nice with them and cater to their frothing delusions doesn't do any good.  Obama spent eight years proving that.

The above program is actually doable by simple Congressional majorities plus the President.  It would do no more than restore effective democracy by canceling out the various schemes the Republicans have imposed over the years to tilt the playing field in their favor and entrench minority rule.  In fact, it still wouldn't level the playing field entirely, since the Senate and the Electoral College would still over-represent states with small populations, the majority of which lean Republican*.  So they would retain a small part of their unfair advantage, but there's nothing we can do about that, since changing those things would require a Constitutional amendment.

Enacting this program would require some boldness on the part of elected Democrats, but we need to be as ruthless in restoring democracy as the Republicans have been in undermining it.

[*It's still unlikely that Republican party as presently constituted will be competitive for the Presidency much longer, because demographic changes are pushing Texas toward becoming a swing state and eventually a blue state.  Eradicating vote-suppression laws would allow this shift in Texas to happen more quickly.]


Blogger Debra She Who Seeks said...

You desperately need election financing/contribution reform too.

29 July, 2019 16:30  
Blogger Sixpence Notthewiser said...

Republicans have done irreparable damage to the government in their blind rush for power. Vicious, power hunger vermin from hell. Their imposition of Cheeto as president is backed by their desire to stay in power and that has wrecked the American government system. It’ll take years to undo the damage.


30 July, 2019 03:03  
Blogger Mary said...

Excellent suggestions and would make things evenly fairly, but I don’t see it happening. Too much apathy and ignorance of the public at large. And my real fear and I almost feel is a certainty, is that trump will win again. He has proven his extreme racism of late, but more, he has exposed how many hard hearted racists live among us.

30 July, 2019 03:49  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Regarding item 3, I think the most effective way to address it is through multi-member districts (with an even number of seats when possible; my personal preference is 4), using the Single Transferrable Vote method, a variant of ranked choice voting. By establishing a virtual overlay of districts on a single map, gerrymandering becomes virtually impossible. Such an approach also
- increases chances for election of minorities (in a 4-member district, the winning percentage is 20%)
- moots the problem of geographical concentration. If a 4-member MMD has 80% of one voting bloc, they'll win 3 out of 4 seats.

It would also be necessary to eliminate all taxpayer-run (and financed) party primaries.

30 July, 2019 05:26  
Blogger Professor Chaos said...

Amen and Hallelujah!
Re: SCOTUS, would there even need to be legislation? I don't think it is written anywhere that the Supreme Court must have 9 members. Couldn't the next pres just nominate a couple more judges and dare the GOP to try and stop him?

30 July, 2019 08:49  
Blogger Professor Chaos said...

Also, statehood for D.C.
Its just morally wrong that there people get no representation. There are more people in DC than in some of these red States.

30 July, 2019 08:50  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Saved as a favorite, I really like your website!

30 July, 2019 12:25  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Debra: That would be a good thing to do, but I'm not sure it's as critical as many people believe. Candidates and issues have often lost despite having more money. Money basically buys ads; it can't make people vote for something they're opposed to.

Sixpence: That's been clear since the theft of the Merrick Garland seat, at least. Hence the importance of getting them out next year, so we can start fixing things.

Mary: The public didn't seem apathetic during the 2018 election. Trump could win again, but I think it's unlikely -- unless too many voters decide things are hopeless and don't bother to vote.

Anon: I don't think multi-member districts are doable without a Constitutional amendment, which isn't realistically possible. I'm also very wary of anything that might help third parties to win actual seats. In other countries where the system makes it easy for third parties to get into the legislature, it leads to coalition governments and lunatic-fringe elements getting excessive influence.

Professor: Yes, it does take legislation. Congress originally set the number of Supreme Court judges at six in 1789, then expanded it to seven in 1807 and nine in 1869. It has been nine since then, but Congress still has the power to change the number.

Statehood for DC (and Puerto Rico) is another thing that would become possible with control of Congress. I hope that will be looked at too.

Anon: Thanks!

30 July, 2019 13:20  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Infidel: The Constitution does not specify the method of apportionment for federal representatives. There are multi-member districts in multiple states right now. Unfortunately, they tend to do thing like give voters multiple votes, equal to the number of seats. I think THAT should be unconstitutional, because it makes the election even less representative. For example, a district with 10 seats and an electorate that’s 49.99% Democratic and 50.01% Republican could end up with 10 Republicans elected. (Switch parties to taste).

As for coalition governments, I don’t see how that would be worse than what the U.S. has now. And it wouldn’t necessarily be third parties; it could be no-party candidates.

31 July, 2019 12:12  
Blogger Shaw Kenawe said...

If the Dems continue to hold the House and if they win back a majority in the Senate.

Otherwise, all of your excellent ideas will never get passed. We can't even get Moscow Mitch to ensure that the Russians won't interfere in the next election.

01 August, 2019 12:18  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Yes, I had to assume that. Very little will get done otherwise, at least along these lines. It's going to be hard enough getting all the Democrats on board. Even if we get a Senate majority, the margin won't be very large.

01 August, 2019 12:45  

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