A front-page article in the Washington Post yesterday echoed a wider discussion on cable news about changes Democratic presidential hopefuls want to make to various elements of our Democracy. The article focused on getting rid of the electoral college, undoing gerrymandering and expanding the number of justices on the Supreme Court, and the tone was thoroughly critical. It also named Trump as the main motivation for the proposed changes.
It’s a good article and an important topic, but the article misses a broader and more crucial context. Yes, Trump’s election was the second time a (Republican) candidate won the White House while losing the popular vote. And the electoral college is a malignant vestige of slavery that needs to be jettisoned that many Democrats are motivated to change. But Republicans have been “cheating” to win for many years. Aside from the extreme, racially motivated gerrymandering they’ve perfected in recent decades, Republicans have also been systematically making voting more difficult for everyone but the affluent. They’ve passed bogus voter ID laws, purged voter roles for possible felons, duplicates and dead people, and enacted state-level laws that kick people off of voter rolls simply for not voting.
But don’t forget Mitch McConnell. When not in power, nobody bitched and hectored Democrats about sticking to sacred procedure and adhering to process more than sanctimonious McConnell. But once in power, no Senator in modern history has done more to toss onto the garbage heap Senate rules, traditions and precedent than McConnell. His most obvious and consequential system-cheat was not allowing President Obama to pick a Supreme Court justice in the final year of his presidency, what has become known as the “stolen seat.” McConnell also stopped adhering to the “blue slip” rules on Circuit Court nominations. And he is also currently trying to change the rules for the process of processing judicial nominations to streamline it and pack the courts.
Republicans also spent a lot of time in recent years lying about “massive voter fraud” in California during the 2016 election, “impersonation” fraud that has been proven false–except in the fevered mind of Trump. But then, in an ironic twist, an actual case of massive voter fraud perpetrated by a Republican came to light in North Carolina that invalidated a Congressional election because illegal cheating likely affected the outcome.
Republicans have become a minority party in the United States. They have fewer voter registrations than Democrats, and their ideas are increasingly unpopular and outside the mainstream. They can only win and hold onto power by cheating or changing rules, like relying on massive funding from plutocrats like the Koch Brothers to mount huge, well-funded efforts to alter state election rules, ballot rules, etc. to stack the deck for Republicans on a local level. So we can’t let their self-righteous blather go unchallenged with it comes to the Democratic contenders. If Democrats want to try to rewrite rules or procedure, they’re just following a long tradition set by Mitch McConnell and the Republicans. What’s good for the GOP goose has to be okay for the Democrats, too. When the media or Republicans whine about it, they are ignoring recent history and holding Democrats to a different standard than Republicans. We have to fight that dishonest narrative.