Republicans have usurped American Democracy. In 2018, Pew found that 31% of Americans identified as Democrats, and 26% identified as Republicans. An additional 38% called themselves independents. Research shows, however, that most independents still favor one party. When Pew dug deeper, it found that 45% of independents lean toward Democrats, 34% of independents lean toward Republicans, and only 18% of independents are truly independent.
So, 48% of Americans lean Democratic while only 39% lean Republican. While specific portions of identification may vary from year to year, the general trend is that the left is usually slightly larger than the right. So that begs the question: how do Republicans continue to win elections and dominate our national government despite generally being less favored by voters?
Currently, at the federal level, the president is Republican, 53% of the Senate is Republican (compared to 45% Democrat) and, assuming that the Senate pushes through the nomination of Amy Coney Barrett, six out of nine Supreme Court Justices will be conservative.
The House of Representatives is the only federal governing body whose ideological composition comes close to representing that of the American public: 53% Democrat and 45% Republican.
But, clearly, the Senate, Supreme Court and presidency are all out-of-line with the alignment of the American public. That is by no means an accident. Republicans are keen to welcome manipulative devices to make sure that all votes matter less and that fewer people are able to vote in the first place. The Electoral College, redistricting, dark money and voter suppression are chief among them.
The Electoral College is the reason we currently have a Republican president who lost the popular vote by 2.8 million votes. In the 2020 General Election, he could theoretically lose by 5 million popular votes and still carry the Electoral College. Republicans defend tooth and nail this bizarre institution. They claim that, without it, cities would dominate the countryside and that rural people would not have a say in national elections. It may seem reasonable, but this nonsensical view argues that votes from cities should count less than rural votes. Urban or rural, one vote should be one vote.
Republican strategists know that the Electoral College is a huge structural boost to their party. According to Vox, “Republicans will win nearly one in six presidential races where they lose the popular vote by 3 points.” Plus, any inversion of the popular vote through the Electoral College is more likely to benefit Republicans. And as long as Republicans can use the Electoral College to usurp the presidency, they can maintain a conservative grip on federal courts.
Second, Republicans can use redistricting and gerrymandering to dilute concentrated liberal populations to maintain control. In the 2018 Midterm Elections, Republicans used gerrymandering to carry significantly more seats in the US House than their vote share would have suggested. Of course, the left has been guilty of using unfair gerrymandering practices too. However, analysis has shown that Republicans tend to use gerrymandering to their benefit more than Democrats.
Third, Republicans use dark, corporate money to launch political campaigns to sway public opinion. In 2010, the Citizens United v. Federal Elections Commission ruling opened the floodgates to unlimited political spending from wealthy, corporate and special interest group donors. Once again, allowing for unlimited outside spending that most individual citizens cannot keep up with has been used to the benefit of both parties. However, yet again, this decision has benefited Republicans more than it has Democrats simply because wealthy individuals and large corporations tend to hold conservative ideology themselves.
Finally, Republicans favor suppressive voting measures. First, the fact that they refuse to make Election Day a national holiday discourages voting. Second, Republicans seem eager to want to increase barriers to voting: Voter Identification Laws, for example, have served to arbitrarily increase requirements to allow people to vote. Republicans also support measures to limit who can vote in the first place. In 2016, 6.1 million Americans were denied voting rights because they had been convicted of a felon. According to the Sentencing Project, “One in 13 African Americans of voting age is disenfranchised, a rate more than four times greater than that of non-African Americans.”
And now, in 2020, Republicans are discouraging mail-in voting during a global pandemic. Trump, for his part, took every opportunity during the first Presidential Debate to stir concerns of voter fraud in mail-in voting. Cries of voter fraud underpin most Republican calls for tighter voter restriction. The only problem? Voter fraud is extremely rare, almost to the point of being a non-issue.
It is more likely that Republicans cling to suppressive measures because they are aware of their numerical disadvantage on a national scale. Had these distortions not been present in 2016, Trump would not be president; Gorsuch, Kavanaugh and (potentially) Amy Coney Barrett would not be on the Supreme Court; the House would be even more Democratic and the Republican majority in the Senate would be eroded if not entirely gone.
So as long as Republicans are allowed to use these anti-democracy measures as a part of their arsenal, their role in national decision-making will be statistically inflated. It is only in entirely removing these tools that the American government will be more ideologically representative of the American public.
Sam Smith is a rising senior studying geography at Ohio University. Please note that the views and opinions of the columnists do not reflect those of The Post. Want to talk more about it? Let Sam know by tweeting him @sambobsmith_.