The Founding Fathers expressed concern about a “tyranny of the majority” and set up a system of checks and balances to prevent that from happening. Moreover, the differing terms in office for members of the U.S. House of Representatives, U.S. Senate and the Presidency were also established to prevent a majority faction from abusing it’s power. What the Founding Fathers probably never fathomed was that the U.S. would be subject to the tyranny of the minority that the country is currently experiencing.
At the present time according to a recent Gallup poll, 37% of registered voters identify as Republicans and 44% as Democrats. That percentage is reflected in Trump’s current approval rating – which ranges anywhere from 35% to 40% – depending upon what you poll you look at.
The GOP minority status is further evidenced by recent poll findings on key issues. For example, 34% of voters disapprove of the Muller investigation. In addition, 31% of voters believe that Trump has repealed the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Finally, during the Obama era, in most polls, 35% of voters wanted to repeal the ACA and replace it with a Republican replacement plan. For many, many years, the polls have consistently indicated that no more than 30% to 35% of the voters consistently identify with the GOP position on key issues.
Despite that consistent minority status, the GOP has been pretty good at winning elections. The GOP has skillfully taken advantage of the quirks in our Constitutional and electoral system to punch above their weight.
Even though the Democratic nominee has won the popular vote in 6 out of the last 7 presidential elections, the GOP has managed to win the electoral college vote in 2000 and 2016. The only GOP nominee who has won the popular vote since 1988 was George W. Bush in 2004. The Republicans have been able to parlay the small state bias in the electoral college to unexpected and controversial electoral college victories in 2000 and 2016.
The small state bias in the Constitution has also allowed the GOP to control the Senate since the 2014 cycle. In 2016, 45 million Americans voted for the Democratic candidate and 39 million voted for the GOP candidate. Nevertheless, the GOP emerged from the 2016 cycle with a 52-48 majority in the Senate. (That margin has since been narrowed to 51-49 by the election of Doug Jones in Alabama.)
The GOP has been able to control the House since 2011 largely due to extreme gerrymandering. In 2012, even though the Democrats won the popular vote for the U.S. House of Representatives by a 51% to 49% margin, the GOP maintained a 33 seat majority in that body. In the most recent general election cycle in 2016, the GOP won the popular vote by a 49% to 48% majority but maintained a 24 seat advantage. According to experts, the GOP has an extra 22 seats in the House due to gerrymandering.
Due to that gerrymandering, the Democrats will have to win the national popular vote this year by a minimum of approximately 6 points in order to regain a majority in the House of Representatives. That looks very doable since the Democrats currently enjoy a double digit lead in the national vote for the House.
Another advantage the GOP has is their ability to raise vast amounts of campaign cash and to count on their reactionary billionaire allies to set up Super PACs to support their candidates. Since the Supreme Court’s deeply misguided Citizens United decision in 2010, the airwaves have been flooded with deeply dishonest ads funded by dark money. As Don Walton of the Lincoln Journal Star once said: “The problem used to be the uninformed voter; but now it’s the misinformed voter.”
Perhaps the biggest electoral advantage the GOP enjoys is the right wing media. Everyday, the GOP gets millions of dollars in free publicity from the likes of Fox News and Rush Limbaugh. GOP candidates can always count on the right wing media to gin up phony scandals and crises to motivate their voters to go to the polls.
The end result of this dysfunctional system is the all-GOP government we’ve seen since January 20, 2017. The Republicans in Washington tried to pass a health care bill with a 17% approval rating. The recent tax bill that passed only had a 29% approval rating. Now the GOP is talking about cutting Social Security and Medicare to fund their big tax cut for the 1%. The Washington Republicans clearly don’t care about public opinion – they are governing against the will of the majority.
The one big advantage that we Democrats have is that there are more of us and the American people are on our side. When we turn out like we did in 2008 and 2012, we win and get good results. In the recently completed 2017 election cycle, an energized Democratic base turned out en masse and we won elections in New Jersey, Virginia and even Deep Red Alabama. The tide is turning.
The Republicans are on the ropes. The American people don’t like their president and their agenda. We can win – and win big – in November 2018. As Abraham Lincoln said in the Gettysburg Address in 1863: “(T)hat this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom-and that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth.” Now let’s get it done!