Most of us can provide many good reasons for defeating President Trump and many good suggestions for how to do it. We also need to think, though, about how we got here.

For much of the last two decades, the Republican Party has been America’s minority party and at the same time America’s governing party. That is, the proportion of votes cast in U.S House of Representative and U.S. Senate elections for Democratic candidates has fairly regularly been higher than the proportion of Democratic candidates actually elected.

A chart illustrating gerrymandering in its most basic form – how to steal an election by Steven Nass via Wikipedia.org and used under a Creative Commons license.

The reason is gerrymandering. Both parties have always gerrymandered, but Republicans have recently taken the practice to an extreme that seriously distorts electoral results. Moreover, in two presidential elections in the last two decades, the Republican candidate won fewer votes than the Democratic candidate but was nevertheless awarded the victory; both times, the Republicans  governed in an entirely partisan fashion, as if they had won an overwhelming mandate. The reason is the Electoral College.

Other, dubiously legal methods keep down the Democratic vote in many states. On the pretext of voter fraud (which is very rare), Republican lawmakers and state officials make voter registration difficult, requiring documents poor or barely literate people are less likely to have. Or they aggressively purge names from voter rolls if the person didn’t vote in the last election. (Non-voters are disproportionately Democratic-leaning.) Pleading budgetary restraints, Republican states often close polling stations in heavily Democratic districts. The cumulative result is that Democrats are substantially underrepresented in the vote count.

All this is profoundly undemocratic. For some reason, the Democratic Party has not tried to do much about it in the past. Perhaps the leaders of that party prefer minority status rather than to risk popular insurgencies that would threaten their control of the party. In any case, our task is clear: we must do everything possible to elect the Democrats in November — and then we must force them to make our political process far more democratic.

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Image Credit: A chart illustrating gerrymandering in its most basic form – how to steal an election by Steven Nass via Wikipedia.org and used under a Creative Commons license.

George Scialabba

George Scialabba

George Scialabba is an essayist and literary critic whose work has appeared in The New Yorker, The Nation, The New Republic, The Baffler, The Boston Globe, Dissent, and many other journals. His writings have been collected in five volumes: Slouching Toward Utopia, Low Dishonest Decades, For the Republic, The Modern Predicament, and What Are Intellectuals Good For?