Juan Williams: American democracy in peril
What can diminish faith in America as a beacon of democracy to the world?
How about the emerging realization of an awful pattern in which the American political party that wins the most votes at the ballot box is denied control of the House of Representatives, Senate and White House?
Even more damaging to democracy is having the party that wins with fewer votes celebrate extremist elements while ignoring the will of the majority of voters.
Take a look at today’s major political issues. Time after time, a minority of Republican voters is overruling the will of our nation’s majority of voters:
Appointments to the Supreme Court: Having blocked President Obama from exercising his right to put a pro-choice judge on the court, the 2016 Republican Party platform called for the appointment of judges who will end legal abortion by overturning Roe v. Wade.
But last month, a Kaiser poll found a clear majority of Americans, 67 percent, want judges to uphold a woman’s right to choose to have an abortion. Those results track with a recent Quinnipiac University poll that found 63 percent of Americans favor keeping Roe v. Wade.
Health care: Even as President Trump and Congressional Republicans have repealed the individual mandate, and bad-mouthed the rest of the Affordable Care Act, a Quinnipiac poll found 51 percent of Americans want ObamaCare to remain in place.
Tax cuts: President Trump’s signature legislative achievement is disapproved of by 41 percent of Americans versus the 34 percent who approve, according to a Monmouth poll. Quinnipiac found 46 percent disapproval of the tax cuts, which primarily benefit the wealthy and corporate interests. Among Americans with a job, nearly half, 49 percent, tell pollsters the tax cuts have not raised their wages.
On major issues from abortion, to health care, taxes and certainly on separating children from parents at the border, the majority of Americans stand with Democrats and against President Trump.
Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank recently put a fine point on this idea.
“Now we have a Supreme Court nomination — the second in as many years — from an unpopular president who lost the popular vote by 2.8 million. The nominee will be forced through by also-unpopular Senate Republicans, who, like House Republicans, did not win a majority of the vote in 2016,” Milbank argued.
This is not a matter of Democrats whining about losing the 2016 election. This is an ongoing outrage against majority rule.
Gerald Seib wrote in the Wall Street Journal last week that if faith in the fairness and integrity of the electoral system is lost, “the chances that citizens will resort to other darker means for venting their frustration go up significantly.”
The filmmaker Michael Moore expressed deep anger at the decline of democracy when he recently told late night talk show host Stephen Colbert that Democrats have won the popular vote in six of the last seven presidential elections but have won the White House only four times.
In 2000 and again in 2016, a Republican won the presidency while receiving fewer votes than his Democratic opponent.
“The Republicans have only won once since 1988,” Moore said. That was in “in 2004, with Bush, that’s the only time they’ve won the popular vote! The country we live in doesn’t want the Republicans in the White House! They don’t want them running this country! We’re the majority!”
This corrosion of American democracy has reached the point that some big Republican voices are finally rebelling against the current Trump-led GOP.
George Will, the dean of conservative columnists, has asked Republicans to vote for Democrats this fall to “affirm the nation’s honor,” and to isolate Trump.
Last week, Max Boot wrote in the Washington Post that, as a principled conservative, he is “rooting” for Democrats to win the House and Senate in the midterm elections because “like postwar Germany and Japan, the Republican Party must be destroyed before it can be rebuilt.”
Wow. When was the last time you heard a conservative writer link Republicans to Hitler’s Third Reich and Hirohito’s empire? Boot also said the GOP under Trump is no longer “a conservative party with a white-nationalist fringe” but has become a “white-nationalist party with a conservative fringe.”
The week before, Steve Schmidt, who led the GOP’s presidential campaign in 2008, warned that with Trump as the top Republican, the party is a threat to the nation.
“The American people are fed a daily diet of nonsense-talk and lies… Nobody should underestimate the threat posed by a political party where conservatism is now defined by absolute obedience to a leader with autocratic tendencies who fetishizes dictators and autocrats all over the world,” he said.
Former Florida Republican Congressman David Jolly issued a similar warning last October. He said the country would be “better off” with Democrats in the House majority because Trump might “put this nation at risk, and this Republican Congress has done nothing to check his power.”
Dissident Republicans voting for Democrats may well be the best hope democracy has if it is to survive.
The Democrats — and American democracy — need all the help they can get.