Wednesday, December 2, 2020

A Center-Right Nation*

 It's been only a month since election day, but it feels like a million years. Now that the hot takes have faded it's time to look at it all with clearer eyes. There's a lot going on, but one thing that seems pretty obvious is that possibilities for political change are currently greatly hampered by structural events.

Mitt Romney once proclaimed that America was a "center right nation," although that nation voted against him for Barack Obama. In fact, voters have given the popular vote win to the Democrat over the Republican in seven of the last eight presidential elections. 

Despite that fact the Supreme Court has a 6-3 conservative majority. From 1993 to 2021 Democrats have controlled both the White House and Congress together for only six of those years. The electoral college, Senate, gerrymandering, and voter suppression (either actively via voter ID laws or passively via a system where people must register) have made it difficult for progressives to make gains on the national level. 

The electorate is most certainly center-left, based on their choices, but the outcomes have been extremely right wing. In the 28 year period when Democrats were winning the popular vote almost every time the United States engaged in a misbegotten neoconservative invasion of Iraq. It has radically slashed taxes for the wealthy and corporations. It has built a wall on the border and broken apart immigrant families while imprisoning their children. It has banned immigrants from several Muslim countries. It has weakened environmental protections and pulled out from climate accords. It has shredded the possibility for improved relations with nations like Cuba and Iran. 

In the 2020 election Joe Biden won a very clear popular vote victory but still had to sweat the electoral college. That big win did not translate to more seats in the House and control of the Senate. The entire structure of our system is currently set up to make it possible for Democrats to get real power only in massive landslides. Republicans can have the same if they still lose but only by a little. 

This structure means we will not get universal health care, a Green New Deal, free college, or subsidized child care. With Republicans likely controlling the Senate they will use the debt ceiling to hold the country hostage and force austerity in the next administration. I guarantee it. 

The only options are to appeal to voters in the small states to win the Senate, or revolutionary change. The former means having to give up on calling for the very progressive policies that winning the Senate is supposed to secure. The latter just isn't going to happen. 

The next four years will bring gridlock and stasis, and right now that looks like the best we can do under our current Constitutional arrangement. I plan on putting my efforts on the local level because there's no point in bothering with national politics apart from hoping for some good executive orders. 

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