The days of America’s old socially conservative consensus are gone. In place of the evangelical, patriarchal synthesis that ruled American culture for much of the Reagan era has emerged a new and decidedly tolerant ethos manifested in broad support for LGBTQ rights and Black Lives Matter. Despite this sea change, Republicans are doubling and tripling down on the culturally conservative fixations of their right-wing base. This makes no sense as electoral politics until one accounts for the wholesale rejection of majority rule that has overtaken the Republican elite.
When Republicans across the country started introducing anti-trans bills, I wondered to myself, “do they really think this is good politics?” It’s not, for most of the electorate. But evangelicals constitute the largest and by far the most influential cohort in the Republican base. By targeting transgender people, Republicans were playing to the biases of their most reliable supporters.
And that, in the post-Trump era, is the M.O. of the Republican Party. As Democratic super-lawyer Marc Elias reported, Republican panjandrums are scheming out how they can lose the popular vote by more than 7 million in 2024 and still regain the presidency. They make no pretense of seeking support from the majority of Americans. Instead, they seek to exploit the undemocratic nature of America’s political system to rule as a minority with a shrinking, fervent constitutency.
The American political system is troubled and ailing. With institutions such as the Senate and the Electoral College, the United States’ political structures enable a propertied white minority to dominate the country’s government despite emphatically representing the past. By appealing to their strategically privileged base voters, Republicans want to maximize these inequitable structural forces to make their party predominant, if not widely supported.
When one party has deserted the idea of majority rule, our status as a democracy is in peril. As is our international standing: given the state of affairs in America, claims that we are the world’s leading democracy resound as a joke. The Republican Party with its base-only approach to electioneering has veered from the progressive arc in which most Americans had invested themselves as recently as 2008. As Republican Senator Mike Lee asserted, “we’re not a democracy.” Certainly not under Republican rule, and perhaps that’s the problem.
Alexander Jones is an original contributor to PoliticsNC.