The Republican National Committee headquarters, Sept. 9, 2014.
Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty

When Republicans’ hostility toward democracy gets overt

Updated

Donald Trump has spent much of his presidency promoting a map of the United States featuring Republican areas in red and Democratic areas in blue. The point, of course, is for people to see the image, notice the prevalence of scarlet, and assume that Trump’s GOP is dominant.

A closer look, however, makes clear that the image is fundamentally misleading: because Democratic voters are often concentrated in urban areas – which take up far fewer square miles than a state like Wyoming, for example – Trump’s preferred map makes it seem as if land is more important than people. To take democracy seriously one must discount such nonsense.

And yet, it remains a prevalent posture in contemporary Republican politics. After Gov.-elect Andy Beshear (D) narrowly won in Kentucky this week, Kelli Ward, the chair of the Arizona Republican Party, published a tweet featuring images of the Bluegrass State that were similar to Trump’s national map, with much of Beshear’s support concentrated in smaller geographic areas with larger populations.

For Ward, this pointed to a problem in need of a solution – such as a state-based electoral college. It didn’t take long for the Arizona Republic’s Laurie Roberts to note the problem.

Republicans, take heart. Arizona state GOP Chairwoman Kelli Ward has a truly genius idea for the party’s next move in light of this week’s election losses in three states.

While some Republicans are warning that the results in Virginia, Pennsylvania and Kentucky should serve as a wake-up call, Ward has a different vision for how to stop the bleeding.

It’s simple, really: just cut back on democracy.

Quite right. As the chair of the Arizona GOP sees it, if a Democrat wins an election, the proper response is to explore ways to dilute the electoral power of areas where there are more voters. That way, Republican candidates can win – whether voters like it or not.

A CNN analysis noted in response, “The problem with Ward’s argument is, well, it’s dumb. Very dumb.”

That’s more than fair under the circumstances. But it’s arguably incomplete, because the idea that American voters shouldn’t decide the outcome of American elections is as pernicious as it is foolhardy.

As The Atlantic’s Adam Serwer put it yesterday, in response to Ward, “A widely held Republican belief about democracy in 2019, held by both elite and rank and file, is that the GOP should not be denied power simply because a majority of the electorate does not want them to wield it.”

If we were simply talking about an unfortunate tweet from a Republican operative in Arizona, it’d be easier to overlook the incident as trivia.

But Ward’s argument is part of a much larger mosaic. There are reports out of Kentucky, for example, exploring whether and how Matt Bevin (R) can remain as governor, despite receiving fewer votes. This comes on the heels of Republican lawmakers in several states balking at voter-approved ballot measures the GOP didn’t like.

That came on the heels of truly ridiculous Republican power-grabs in states like Wisconsin, Michigan, and North Carolina, where voters had the audacity to support Democratic gubernatorial candidates.

That came on the heels of GOP officials in several states imposing heavily gerrymandered maps on the electorate after the 2010 midterms.

In too many instances, the party’s hostility toward democracy is overt. It’s unapologetic. It’s practically daring people to care.

This isn’t just a problem for Democrats; it’s also a problem for democrats.