Thomas Edsall’s latest, on what the Democrats need to do to regain power (I suppose I should say “maintain,” but it feels like they’ve already lost it), is filled with valuable insights from a variety scholars, many of them built around the theme of moving to the center and appealing more to working-class voters.
But I want to call your attention to this section, from Harvard’s Steven Levitsky, the co-author of “How Democracies Die,” which to my mind is one of the most important books of recent years. As Levitsky points out in a message to Edsall, there’s more wrong with our constitutional structure than there is with the Democratic Party:
“The Democrats have been amazingly successful in national elections over the last 20 years,” Levitsky wrote in an email.
They have won the popular vote in 7 out of 8 presidential elections — that’s almost unthinkable. They have also won the popular vote in the Senate in every six-year cycle since 2000. You cannot look at a party in a democracy that has won the popular vote almost without fail for two decades and say, gee, that party really has to get it together and address its “liabilities.”
Instead, he argued,
the liabilities lie in undemocratic electoral institutions such as the Electoral College, the structure of the Senate (where underpopulated states have an obscene amount of power that should be unacceptable in any democracy), gerrymandered state and federal legislative districts in many states, and recent political demographic trends — the concentration of Democratic votes in cities — that favor Republicans.
“Until our parties are competing on a level playing field,” Levitsky added, “I am going to insist that our institutions are a bigger problem for democracy than liberal elitism and ‘wokeness.’”
You really have to wonder how long a majority of the country is going to accept being relegated to minority status.