The Institutional Context of the New GOP

Rick Pildes has highlighted the significance of the Axios story on the transformed Republican Party. I want to add one more point (which is a version of the question I plan to ask a lot this year): would it be this way if every state used Alaska’s new electoral system (nonpartisan primary that sends top four candidates to the November general election, to be chosen by Ranked Choice Voting)?

The Axios piece is just the latest, and especially detailed, version of what we’ve heard repeatedly over the last year (and even longer): that Donald Trump and his MAGA-related allies have a vice-like grip over the current version of the Republican Party, replacing the previous dominance of old-guard Chamber of Commerce types. Many of these accounts include the threat to American democracy as a result of this transformation within the GOP, because Trump and his MAGA-related allies have shown an affinity for authoritarianism, not just in the January 6 insurrection, but also their open enthusiasm for Orban’s style of populism in Hungary. The overall tenor of these pieces is to sound the alarm.

And yet despite all the journalistic attention to the problem, there has been (as far as I can tell) surprisingly little journalistic attention to potential solutions. If the problem is the risk of an authoritarian strain of populism taking over the Republican Party, and then this authoritarian-dominated GOP going on to win general elections (with the consequence that authoritarians gain power and the potential capacity to use that power to dismantle democracy itself), what’s the best way to guard against this risk? The answer to this question, as a practical matter, is obviously not the immediate adoption of Alaska’s new (and as yet untested) system nationwide. But all of us who care about the ongoing maintenance of American democracy should be spending this year, and potentially beyond, asking whether the Alaska-type reform (or related reform possibilities) would make a significance difference with respect to the authoritarian threat the United States is presently facing.

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