Tag Archives: democratic responsiveness

“American democracy is cracking. These forces help explain why.”

Must-read major analysis by Dan Balz and Clare Ence Morse in the Washington Post, in what promises to be “the first in a series of reports examining what is fueling the visceral feeling many Americans have that their government does not represent them.”  Some excerpts:

“… today, a minority of the population can exercise outsize influence on policies and leadership, leading many Americans increasingly to feel that the government is a captive of minority rule.

“At times, protection of minorities and their rights from the will of the majority is needed and necessary. Checks and balances afford further protections that nonetheless can seem to hamstring government’s ability to function effectively. But on balance, the situation now is dire. Americans are more dissatisfied with their government than are citizens in almost every other democracy, according to polling.

“Henry Brady, professor of political science and public policy at the University of California at Berkeley, has been studying these issues for many years. As he surveys the current state of the United States’ democracy, he comes away deeply pessimistic. ‘I’m terrified,’ he said. ‘I think we are in bad shape, and I don’t know a way out.'”

Check out, for example, the piece’s decline in trust chart, and the graph on the decline of competitive states in presidential elections. Also:

“’In comparison to European countries, our constitutional system is not well suited for polarized political parties,’ said Nathaniel Persily, a law professor at Stanford Law School. …

“In 2024, two of the nation’s least populous states — West Virginia and Montana — could flip control of the Senate from Democrats to Republicans, if GOP challengers prevail over Democratic incumbents. …

“As the number of swing districts has declined, another phenomenon has become evident: Even in open-seat races, which historically have been more contested than those involving incumbents, the number of landslide victories by members of both major parties has increased dramatically. …

“In just two states is the legislature split between Republicans and Democrats. In more than half of the states, the dominant party enjoys a supermajority, which means they can override vetoes by a governor of a different party or generally have their will on legislation.

“Similarly, full control of state government — the legislature and the governor’s office — is the rule rather than the exception. Today 39 states fit this definition. The result is a sharper and sharper divergence in the public policy agendas of the states.

“The dominant party has been able to move aggressively to enact its governing priorities. …

“These divisions have made it possible for the dominant party to govern with little regard to the interests of those with allegiance to the minority party and often little accountability as well. The result is two Americas with competing agendas and values. …

“The gap between public policy and public opinion is one major consequence of today’s frozen federal government. …

“’The danger, [historian Jill] Lepore said, ‘is that [the Constitution] becomes brittle and fixed — and then the only way to change your system of government or to reform a part of it is through an insurrection.”

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Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs likely to shake up state elections in 2022.

The Washington Post correctly notes the electoral implications of the forthcoming decision to gut Roe v. Wade.

“Now, normally low-profile state legislative races and less-prominent gubernatorial contests suddenly hold the potential to become national flash points in the polarizing debate, while state legislative activity will become more significant in shaping abortion laws. Advocates on both sides say they anticipate a grueling, expensive and fierce fight.”

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Joe Manchin–Our Democratic Deficit Goes Deeper than Uncompetitive Gerrymandered Districts

Manchin’s seat is not safe. And still, his version of moderation stands at odds with the views of his own constituents (not just his base). Why would voters believe their votes matter?

The Hill is reporting a new poll that shows “West Virginia voters overwhelmingly back paid leave proposal.”

“The poll, commissioned by Paid Leave for All, found that 80 percent of West Virginia voters support ensuring paid leave for workers suffering from a serious illness, 75 percent back paid leave for workers caring for a sick family member and 72 percent support paid leave for workers caring for a new child. 

. . . The poll found that paid leave is more popular among West Virginia voters than other proposals included in the reconciliation package, such as universal pre-K, which is backed by 54 percent of those surveyed. The paid leave program and the measure to allow Medicare to negotiate drug prices were the only Democratic proposals to earn majority support from voters in the state from every political party.

Senator Manchin, to be sure, has his process-based excuse: The bill should be passed separately and with bipartisan support. And, to be sure, this poll is likely somewhat flawed. But still, why would any voter think her vote mattered in this era of hyper-partisanship?

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