David Roberts @drvox Seattleite transplanted from Tennessee; now blogging for vox.com/ about energy politics. Climate hawk, deficit dove. Not a doctor. Aug. 16, 2019 3 min read

1. One last thread before the weekend. First, stop what you're doing & read this superb @jbouie essay in @NYMag:  https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2019/08/14/magazine/republicans-racism-african-americans.html 

2. It's about the anti-democratic sentiment that's been present in the US from the very beginning. US slaveowners understood that majority rule, almost no matter how you defined it, would end in them losing their slaves. Thus federalism, state's rights, all the rest of it.

3. As Bouie says, this basic impulse -- that popular democracy is a threat to the dominance of real Americans, the ones that count -- endures very much to this day among conservatives. It's arguably closer to the surface now than ever, at the very heart of the GOP.

4. Anyway, read the essay. I just wanted to tie it to a recent episode, namely, the Oregon climate bill. You will recall that Dems elected supermajorities in both houses of the OR legislature, hashed out a climate bill, & passed it in the House, but ...  https://www.nytimes.com/2019/06/28/us/oregon-climate-fight.html 

5. ... before it could pass the senate, OR's 11 senate Republicans literally fled the state, denying the body the quorum it requires, by law, to pass bills. In other words, a small minority thwarted the will of a large majority. Grossly, manifestly, transparently anti-democratic.

6. How could any American, or any citizen of any democracy, possibly justify this? If you look at the rhetoric of the Rs in question, it's full of talk about the majority "jamming" bills through "overriding" & "bullying" the minority.  https://www.oregonlive.com/politics/2019/06/oregon-senate-republicans-leave-the-state-to-avoid-climate-bill-vote.html 

7. But what could that mean? Their opponents elected more people and got more votes! Drumming up more support, getting more votes, is not "bullying." It is quite literally how democracy works. So what are they talking about?

8. This quote from Republican senator Tim Knopp gives away the game: "We just don't believe we need to be bystanders for the majority to push a Multnomah County agenda on the rest of the state when it's going to damage our constituents irrevocably."  https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/politics-news/oregon-republicans-flee-facing-fines-state-police-chasing-democrats-demand-n1020571 

9. In case you don't get it: Multnomah County is where Portland, OR's biggest city, is located. It's where minorities and immigrants and single mothers are located. The "rest of the state," ie, rural areas, are where white people are located.

10. The obvious implication of Knopp's comment, just baaarely under the surface, is that rural whites are the real Oregonians. Their preferences & votes ought to carry the day, even if there are fewer of them. They ought to have veto power over the less legitimate city voters.

11. This is *exactly* the dynamic Bouie identifies, tracing back to the founding of the republic. The rhetoric hasn't even changed that much! It explains GOP behavior in Wisconsin, NC, & the federal government. It is enshrined in the electoral college & the filibuster.

12. It's telling that, while OR Republicans don't quite just out & say it ("white votes matter more"), they come pretty close! As the GOP radicalizes, the impulse is becoming less implicit. My guess is, it won't be long now before they're arguing it explicitly.

13. There's no way for the GOP to avoid it any more. The white rural & suburban majority is declining. The US is urbanizing & diversifying. To keep reactionary whites in control, democracy must be diminished more & more. It is the central fight of our times.

14. The OR episode should illustrate (as dozens of other episodes have) that there is no principle or procedural norm that will restrain a white minority panicked about losing power. It's going to get a lot uglier before the fever breaks.

15. All of this explains why the left can no longer ignore the need for structural & procedural reforms (as boring as they may be to average voters): electoral college, filibuster, DC statehood, limited SCOTUS terms, same-day registration & other voting reforms, etc.

16. The core political fight these days is less over any particular area of policy than over democracy itself. Are we a multi-ethnic, pluralistic democracy or a white Christian nation? The GOP is more & more openly picking its side. Let's have the fight out in the open. </fin>

You can follow @drvox.


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