Home > Uncategorized > Biden Won the Battle Against Trump but the Democrats Lost the War to the GOP

Biden Won the Battle Against Trump but the Democrats Lost the War to the GOP

December 13, 2020

Here’s my latest op-ed piece that appeared in the Valley News:

Many viewed Joe Biden’s victory over Donald Trump as a victory for democracy and an end to the policies the GOP put in place during his four years in office. A closer look at the election results, especially at the State level, indicates otherwise. As Ralph Nader noted in a Common Dreams article immediately after the election, the Democrats may have won the White House and may have a slim chance to gain control of the Senate, but they lost where it counts the most in a census year: they failed to gain any ground in Statehouses or in State legislatures. This is a problem for the Democrats because the party in control at the State level will draw the boundaries for both Congressional and state legislative districts, boundaries that will remain in place for at least the coming decade. Worse for the Democrats, another consequence of the GOP’s control of State governments is their ability to pass legislation that mirrors that advocated by the Trump administration. 

As we begin 2021, the GOP holds the majority in 61 of the 88 legislative chambers, have 27 of the Governors in office, and have 24 states where both the Governor and the legislative bodies are controlled by the GOP. Because this is a census year and given the GOP’s proven willingness to hold onto power at any cost, it is likely we will witness the kind of gerrymandering that took place after the 2010 election where bizarre boundaries concocted by GOP operatives assured “safe seats” for both parties but also ensured a disproportionate number of “safe seats” for their party. As a result, over the past decade we witnessed fewer competitive elections and more polarization. Ballotpedia reported that over the past ten years 37.8% of the even-year races at the State level had only one party running and in 2020 only 9.4% of the races for the US House of Representatives were viewed as “battleground” (i.e. closely competitive) races. This lack of competition in State elections reinforces the notion that individual votes will make no difference in the outcome of an election and when voters believe they have no voice, democracy itself suffers. 

“Safe seats” also increase polarization. When a state or federal voting district is “safe” it increases the chances that a moderate incumbent might be challenged by a “hardline” candidate who advocates the extreme view of the party, a candidate who views any form of compromise as “weak” and detrimental to the core beliefs of the party. In an effort to avoid a challenge from a “hardline” candidate in the primary, incumbents avoid seeking a middle ground on contentious issues. In the GOP, the Tea Party defined the “hardline” from 2010 through 2016; but since his election in 2016, Donald Trump’s favored candidates have determined the “hardline”. In the Democratic Party, the “hardline” agenda is currently defined by progressives like Bernie Sanders. In recent elections incumbents in “safe” Democratic and GOP districts have lost to “hardliners”. This trend to elect candidates who hold extreme positions in “safe districts” pulls the parties further away from the ability to compromise, which is the lifeblood of democratic decision making. 

The 2020 election of Marjorie Taylor Greene, a GOP House candidate elected in Georgia, is an example of the worst possible consequence of the creation of “safe seats”. Ms. Greene, whose incendiary online videos expressed racist views and support for QAnon conspiracy theories, emerged as the GOP candidate when she won a run off in a “safe” district when the incumbent stepped down. Ms. Greene won the nomination after she received the full-throated support of the President and tacit support of her party in her run-off against a conservative candidate who characterized her as deserving of a YouTube channel but not a seat in Congress. She won the general election easily because the Democrats did not have a viable opponent because the party saw no chance of winning, effectively ceding the election, one of the 90% of House seats that had no real competition. 

The Democrats losses at the State level were surprising, especially given the margin of victory at the top of the ticket. In addition to setting the stage for more gerrymandering in the coming decade, the Republicans’ control of legislatures and Statehouses means their agenda will prevail at the state level, especially in the 24 states where the GOP has complete control of the Statehouse and the legislature. Those states, which include New Hampshire, will see legislative agendas that mirror those of the outgoing Trump administration. As the Valley News reported last week, GOP legislators, echoing the “choice” mantras of Betsy DeVos, called for a doubling of charter schools, the redirection of funding to “private institutions”, and the introduction of a constitutional amendment to allow taxpayers funds to underwrite religious schools. And education is not the only area where the GOP agenda will be implemented. I expect to see the NH legislature passing bills that compromise the environment under the guise of deregulation, make more guns available in an effort to “defend the 2ndAmendment”, and compromise workers safety and rights in the name of attracting more businesses to the State.  Meanwhile the Biden administration will attempt to pass bills and adopt and enforce regulations that do the opposite. 

Notwithstanding the absurd Texas lawsuit, Biden won the battle over Trump. But if gerrymandering by both parties persists, democracy will lose. And with 24 States pulling in the same direction as the outgoing Trump administration any “victory” for the Democrats seems hollow. 


Categories: Uncategorized Tags: , ,
%d bloggers like this: