Why Democrats have to win large majorities in order to govern while Republicans don’t need majorities at all.
By Laura Bronner and Nathaniel Rakich
In tennis, the two players switch sides of the court after every odd game — to even out any advantages that one player might have due to the sun. Democracy is no tennis game, but it is nevertheless a competition.
And in the U.S., the competition is far from fair.
For a variety of reasons — some long-standing, some intentional, others newer or incidental — the political institutions that make up the field of American politics are increasingly stacked in favor of one side: the Republican Party.
Take the Senate. Republicans currently hold half of the seats in that chamber even though they represent just 43 percent of the U.S. And it’s not just the Senate — the Electoral College, the House of Representatives and state legislatures are all tilted in favor of the GOP. As a result, it’s possible for Republicans to wield levers of government without winning a plurality of the vote. More than possible, in fact — it’s already happened, over and over and over again.
Minority rule has always been possible in the U.S., as we saw during the Jim Crow era, when white people manipulated elections and obstructed Congress in order to suppress the rights of a Black majority in many Southern states. The founders purposely designed many of our federal institutions to only indirectly reflect the will of the people — in political science lingo, they made them “counter-majoritarian.”