Mitch McConnell can help save democracy

Ken Wolf
Ken Wolf
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As expected, the heat and the stakes are increasing as we approach mid-term elections. This is reflected in the title of a New York Times opinion article by Pulitzer Prize winner David Leonhardt entitled “A Crisis Coming: The Twin Threats to American Democracy.”

The twin threats

The first threat is the unwillingness of some Republicans to accept defeat in the coming election, while the second is that “the power to set government policy is becoming increasingly disconnected from public opinion.”

To explain the first threat, at least four Republican candidates for the Senate—Ted Budd in North Carolina, Blake Master in Arizona, Kelly Tshibaka in Alaska, and J.D. Vance in Ohio, have said they would not accept defeat as a possibility, and six GOP nominees for the governorship in critical mid-term states have also said they would not accept a negative vote in the election.

The second threat is that we have become “the most counter majoritarian democracy in the world,” according to Steven Levitsky, Harvard Government professor. States with less than half of the U.S. population control the Senate and the Electoral College while states with a majority of the American population have less power in these bodies. The Democrats’ presidential nominees have won the popular vote in seven of the last eight presidential elections, but this is not reflected in the Electoral College count.

This means, Leonhardt tells us, is “that millions of voters in large metropolitan areas have moved away from the Republican Party without having any impact on presidential outcomes. That’s a central reason both George W. Bush and Mr. Trump were able to win the presidency while losing the popular vote.”

Congress can pass laws supported by only a minority of Americans, such as restrictions on abortion, and the majority have no recourse if the minority party also controls the presidency and has the support of the judiciary, the other branches of government. Why, Lindsey Graham even wants a federal law forbidding abortion, even though red state Kansas voters disagree!

Short of a massive shift by urbanites leaving major cities to avoid climate change catastrophes, or amending the Constitution to give more democratic representation based upon population instead of location, there is little we can do now to address this second threat.

Enter McConnell

But there is a way to address immediately the problem of Republicans running for office but refusing to concede defeat if they lose elections. Voter fraud is not a serious problem. GOP Senate leader Mitch McConnell has said as much, and has refused to join his house colleague Kevin McCarthy, in denying the victory of Joe Biden in 2020.

And therein lies our answer and our hope. Like most leaders in American politics, McConnell would like to be remembered as a statesman instead of a lying politician. Our Senate leader right now has the power to effectively stop Republican Senate candidates from refusing to accept election results if they lose.

Senator McConnell could pass the word to these folks that he will oppose them and deny them money from the national Republican party unless they change their position and admit publicly that they will accept the result of their election — win or lose.

Mitch could go even further and use his clout as the most important Republican leader in the federal government to keep other Republican office seekers at any level from getting financial support from other Republican sources if they reject election results like spoiled children. This might even inject some courage into the non-Trump Republican cohort, and pull us away from the brink of dictatorship.

Such actions by Mitch could even have a rippling effect throughout the GOP, where some primary victors are now backing off of their earlier claim that the 2020 election was stolen from Trump.

It would take courage for Senator McConnell to take such action, but how grand would it be for him and those in his Party who followed his lead if they were to be hailed by historians (and even today’s pundits) as the man who single-handedly rejected the anti-democratic and authoritarian-welcoming “Trump base” and saved our democratic republic!

I just hope this isn’t a dream from which I will soon awaken!

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Ken Wolf

Ken Wolf spent 40 years teaching European and World History, punctuated by several administrative chores, at Murray State University, retiring in 2008. (Read the rest on the Contributors page.)

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