My grandmother had a favorite response whenever one of us made a rosy prediction. That phrase– “From your mouth to God’s ears!”–was her way of expressing hope that the prediction would come true.
I had a very similar reaction to a column by Greg Sargent in the Washington Post. Sargent asserted that a MAGA “doom loop” would defeat Trump and the GOP next year–an outcome I devoutly hope to see. His thesis is as follows: Republicans continue to defend and embrace Trump’s authoritarianism. That backfired when voters responded by defeating the predicted Red wave in the 2022 midterms and continuing to defeat Republican candidates in multiple ensuing special elections.
Subsequently–as Sargent accurately reports–rather than learning the rather obvious lesson from those defeats, Republicans have dug in. They’re going even further Right, responding to electoral losses “with even more flagrantly anti-democratic maneuvers all around the country.”
The pattern is becoming clear: Even as voters are mobilizing to protect democracy at the ballot box, Republicans are redoubling their commitment to the former president’s anti-majoritarian mode of politics. And this, in turn, is motivating voters even more.
Call it the “MAGA doom loop.” It’s playing out in state after state.
Sargent supports his thesis by surveying the disarray and infighting in several state-level Republican parties–notably, Michigan, North Carolina and Wisconsin (where the GOP is threatening a bizarre, anti-democratic response to the electoral loss of a state supreme court seat.)
As Sargent predicts about Wisconsin,
Democrats will surely be able to use those MAGA-approved tactics to mobilize voters against Trump and Republicans in 2024. “The threat to overturn an election through impeachment pushes MAGA attacks on democracy to the top of voters’ minds,” Wisconsin Democratic Party Chair Ben Wikler told me.
He also reminded readers of the recent shenanigans in Ohio, where Republicans tried to raise the threshold for amending the state constitution to 60 percent of votes cast, in order to head off an almost-certain victory for reproductive rights in an upcoming referendum. Despite scheduling the vote on this single, arguably technical issue for August, turnout was robust, and the change was defeated by a crushing 14-points.
Research confirms that Issues become salient for voters when elites talk about those issues a lot, and in the U.S., concerns about democracy have increasingly taken center stage. A newsletter I subscribe to recently and helpfully included a partial list of current GOP threats to democracy:
In May, Georgia Governor Brian Kemp signed into law a measure that will create a commission that can punish and remove prosecutors, saying it will curb “far-left prosecutors.” That includes a certain prosecutor pursuing the case against former President Donald Trump.
In April, Iowa’s Republican-led legislature introduced a bill that restricted information the state auditor—the only Democratic Statewide office holder—could access. “Let’s be clear about this, this is the destruction of democratic norms,” State Auditor Rob Sand said.
Immediately after last year’s nonpartisan Ohio State Board of Education election created a majority of members aligned with the Democratic party, conservative legislators moved to transfer the body’s power to a new department under the governor’s authority. While the bill failed during that year’s session, a similar bill passed in the Senate in January of this year and was introduced into the House in March (it’s currently in committee).
In 2021, Republicans in Arizona, using the state budget, stripped the Arizona Secretary of State—a Democrat–of the right to defend the state’s election laws in court—handing it over to the attorney general who happens to have been—you guessed it—a Republican. Any pretense that it was done as a move to strengthen some legal principle was undermined by the fact they intended the move to expire simultaneously with the end of the term of the secretary of state. Taking aim at secretaries of state is no accident, as these officers have authority over how elections are conducted. Legislators similarly trimmed the power of secretaries of state in Georgia and Kansas. In fact, Republicans have moved to take control over the election process in at least eight states.
In recent years, after Democrats were elected to statewide offices in North Carolina , Wisconsin, and Michigan, Republican-led legislatures and governors moved to severely weaken their powers.
This doesn’t even begin to address the gerrymandering and the changing of rules over the last decade or so to make voting harder, more complicated, and less likely, especially among people of color, including restrictive voter ID laws and aggressive voter purges.
The “chattering classes” tell us that democracy is on the ballot in 2024. They’re correct–it is.
I just hope Sargent’s “doom loop” thesis proves to be equally correct…..