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The United States Needs Greater Voter Participation, Not Less

donsutherland1

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In the shocking aftermath of the January 6, 2021 storming of the U.S. Capitol by loyalists of President Donald Trump, the U.S. House of Representatives is poised to approve only its fourth impeachment of a U.S. President: Andrew Johnson (1868), Bill Clinton (1998), Donald Trump (2019 and 2021). President Richard Nixon resigned rather than face impeachment. Donald Trump will become the first American President who was impeached twice, assuring him a particularly disgraced position in history. He will leave office as the only post-World War II American President with lower national employment than when he came into office. His mismanagement of the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in a catastrophic loss of more than 385,000 lives. He will become the first President who was impeached for inciting an insurrection against one branch of the U.S. Government in a failed bid to retain power following his election defeat.

Holding the primary actors, including President Trump, accountable is just a start. More remains to be done.

Looking ahead, policymakers will likely be tempted by appeals for inquiries into the election itself, as a diversion from the anti-democratic events that took place. Policymakers will also be bombarded by calls for greater "election security," language that masks efforts aimed at making it more difficult for people to vote. The former would grant misplaced legitimacy to the "Big Lie" of a "stolen election." The latter would impede electoral competition.

Policymakers should reduce barriers to electoral participation. Electoral competition requires political parties and candidates to adopt policies or positions that are relevant to the needs and aspirations of those whom they seek to serve.

In recent years, the Republican Party has taken a dramatic turn toward illiberal populism to drive turnout among revanchist elements who reject both a cosmopolitan worldview and the reality of an increasingly diverse U.S. population. On October 31, 2020 The Economist reported:

On November 3rd tens of millions of Americans will cast their ballots for the Republican Party. But they will not be voting for the party of Ronald Reagan, or even of George W. Bush. Breaking with his predecessors, President Donald Trump has steered America’s conservative party towards protectionism and xenophobia, while disregarding norms of political behaviour at home and abroad, and weakening liberal values and institutions. According to new research by the V-Dem Institute, a think-tank based at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden, Republicans have become more populist and less liberal under Mr Trump’s leadership than at any time in recent history.

The policy gap between the Republican Party and the requirements of serving a diversifying population has widened. An anti-immigrant, anti-science, neo-isolationist platform is unsustainable in the long-run. Thus, the Republican Party has turned to voter disenfranchisement efforts to evade the need for structural reform.

The Trump campaign's legal arguments tapped into those ongoing efforts. Its demands represented the largest-scale effort to date to disenfranchise voters. The U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania issued a searing rejection of the Trump campaign's demands. Judge Brann wrote:

In this action, the Trump Campaign and the Individual Plaintiffs... seek to discard millions of votes legally cast by Pennsylvanians from all corners – from Greene County to Pike County, and everywhere in between. In other words, Plaintiffs ask this Court to disenfranchise almost seven million voters. This Court has been unable to find any case in which a plaintiff has sought such a drastic remedy in the contest of an election, in terms of the sheer volume of votes asked to be invalidated...

In the United States of America, this cannot justify the disenfranchisement of a single voter, let alone all the voters of its sixth most populated state. Our people, laws, and institutions demand more.


Unbowed by recent events, an unreformed Republican Party will seek to evade responsibility for the Trump Insurrection and intensify its efforts to reduce voter turnout. Policymakers should block those efforts.

Only then, will the Republican Party reach a crossroads where it must reform to remain nationally viable. Those reforms will lay the groundwork for addressing one root cause of the Trump Insurrection. Those reforms will reconnect the Republican Party to the electorate. They would reduce the appeal of populist demagogues such as the outgoing President Trump, as well as temptations to pursue unconstitutional measures to retain power.
 

cpwill

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Good heavens, no. We have far too many uninformed tribalist anger-addicts voting as it is.
 

Logophile

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What we need is to abolish the two party system in favor of a multi-party or parliamentary system. The two party system as it stands is simply too corrupt. In order for a reasonable individual to seek office, he or she has to align with a party which is not nuanced, and most of the time, a party that caters to its extremists. This two party system is only intact because those elected through it benefit from its inherent exclusivity. Career politicians exploit its rigidity and refuse term limits. If people want representation - true representation - than the call should not be anything short of a federal overhaul that either allows independents, regardless of prominence, equal time on debate stages or a public demand for a parliamentary government. Thanks!!
 
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