Economic letter

David Bond is a retired bank economist who resides in Kelowna.

I fear the United States is moving rather quickly down the road to becoming a non-democratic nation. One of the two main political parties appears to no longer believe in or support the democratic institutions that the U.S. has lived under since the Constitution took effect in 1789. 

Consider the fact a sizeable portion of the Republican party membership believes the 2020 presidential election, won fair and square by Joe Biden, was stolen from Donald Trump. This belief survives and proliferates in spite of there being no proof of significant electoral fraud in any of the 50 states.

Of even greater concern are the words and actions of many Republican members of Congress. They continue to espouse the “big lie” that the election victory was stolen from Trump. They also continue to oppose, belittle and dissent from any and all efforts to mount a bi-partisan investigation of the near-coup Trump and friends perpetrated on Jan. 6 when a mob tried to prevent Congress from recording the votes of the Electoral College. 

Their refusal to participate in responsible governance of the U.S. extends further. The leaders of the Republican minorities in the House and Senate have indicated total opposition to any of the legislative proposals put forth by President Joe Biden. They have also made it clear that any legislation aimed at protecting voting rights will be dealt a death blow by a Republican filibuster, which the Democrats would be unable to overcome. (It would require 60 votes in the Senate and at most they have 51 if Vice-President Kamala Harris votes to end a tie.)

This intransigence regarding voting rights, a fundamental requirement for fair elections, is of the greatest possible concern.

In a majority of the states, legislatures are controlled by Republicans, many of whom are ardent — or at least opportunistic — believers in the “big lie.” This control means they can draw up the boundaries of each congressional district to Republican advantage in the redistricting flowing from the census results of 2020. Such gerrymandering ensures that Republicans outnumber Democrat voters in a critical number of electoral districts even if they might command the loyalty of a minority of all voters in the state.

Gaining a majority of congressional seats in as many states as possible is important because, in the event the Electoral College cannot clearly determine a presidential candidate with the 270 votes needed to win, each state gets one vote in the House and that vote is determined by which party holds the majority of that state’s seats. Twenty-six states with Republican majorities could select the next president, even though they contained well below 50% of the national population.

There is a notable exception: California has taken politics out of redistricting decisions. It was Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, a Republican, who spearheaded this change. California is home to about 12% of the U.S. population. But if the selection of the president is thrown to the House, it will carry no more weight than Wyoming with less than .2%. 

In addition, various state legislatures are enacting Republic legislation, ostensibly to improve protection from voter fraud. The real aim, however, is to restrict voting by likely Democrats, including Blacks, Latinos and lower income earners in urban centres. The methods include limiting voting hours and polling stations, making voter registration more difficult, limiting voting by mail, etc. 

Many of these legislative moves also weaken the impartial administration of the states’ elections to enable Republican supporters to overrule tallied election results in favour of a candidate these officials determined, even without evidence, had been defrauded.

Given the roadblocks put up in Congress and the changes in districting and electoral administration, the mid-term election in 2022 could result in Republicans gaining control — not just of Congress but of most state legislatures — and exercising power immune from the preferences of a majority of voters. In short, it could be the end of rule-of-law in U.S. elections.

That Republican Senators and Congressmen and women, who have all sworn to uphold the Constitution, might countenance such an outcome would not only be shameful, it would be treasonous.  

David Bond is a retired bank economist who lives in Kelowna.