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“The Politics Of Losing Sorely”: How McCutcheon, Citizens United And Voting Restrictions Are Hurting Our Democracy

So let’s get right down to it: when you really think about it, what makes America different from other countries? Yes, there are lots of good answers, but if you ask me, it has something to do with this: one person, one vote.

It’s a pretty simple phrase, but in it lies the promise that no matter who you are, or where you come from, when the rubber hits the road your voice is worth just as much as anyone else’s. You have a say. And no one else’s say is more important than yours.

But for that to work, every citizen in good standing has to have a meaningful opportunity to participate in the process. And the question before us today is: Is that getting easier or harder, and which option is more consistent with our concept of American democracy?

Take a look at cases like Citizens United and, this week, McCutcheon, for example. They do one thing: give the very wealthy more influence over elections in the United States. It’s like saying: instead of an electoral process where everyone’s voice is given the same weight, some people, by virtue of their wealth, are going to get megaphones. Yes, that’s been true, in one way or another, for years, but in its recent rulings the Supreme Court’s been busy making those megaphones even louder.

Something similar is happening on the state level, if only from a different direction. You can see it in the tougher voter ID requirements, the diminution of early voting, law after law aimed at making it harder for some people to vote – in this case, people who just happen to be more likely to vote Democratic. The end result is an electorate with an artificially higher concentration of conservative voters. Terrific for Republicans. Less good for democracy.

Take the federal and state efforts together and it’s a kind of a pincer movement aimed at producing a “representative” government that’s actually a lot more conservative than its constituents, a representative government that’s not really all that, you know, representative.

This is what happens when one segment of the population says: We’ve been losing too much and we’re sick of it. But instead of retooling our arguments to better match where the American electorate is, or trusting in the traditional American way of persuading a skeptical audience, we’re instead going to lift the hood on the democratic process itself and see if we can change the system so that outcomes we prefer become more likely – not because they are more representative of the American people but because we’ve figured out how to get a few more of our fingers on the electoral scale.

But here’s the thing: being a good loser is, actually, an essential part of the American system. Every few years, we expect our politics to spit out a government that roughly reflects the priorities and interests of a majority of its citizens, because we all get to participate in the process equally. We may not like what that government looks like, but we don’t go storming across the Rubicon, angry pitchforks in hand because the inclusiveness of the process gives it a kind of legitimacy that you don’t find in a lot of other places. We live with it because we know it basically reflects the views of our peers (as opposed to: some remote cabal) and because we’ll have a meaningful opportunity to change it next time around.

And the fact of the matter is: its good for the process when someone loses on the merits. Because losing fair and square encourages the loser to stop regurgitating the same losing arguments over and over again, and instead to come up with something better. Isn’t that what we want the competition of ideas that plays out in every election to produce? Or are we instead going to stand by and let the sorest of the losers say: If I can’t win the game as its supposed to be played I’m going to change the game, and I don’t much care if doing so undermines one of the very things that makes America a beacon of liberty in an increasingly Putinized world.

Of course, it isn’t entirely up to us, but that’s what happens when the Supreme Court steps in. For me, that only increases the urgency of the following question: is there a point at which changing the nature of electoral inputs, either by giving some outsized influence over the process or making it harder for others to participate at all, gets so out of whack that it begins to undermine the legitimacy of electoral outcomes? If you really love America qua America, you know that’s a place we should never be.

No we’re not there yet.

But it’s sure not getting any easier.


By: Anson Kaye, U. S. News and World Report, April 4, 2014

April 7, 2014 - Posted by | Democracy, Electoral Process, SCOTUS | , , , , , , ,


  1. Reblogged this on GoodOleWoody's Blog and Website.


    Comment by goodolewoody | April 7, 2014 | Reply

  2. Reblogged this on Bell Book Candle.


    Comment by walthe310 | April 7, 2014 | Reply

  3. According to Mitt, corporations are people, and according to the Supreme Court, money is free speech. Corporations don’t have freedom of religion or the right to vote, YET. We the people have the right to vote and we must use it before we lose it to GOP scams about voter fraud.


    Comment by walthe310 | April 7, 2014 | Reply

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