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When you find yourself in a hole, stop digging.

Donald Trump became notorious for appealing only to his base, making no effort to expand his appeal. At best, that base was a big enough minority to win him the Electoral College in 2016, even as he lost the popular vote to Hillary Clinton. He followed the same strategy in 2020, but Joe Biden won enough swing states, plus Georgia, easily to carry the Electoral College and to double Hillary Clinton’s popular vote margin.

You would think that Trump and his party would have learned something from 2020, but no. They start with the Big Lie, that Trump only lost because of a massive, nationwide plot to steal the election, even though no one has put up any evidence that multiple state and federal courts would recognize. This fairy tale is aimed precisely at the Trump base, who have swallowed it, hook, line and sinker. But hardly anyone else buys it, so by continuing to harp on that theme, they just drive the majority away.

The GOP slakes the base’s thirst to “own the libs,” while alienating the majority who wish Congress would do something, for once.

Then there’s the January 6 invasion of the Capitol by a mob of Trump supporters, at Trump’s behest, to try to block the Congress from certifying Biden’s victory. Everybody in the country witnessed this on TV, could see people breaking windows and assaulting police officers. Yet Trump and his party persist in downplaying the importance of these events and blocking any serious bipartisan investigation. Once again, they are playing to the base, but driving the majority away.

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On major policy issues like infrastructure, most congressional Republicans seem to be following Trump’s narrowly partisan calculation that Biden should be denied any sort of victory, but Biden’s proposed policies are in general quite popular. Thus the GOP slakes the base’s thirst to “own the libs,” while alienating the majority who wish Congress would do something, for once.

Republican-controlled state legislatures, by passing laws designed to make it harder for minority voters to vote, seem to acknowledge that their only hope of victory is to keep the opposition from voting. Meanwhile, the closely divided Senate seems incapable of passing the “For the People Act,” which would overrule many of the state anti-voting laws. And the Supreme Court, firmly under right-wing control, would likely throw out the federal law anyway. Lawsuits under existing laws such as the Voting Rights Act might succeed in lower courts, but the Supreme Court is not likely to sustain them.

We do well to remember that Biden’s victory was coupled with a shrunken Democratic majority in the House, and with taking control of a 50-50 Senate only because of Vice President Harris’ tie breaking vote. The Democrats have their own challenges in next years midterm elections. 

The main Democratic response to this voter suppression, and to the Democratic shortfall of 2020, must be the kind of organization and mobilization that Stacey Abrams led in Georgia. That means finding new voters, getting them registered, and turning them out, especially in swing states with Senate elections, like Pennsylvania, Ohio and North Carolina, and in swing House districts and state legislative districts all over the country, especially in the suburbs. And this will have to be done against the determined Republican efforts to block the way.

impeachment unavoidable

Our deeply flawed democracy stands at risk. Southern Democrats suppressed African American voters for more than sixty years under Jim Crow without being stopped by the rest of the country. The civil and voting rights of the 1960s finally ended that regime, and drove most Southern Whites into the welcoming arms of Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan. The grandchildren of the Dixiecrats are trying it again, more subtly this time. Will they succeed?

John Peeler