Let’s stipulate this up front. It’s impossible to grasp this political moment without grappling with the degree to which the GOP’s path back to power depends on its increasing embrace of voter suppression and anti-democratic tactics. Yet much commentary on the GOP strategy for the big political battles to come does not mention that factor at all.

President Biden’s speech to the nation on Thursday night raises the possibility that Democrats are on the cusp of potentially transformative political victories. He announced that by May 1, every American adult should be eligible for a coronavirus vaccine, raising the prospect of a potential return to something close to normalcy by the summer.

Biden also hailed his signing of the $1.9 trillion rescue package, declaring that “help is here.” Countless Americans will soon enjoy stimulus checks and regular child allowance payments. Many will benefit from financial assistance alleviating unemployment and health-care costs.

In short, it’s altogether possible that Biden and Democrats will preside over the defeat of the pandemic and the quasi-return to normalcy, putting an end to a year that has traumatized the nation.

At the same time, Democrats — with the participation of zero congressional Republicans — will be implementing the most transformative piece of social policy since the Great Society, with the support of 70 percent of Americans at their backs.

Meanwhile, even Republicans acknowledge that the economy will likely boom. They’re just claiming that these Democratic policies will have nothing to do with it. This alone starkly illustrates the current moment’s differences from 2009, when Republicans could regularly claim the sluggish recovery was a disaster and blame it directly on Democrats.

On top of that, Republicans appear increasingly focused on their preoccupation with cancel culture and Dr. Seuss. As Damon Linker points out, while progressives are engaging these cultural fights, elected Democrats largely are not taking the bait:

What if while Republicans are busy trying to bait Democrats on culture war issues, those Democrats end up winning public opinion in a big way by refusing to play along, changing the subject, and actually making the lives of most Americans concretely better?

Worse still, the GOP remains largely defined by its continuing allegiance to former president Donald Trump, the figure most directly associated with the toweringly incompetent and malevolent governance that helped inflict that year of trauma and devastation upon us.

“On covid and the recovery, Republicans have chosen the wrong side in a once-in-a-century domestic fight,” Democratic strategist Simon Rosenberg told me, adding that the GOP has decided to “sit out a vital effort to get America out of its most serious domestic crisis since the 1930s.”

Under the normal rules of politics, Rosenberg noted, you might expect the GOP to follow a post-Herbert Hoover trajectory, in which it “simply isn’t competitive for decades.”

The coming Republican strategy tends to get covered as conventional politics. The New York Times has a new piece reporting that Republicans intend to “define” Biden’s relief bill, by hyping its supposed excesses and payoffs to interest groups.

Republicans are also betting voters will forget how the relief bill’s benefits came to be, after which they’ll scream about deficits destroying the country. They’re even banking on inflation from all that spending, the Times reports.

That’s all good to know, but it’s only part of the story. As I’ve argued, Republicans can plausibly take back power through voter suppression and anti-majoritarian tactics while entirely withdrawing from the conversation about how to tackle our major crises. Republicans have themselves declared that extreme gerrymanders will help take back the House, which could kill further Democratic ambitions.

This is getting worse. A great new Post piece tallies up the extraordinary range of voter suppression efforts underway in numerous states, and concludes:

The GOP’s national push to enact hundreds of new election restrictions could strain every available method of voting for tens of millions of Americans, potentially amounting to the most sweeping contraction of ballot access in the United States since the end of Reconstruction.

It’s plainly obvious that if Republicans do retake power, this will play a role. But discussions of the GOP’s prospects and strategy going forward rarely mention this.

None of this is to say that Democrats can’t botch this on their own. The vaccine rollout could falter. Some negative consequences predicted from the relief bill could come to pass. Biden could mishandle the border.

Democrats could fail to reform the filibuster, scuttling other large items on his agenda, including democracy reforms that could undercut the GOP’s increasing reliance on anti-democratic tactics. Indeed, Republicans are likely banking on Democrats blinking in exactly that way.

But now that Biden has signed the relief bill and normalcy looks within reach, it’s important to emphasize the centrality of the GOP’s escalation of those tactics to what is coming next. That ongoing radicalization against democracy makes it possible for Republicans to largely withdraw from participation in dealing with our major crises while still retaining a plausible path back to power, where they can grind those efforts to a halt.

Getting the full story right is no small matter. At stake is whether we will appreciate how suddenly the transformative possibilities of the moment can crash into the anti-majoritarian features of our politics that we can change, or at least should try to change.

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