This is reflected in its eagerness to enact laws restricting access to the ballot in states it controls. Rationalized as ways to fight mythical “voter fraud,” voter-ID statutes and the purging of voter rolls are designed to make it harder for African Americans, Latinos and young people to vote. The new electorate is a lot less Republican than the old one. The GOP much prefers the old one.
The party’s stout defense of the electoral college is also part of this minority-rule strategy. Even models that give Trump a chance to prevail in 2020 show he could lose the popular vote by even more than he did in 2016.
What does a crisis for U.S. democracy look like? A Trump popular-vote defeat of 5 million votes or more combined with a two-vote margin in the electoral college. Yes, he could eke out this narrow advantage even if he lost Michigan and Pennsylvania as long as he held on to all the other places he carried the last time. A large U.S. majority could be disempowered and yet still face pressure to declare such an outcome “legitimate.”
Still, voter suppression and the electoral college (along with partisan gerrymandering) are not foolproof. There is, however, one part of government entirely immune from the results of any particular election: the lifetime appointees to federal judgeships, beginning with the U.S. Supreme Court. And here is where Trump has delivered big time for those willing to let him do just about anything else.
Of course, it makes little moral sense for the followers of Jesus to support a man like Trump. It’s a point my Post colleague Michael Gerson has pressed with admirable consistency and that evangelical writer Jim Wallis makes forcefully in his recent, aptly named book, “Christ in Crisis: Why We Need to Reclaim Jesus.”
But white evangelicals turn out to be the premier pragmatists of U.S. politics, as the historian Matthew Avery Sutton argued last week in The Post’s “Made by History” section.
They know they are losing ground in public opinion on issues such as same-sex marriage. An older group than the country as a whole, they are also in demographic decline as our nation grows more ethnically, racially and religiously diverse.
Nonetheless, their strength in Republican primaries — dominated by older white voters — continues unabated, which helps explain why Republican politicians are either Trump apologists or mealy mouthed about his abuses. The best defense evangelicals have against the new majority is control of the courts, which Trump is giving them. Everything else is negotiable, or ignorable.
The courts also matter to Republican economic elites alarmed by the growing support, even among political moderates, for higher taxes on the wealthy and limits on corporate power. Conservative judges are rather solicitous toward the interests of property and have historically limited the regulatory reach of government’s democratically elected branches. No wonder Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has turned the Senate — where, by the way, the most diverse and populous states are underrepresented — into an assembly line sped up to confirm right-wing judges as quickly as possible.
There is nothing new about established conservative interests trying to limit democracy’s reach, as a student of mine, Humza Jilani, helpfully reminded me last week in discussing his thesis topic. What ought to disturb us now is how far evangelical conservatives and Republicans (and let’s honor the Never Trumper exceptions) are willing to go to defend Trump’s indefensible behavior because they are entirely complicit in his minority-rule project.
In this impeachment fight, democracy is at stake in more ways than we realize.