“The Doom Loop”: Democracy Collides with Republicans’ Minority Rule

From The Guardian:

Opinion poll after opinion poll shows that Republicans are increasingly out of touch with mainstream sentiment on hot button issues such as abortion rights and gun safety. Accordingly, the party has suffered disappointment in elections in 2018, 2020 and 2022. Yet instead of rethinking its positions, critics say, it is turning to rightwing judges, state legislators and gerrymandering to enforce minority rule.

Gerrymandering means “the practice of dividing or arranging a territorial unit into election districts in a way that gives one political party an unfair advantage in elections.”Gerrymander is a blend of the surname Gerry and salamander, the small amphibian creature with a long thin body and tiny legs.
In 1812, under the governorship of Elbridge Gerry, an election district in the northeast corner of Massachusetts was created that had a distinctly irregular outline (in order to benefit Gerry’s political party). The district was said to look like a salamander, and by splicing the second half of this word with the governor’s name a new political insult was born.


Larry Jacobs, director of the Center for the Study of Politics and Governance at the University of Minnesota, said: The ballot box didn’t work – the voice of the people said, we’re not going to tolerate these kind of threats by Republicans. But Republicans are using other tools and shredding the fabric of American democracy. It’s a kind of minority authoritarianism.”

But while Democrats control the White House and Senate, Republicans have proved expert at finding workarounds, using cogs in the machine that have typically received less attention from activists, journalists and voters. One of them is the judiciary.

The supreme court, which includes three justices appointed during Trump’s single term, last year overturned the Roe v Wade ruling that had enshrined the right to abortion for nearly half a century, despite opinion polls showing a majority wanted to protect it.

Mini Timmaraju, the president of Naral Pro-Choice America, said: “One extremist judge appointed by a twice impeached, now-indicted former president, Donald Trump, was attempting to effectively ban medication abortion nationwide. The decision is a prime example of minority rule at its worst. These extremists will not stop until they control our reproductive health decisions.”

Republicans are also at odds with public opinion on gun safety. “A poll last year by the University of Chicago Harris School of Public Policy and the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research shows 71% of Americans say gun laws should be stricter, including about half of Republicans, the vast majority of Democrats and a majority of those in gun-owning households.” (The Guardian)

If judges fall short of the Republican wishlist, state governors have shown willingness to intervene. From Greg Abbott to Ron DeSantis to Kristi Noem, Glenn Youngkin, Huckabee Sanders, Kay Ivey among others have signed laws restricting abortion, banning books, removing gun safety laws and restricting voting access. In addition, activists point to Republican-dominated state governments pushing legislation that would allow them to control Black-led cities and push hardline policies on crime.

Makia Green, co-founder of Harriet’s Wildest Dreams, a Black community organization in the Washington area, said: “Our democracy has holes in it, especially with the record number of attacks on voting rights and civic education. Republican and rightwing extremists have been making it harder and harder for our people to vote and so people are questioning, do I still live in a democracy?” (Guardian)

In January of 2024, The Atlantic predicted our tumble into the minority-rule doom loop, by which predominantly white conservatives gain more and more power, even as they represent fewer Americans.

“The doom loop consists of four interlocking components:

  • Candidates who represent white conservatives—Republicans, in our ideologically sorted era—begin every election cycle buoyed by a sluice of voter suppression and gerrymandering (what I call electoral welfare), which makes it easier for them to win.
  • Then antidemocratic features of the American system that have always existed but never benefited one party over the other in any systematic way help those same candidates take control of institutions such as the White House and the Senate, despite winning fewer votes and representing fewer people than their opponents.
  • Once in control of these institutions, these newly elected officials use them to entrench their power beyond the reach of voters.
  • If they are eventually voted out of power, they retain a veto over the agenda of the majority, which they use to block change and feed the conservative case that the government is “broken.” This hastens their return to power—along the very path they greased with voter suppression.
  • The net effect of this doom loop is a growing divergence between the agenda of the government and the will of the governed, an untenable dynamic in any democracy. “