Opinion: Gordon L. Weil

View More By This Author

Republicans searching for ways to regain power after changing electorate boosts Democrats

The insurrection and impeachment trial are results of GOP failures to acknowledge the progress Democrats have made.

by | February 7, 2021

There are too many Democrats.

That’s what the Trump impeachment trial is really about. Ongoing Republican efforts to suppress Democratic voting all across the country reflect the same political belief.

A fair election with millions of new voters caused President Trump’s defeat. Trump’s rejection of those fair election results led to frustration, and frustration led to violence. For some rioters on Jan. 6, if their candidate could not win the vote count, they could use force to keep him in office.

Since 1920, when women first voted in federal elections, Democrats have won an overwhelming majority of elections for both the U.S. House and Senate.  

Democratic dominance, beginning with Franklin D. Roosevelt’s 1932 win, lasted until the 1994 congressional elections. That’s when the GOP defined itself as a unified, strongly conservative party, with strong appeal to southern, white voters on issues like race, guns and abortion.

Among presidents, the time in office has been about equal between the parties. But the election of Barack Obama, an African-American, caused the greatest concern to the GOP. For some conservative politicians, his election motivated their drive to suppress the Democratic vote.

Recently, greater participation by women and Black voters has threatened GOP power. The Democrats now control the presidency and Congress. 

Donald Trump simply could not believe that millions more people voted for Hillary Clinton or Joe Biden than for him. In his thinking, Biden’s historic popular vote must have been the result of fraud, justifying the Capitol protest.

His impeachment and trial result from his frustration and resistance to the political reality that a changing electorate boosted the Democratic vote for president. His mishandling of the COVID crisis undoubtedly also contributed to Biden’s support. 

The GOP set out in many states to make access to the ballot box more difficult for Black and poor voters. They erected new hurdles to voter registration, reduced the times and places for voting, and gerrymandered congressional districts to segregate Black voters and reduce the number of House seats they could influence.

The Democrats went to court to stop these moves, but an increasingly conservative judiciary allowed many steps taken by Republican legislatures. The Supreme Court even canceled part of the Voting Rights Act that authorized the federal government to block state efforts denying voting to Blacks.

Three factors worked against the GOP’s efforts to cut Democratic voting.  

Mail-in voting, growing as part of a nonpartisan effort to increase participation, greatly expanded as voters became worried about exposure to COVID-19. Election authorities under both parties paid extra attention to prevent abuse. Millions more voted.

Under former Attorney General Eric Holder and activist Stacey Abrams of Georgia, the Democrats worked to get their voters to the polls even if it meant jumping GOP-imposed hurdles. While fighting suppression in court, they also got out the vote. Their efforts were successful, especially in bringing Black voters into the process.

Finally, the voting age population increased. As the average age continues increasing, so does the number of older voters. While most seniors used to vote Republican, in 2020 most went for Biden. Thus, there were more older voters and more of them voted Democratic.

The U.S. is a democracy. The people elect their government leaders, making the country a republic. Stealing an election by making false fraud claims or suppressing voting can undermine this democratic republic. State GOP organizations have vowed to try again, but changes counteract these efforts. 

Aside from the Trump trial, what else can be done?

Congress could restore the Voting Rights Act, again requiring federal approval of new election laws in places where discrimination has occurred. The GOP might argue that victories by Obama and Biden make the act unnecessary, but that would ignore congressional voting and the massive efforts needed to overcome suppression.

The Democrats need to keep up those efforts if they want to hold onto their gains. And they can support efforts by officials of either party to run clean elections, as happened in 2020.

Republicans control more state legislatures than Democrats and will draw congressional district lines for the next 10 years. The Democrats need to be similarly aggressive in the states they control. Maine districts could be altered, making the Second, carried by Trump, more favorable to the Democrats.

A lot of the 2020 problems could be eliminated by the National Popular Vote, which awards each state’s electoral votes to the winner of the national popular vote. Several more states need to adopt the proposed compact before it can replace electoral voting. Maine could again consider joining the compact.

However Trump finishes his political career, he has warned the country that democracy faces continued challenges and a perilous future.

Gordon L. Weil

Gordon L. Weil

Gordon L. Weil has been active in politics, journalism, publishing and energy consulting. A graduate of Bowdoin College, he has a master’s degree from the College of Europe (Belgium), and a Ph.D. from Columbia. He is an Army veteran. He was a top aide to U.S. Sen. George McGovern during his run for president. In Maine, he served as Commissioner of Business Regulation, Director of the Office of Energy Resources and the state’s first Public Advocate. He was a Harpswell selectman. He led the negotiations that created the unified New England power grid and chaired the national organization of state energy agencies. He reported for the Washington Post, Newsweek, London’s Financial Times, the Wall Street Journal and WNET (New York). His weekly commentary has appeared in Maine newspapers since 2008. He has written or edited 16 books or collections ranging from the biography of Sears, Roebuck to the three-volume U.S. Supreme Court original jurisdiction decisions. His company, sold in 2005, was the largest publisher of state government regulatory codes.


RELATED ARTICLES