Republicans Can’t Handle Losing

For much of the past decade, the Republican Party’s ability to win power in Washington has rested on the counter-majoritarian institutions of American politics. There is no President Donald Trump without the Electoral College, and Republicans would not have such a firm grip on the United States Senate if not for its unequal representation, which gives as much weight to the sparsely populated states of the Great Plains and the Mountain West as it does to states like New York, Illinois, California and Texas.

The Republican Party, in other words, does not need to win majorities to win control.

One result of this is that Republicans have developed a set of ideological justifications for why it is a good thing that the American political system violates basic principles of political equality, most commonly expressed in the assertion that the United States is “a republic, not a democracy.”

Another result is that Republicans, having embraced counter-majoritarianism as a principle, are now looking for ways to extend it. You see this in the emergence of the lunatic “independent state legislature” doctrine, which would give state legislatures total power to write rules for congressional elections and direct the appointment of presidential electors, unbound by state constitutions and free from the scrutiny of state courts. Under this doctrine, a Republican legislature could — with sufficient pretext (like “voter fraud”) — unilaterally assign the state’s presidential electors to the candidate of its choice, above and beyond the will of the voters.

Some Republicans want to extend the counter-majoritarian principle down to the state level as well. In 2019, the chairman of the Arizona Republican Party, Kelli Ward, floated the idea of an “Electoral College type system” at the state level. More recently, the Republican nominee for governor in Colorado, Greg Lopez, has promised to eliminate “one-person, one-vote” for statewide elections and institute a system where the votes of rural voters are given significantly more weight than those of voters in the state’s cities and metropolitan areas. He outlined his plan at a campaign stop earlier in the week:

Under this plan, according to the local CBS affiliate, Republicans in the state would have easily won the previous governor’s race, in 2018, despite losing the popular vote by 10 percentage points.

It’s unlikely that this will happen. First, Lopez would have to be elected against Jared Polis, the state’s popular and well-liked Democratic incumbent. Second, he would have to persuade the legislature to go along with the plan. And third, it would have to survive judicial review, specifically the precedent established by the court in the early 1960s, which held that such schemes were unconstitutional. (Although, given this court’s contempt for voting rights and indifference to extreme gerrymandering, I’m not so sure that it would uphold that decision.)

But this proposal isn’t noteworthy because it’s likely to happen; it’s noteworthy because of what it says about the ideological direction of the Republican Party. It’s not just that Republicans have rejected majority rule; it’s that they increasingly seem to think that there’s no way they can legitimately lose elections.

And if they do lose, well, then it’s just time to change the rules.

What I Wrote

My Tuesday column looked at how the “great replacement” conspiracy theory has entered the mainstream of the Republican Party.

And my Friday column was on the roots of election denialism within the Republican Party.

Also, in the latest episode of our podcast on the political and military thrillers of the 1990s, John Ganz and I discussed the 1992 comedy/thriller “Sneakers.”

Now Reading

Michael Kruse on Madison Cawthorn for Politico magazine.

Isaac Chotiner interviews Kathleen Belew on the Buffalo shooting for The New Yorker.

Howard French on the British Empire for The Nation magazine.

Adam Serwer on the Buffalo shooting and the Republican Party for The Atlantic.

Kaitlyn Tiffany on the dark side of celebrity fandom for The Atlantic.

Rebecca Karl on Xi Jinping for Dissent magazine.

Feedback If you’re enjoying what you’re reading, please consider recommending it to your friends. They can sign up here. If you want to share your thoughts on an item in this week’s newsletter or on the newsletter in general, please email me at [email protected]. You can follow me on Twitter (@jbouie) and Instagram.

Photo of the Week

Credit…Jamelle Bouie

The workers at one of our local bagel shops are attempting to unionize, and they held a news conference to announce their campaign and solicit support. I went to talk to participants and take pictures, and here is one of the photographs that I like.

Now Eating: Corn and Potatoes With Mustard Seeds and Mint

This is so good. It is sweet and sour and savory and hot, the perfect accompaniment to grilled meat (or better yet, marinated and grilled paneer). Recipe comes from “Madhur Jaffrey’s Indian Cooking.”


  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil

  • ½ teaspoon black mustard seeds

  • ½ teaspoon cumin seeds

  • 1 clove garlic, peeled and finely chopped

  • 1 medium boiling potato, boiled, peeled and cut into a ¼-inch dice

  • 1 medium ripe tomato, cut into a ¼-inch dice

  • 4 tablespoons very finely chopped cilantro

  • 3 tablespoons very finely chopped fresh mint

  • 1 fresh, hot green chile, finely chopped

  • 2 cups fresh or frozen corn kernels

  • 3 ounces coconut milk from a well-stirred can, or water

  • ½ to ¾ teaspoon salt

  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper, or to taste

  • 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice

  • freshly ground black pepper

  • 2 teaspoons ground, roasted cumin seeds


Put the oil in a large, preferably nonstick frying pan and set over medium-high heat. When hot, put in the mustard seeds and cumin seeds. As soon as the mustard seeds begin to pop — this takes just a few seconds — put in the garlic and diced potatoes. Stir and fry until the potatoes are lightly browned.

Now put in the tomato, cilantro, mint and green chile. Stir and fry for 1 to 2 minutes. Put in the corn and stir. Add the coconut milk or water, salt, cayenne and lemon juice. Stir to mix and bring to a simmer. Cover, turn heat to low and cook for 3 to 4 minutes or until the corn is cooked. Uncover, add some black pepper and the ground, roasted cumin seeds. Stir to mix, and taste for salt and seasonings.

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