But there is a coup that succeeded, that toppled American democracy, possibly for all time.
This was the McConnell coup. By succeeding, during the course of 4 years, in getting three unqualified political hacks onto the Supreme Court, Mitch McConnell won the power to redefine the Constitution and destroy American democracy.
That work has barely begun.
People are pointing today to the Dobbs decision, overturning a 50-year right for women to control their bodies, as evidence of Republican electoral failure. But there is a lot more to what this court has already done than that.
By allowing racial gerrymanders, and disallowing Democrats’ attempt to respond, the McConnell court kept the House in Republican hands. This means there’s no recourse against the overthrow of democracy, in which Wisconsin voters supported Democrats for the legislature by 51%, but only got 30% of the seats.
Gerrymandering is far more sophisticated than it was in Elbridge Gerry’s day. It can be done with scientific, mathematic precision. If you have a 50-50 state, you can create 1 90-10 district for the other side and 4 60-40 districts for your side, guaranteeing political power for decade after decade.
What the court has effectively done is overturn the 24th Amendment, by declaring its enabling legislation, the Voting Rights Act, a dead letter. This can overturn the entire Civil Rights Era, sometimes called the Second Reconstruction, just as the courts of the 1890s overturned the 15th Amendment and, in time, the 14th as well . It was by destroying these two amendments, and the South’s clever use of an exception to the 13th Amendment making prisoners into slaves, that Jim Crow came to power. He’s back, and southern whites know it.
If the Supreme Court can overturn Constitutional Amendments by defining them out of existence, what’s to keep it from making the whole document a dead letter? That’s in process. There are cases before the court right now that will overturn marriage rights, contraception, even the idea of the federal supremacy of republican state government, which is the whole of Article IV.
Jim Crow is on the march and, because the House remains Republican, there’s nothing that democracy can do about it in the near term. Sure, Joe Biden can still nominate lower court judges. But it would be an impossible historical bank shot for two 70-somethings in the majority to die so an 80-something can get new people through a 50-50 Senate.
Democrats came very close to winning in 2022, but thanks to the court they came up short. The New York gerrymander gave Republicans enough seats to guarantee a majority. We lack the power to do anything about the McConnell coup over the next two years. It is free to do its work.
The near term may be enough time for that coup to succeed in destroying the American system once and for all.