The US once helped destroy Chilean democracy. Now, a constitutional reform movement in Chile could teach the US how to fix its own
It seems those “irresponsible” Chilean voters are at it again – on Sunday, they elected leftist Gabriel Boric as president by a 12-point margin, on the back of a campaign for a new constitution. But if Chilean democracy seems on the road to recovery from its Washington-backed disfiguration, prospects for democracy in the United States look rather bleak, writes Tony Karon in the Guardian.
Sunday also saw Joe Manchin brandish the veto power the US system grants a senator representing fewer than 300,000 voters to tank the agenda of a president chosen by 80 million. And that was but the latest reminder that Americans are not governed by the democratic will of the citizenry. The US supreme court looks ready to strike down abortion rights supported by about two-thirds of the electorate, while Democrats in office seem unable or unwilling to deliver on basic social programs supported by a majority of voters, whether on drug prices or childcare or public health, and much more – or to prevent Republicans brazenly reengineering state-level laws and procedures to prevent voters of color from ever again making the difference they made in 2020.
Minority rule is a feature, not a bug of the US constitutional system.
Donald Trump was legitimately elected president in 2016 despite losing by 3m votes. And 6 January notwithstanding, the Republican party needs no coup to lock itself into power for the foreseeable future, even if it represents a diminishing minority of voters. The US constitution provides all the tools they’ll need: the electoral college; the US Senate (two seats per state means it can be controlled with less than 20% of the national vote); the supreme court the Senate effectively picks; and the state houses empowered to set voting laws and rules, and even redraw districts to partisan advantage.
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