Well, I’m a bit surprised that The New York Times would even run this. I mean, after they got all huffy and puffy about Sen. Tom Cotton’s (R-AR) law and order op-ed, I’d expect the "woke" police at the publication, which became de facto-overseers on the editorial side, to nix this—but they didn't. In short, it’s a piece by Steven Teles of Johns Hopkins University that frankly tells liberals, "Yeah, the Constitution may be unfair, but it’s what we’ve got, so deal with it." I don’t agree with that premise, but it’s a shot through the heart regarding the Left’s lust to bring this country under majority mob rule.
There’s a great quote that sums up the Left’s whining about how they’re not going to get the changes they want post-2020. You can either complain about the rain while getting soaked, or you can reach out and grab an umbrella. Either way, for the foreseeable future, you're going to have to work within the system we have now, the one established by our Founding Fathers, and deal with the fact that diversity is needed to at least have a chance of getting what you want to get done. Your agenda of defunding the police, the Green New Deal, raising taxes, more regulatory red tape, and more COVID lockdowns are not popular. Deal with it. Teles does concede that the liberal argument might be logical, but it’s a "strategic dead end" (via NYT):
The United States is and in almost any plausible scenario will continue to be a federal republic. We are constituted as a nation of states, not as a single unitary community, a fact that is hard-wired into our constitutional structure. Liberals may not like this, just as a man standing outside in a rainstorm does not like the fact he is getting soaked. But instead of cursing the rain, it makes a lot more sense for him to find an umbrella.
Liberals need to adjust their political strategy and ideological ambitions to the country and political system we actually have, and make the most of it, rather than cursing that which they cannot change.
There are certainly some profound democratic deficits built into our federal constitution. Even federal systems like Germany, Australia and Canada do not have the same degree of representative inequality that the Electoral College and Senate generate between a citizen living in California versus one living in Wyoming.
There is also next to nothing we can do about it. The same system that generates this pattern of representative inequality also means that — short of violent revolution — the beneficiaries of our federal system will not allow for it to be changed, except at the margins. If Democrats at some point get a chance to get full representation for Washington, D.C., they should take it. But beyond that, there are few if any pathways to changing either the Electoral College or the structure of the Senate. So any near-term strategy for Democrats must accept these structures as fixed.
The initial step in accepting our federal system is for Democrats to commit to organizing everywhere — even places where we are not currently competitive.
We also need to recognize that the cultural values and rituals of Democrats in cosmopolitan cities and liberal institutional bastions like universities do not seem to travel well. Slogans like “defund the police” and “abolish ICE” may be mobilizing in places where three-quarters of voters pull the lever for Democrats. But it is madness to imagine that they could be the platform of a competitive party nationwide.
Teles mentions Howard Dean's 50-state strategy of organizing and competing everywhere. That’s true. This isn’t a tough turn for Democrats. They’ve done it before. The Democrats dominated and clinched pockets of rural America in 2006 and 2008. It was the party’s hard-left shift that caused those foundations to become shaky and eventually wiped out by 2016. The fact that no significant gains, if any, at the state legislative level occurred this year is another issue. The health of a party truly begins at the level that’s not really talked about. The state-level is essential for a party’s health. Think of it like the NFL Draft. This is where you find those gems to fill solid candidate slates. This is the combine. Shoddy state parties lead to mismanagement and poor candidates, which makes you uncompetitive. It’s a no-brainer observation, yes. But it’s shocking how bad some apparatuses have become. Look at the Virginia GOP. It’s not what it was ten years ago. That’s for sure.
The issue with Dean 2.0 is that I don’t think the base will take too kindly to it. The cycle that saw Dean’s strategy net some success was a time when the Democrats tolerated more right-leaning candidates. You’re not going to win on a gun-grabbing, anti-cop, and quasi-socialist economic plan outside of the coasts and cities. And yet, that’s what the progressive wing wants on steroids. They’re now more vocal, numerous, and have seen legislative success. That wasn’t the case in the mid-2000s. The "Joe Manchins" of the party is becoming an increasingly dying breed—and yet, these are the ones who are needed to sell the Democratic Party outside of their usual enclaves of power. I like the tough love aspect of this piece, but this internal fight could get bloody. It’s a classic old and new guard duel.
For now, it looks like court packing, D.C. statehood, and other hard-left items are off the menu. Though that could change if the GOP has a disastrous showing in the Georgia runoffs in January.