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Francis Wilkinson

Even Democracy Is Partisan Now

Remember when the League of Women Voters didn’t have to take sides to support voting rights and other democratic values?



Photographer: Alex Wong/Getty Images

As it marks its centennial this month, the League of Women Voters shows how difficult it is for a political organization born and bred in nonpartisanship to navigate the cratered road of partisan destruction. The ascendance of President Donald Trump, the decline of the Republican Party and the reaction against them both have rendered “nonpartisan” and “political” as effective antonyms.

Not that the league was ever immune to partisan complaint. Too prim and complacent for the left, it was too feminist and fluoridated for the right. When William F. Buckley launched National Review in 1955, he vowed that his new conservative magazine would stand outside the respectable bipartisan consensus of the era — epitomized, he wrote, by such institutions as the New York Times and the League of Women Voters.