This Isn’t Democracy…

Vox and several other sources recently reported on the composition of the incoming Congress, noting that “winning” can no longer be defined as “getting the most votes.”

On Tuesday, 33 US senators elected in November will be sworn in by Vice President Joe Biden — including 12 who are new to the chamber. The class includes 22 Republicans and 11 Democrats, a big reason why the GOP has a 54-46 majority in the Senate overall.

But here’s a crazy fact: those 46 Democrats got more votes than the 54 Republicans across the 2010, 2012, and 2014 elections. According to Nathan Nicholson, a researcher at the voting reform advocacy group FairVote, “the 46 Democratic caucus members in the 114th Congress received a total of 67.8 million votes in winning their seats, while the 54 Republican caucus members received 47.1 million votes.”

The writer used these numbers to make the point that the Senate–a body to which all states, large or small, send two senators–is undemocratic.

I want to make a different point, and one that I find much more troubling. The Senate, after all, was intended to be less representative than the House. We may disagree with those initial choices, but in the case of the Senate, the system is working as designed.

When it comes to Congress and the nation’s statehouses, however, “one person, one vote” is no longer an accurate description of American elections. We have disenfranchised urban voters, and given control of the country’s policymaking to rural America.

In the 2012 Congressional elections, Democratic candidates for the House received over a million more votes than Republicans, yet the GOP easily retained control. In state after state, rural voters have a disproportionate voice–drowning out the political preferences of  urban inhabitants–partially as a result of gerrymandering and partially as a result of residential “sorting.”

The first Constitution counted African-Americans as 2/3 of a citizen [update: my bad. Slaves were 3/5ths, not 2/3ds]. Today, we count people in cities (where, I’m sure coincidentally, most minorities still live) as 2/3ds of a voter.

I don’t know what you call that, but it isn’t democracy.


  1. Don’t you mean at first African-Americans were 3/5 of a person? (A little less than 2/3; I was a
    math prof!)

    Last night Frontline had a good show on the power of the NRA. And how even poor Joe Manchin’s attempt (after Sandy Hook) to introduce the tiniest bit of sanity was defeated in the Congress. But none of our `representatives’ who voted it down even had it mentioned in the last campaign. Again, I’m only a math prof, but I think more people are killed accidentally by guns (or by totally crazy people) than by ebola in this country…[but we don’t remember well, we’ve probably forgotten about ebola by now…]

  2. Interesting. You might as well ask why living in exurbia (did I just invent that word?) makes one so gullible.

    The Great Oligarchy Plot is a child of business. It’s a product built like laundry soap on advertising. The raw material in it is the belief that wealth is the only measure of accomplishment and it entitles the bearer to power in proportion to it. Just as another failed philosophy, the belief that some families are entitled to power, aristocracy, had it’s moment earlier, oligarchy has been sold to many who should know better. It’s advocates are most concentrated among pretenders to the throne. Those with enough wealth to be enslaved to it, but from such minor wealth compared to the real powers that their presence at the table is only tolerated.

    But aren’t those in power from the cities? Yes but as businesses flourish in market niches, so do oligarchs work marketing magic. You see, they aren’t selling what they are, mere soap. They’re selling an illusion. They are selling a dream. To many, that dream is that their particular race, religion, gender, locale, situation deserves more and is being robbed by those who deserve less. The opposite of democratic thinking.

    How many markets are similarly built on illusion? Transportation, fashion, sports, housing, education, to name just a few. Advertising has replaced religion as the opiate of the masses.

    Is America doomed? Certainly the risk is there. In my opinion the trauma about to be visited upon us all by the waste products of the age of advertsing will first crush us, then rebuild from the ashes cultures built on common sense rather than the fluff of dreams. Painful? Very. The sixth great extinction. But for humans not the end of a species, but the end of a very dysfunctional culture. And the rebirth of reason.

  3. I have one great-granddaughter who is German-Austrian-Irish-English-Scottish-African-American; what is she exactly percentage-wise? Can she even vote in this country when she comes of age?

  4. Also, the 3/5 compromise was not in the first, but is in the second and current Constitution. The first constitution, the Articles of Confederation, had a unicameral legislature with equal representation of the states so counting the population didn’t matter.

    Interestingly, while the 3/5 compromise is rightly decried today, it was actually seen as a big win for the southern states.

  5. We know the solution because we have witnessed this before. France, Russia, Spain, Cuba etc. And, of course, it happened here in 1776. All were bloody, very bloody. So blood is a given. The ups don’t surrender easily to the downs. Surely, they will spill blood to maintain their privilege. Not their blood. It will be your blood plus the blood of their paid assassins. Many of whom are busy at work killing this very moment. Paid $1500 per day. By you.

    The gendarmes laid down their weapons to join with the hordes. In Russia, it happened too quickly. In America, other nations came to assist. In Cuba, the people arose to repel invasion from the North.

    So what is most likely to happen here? In exurbia revolution does not occur. In the cities there will be different responses in different places but I do not believe the paid killers will forgo the lucre. And the 1% will insure that killing is lucrative and all means are available.

    There will be no quick and easy change in America. I feel that should a hot spot, a city or a region become rife or successful with reform, no hesitation would prevail to prevent use of nuclear weapons and killer drones, anything to maintain the status quo.

    What would the Brotherhood of Nations do? Certainly not sit idly by. There is little doubt that England, Germany and Spain would join in the suppression of the hoi pol-loi . Possibly Russia, Cuba and France would assist a rebellion but the powers that be would not hesitate to attack them also. And they know it. It is remiss to even consider any relinquishment on their side.

    Peruse any newspaper from the early ’20s and you will see how, even then, the rich were vilifying any thought of equality. “Better dead than Red” is a mantra they still adhere to. We were a young nation but we already knew that equality was not the way to go. All that stuff about ‘created equal’ was for advertising purposes only.

    When and what was the last statute enacted to increase your freedoms and and opportunities? Every law, every deed in congress helps themselves.

    Something happened in this city that should have turned the people into the streets far more than the Ferguson incident: Colts owner and billionaire Irsay was stopped while high and in possession of lots of cash and drugs. We all know that had that been anyone else, black or white, blue green or yellow, they would be looking at 30 years for possession with intent. He was completely exonerated. Yes, completely. $500,000 to Irsay is like a streetcar token to you. Right; they don’t take tokens anymore!

    Still, this is the purview of our prodigy. It is their problem and many of us have tried to alert them of it. So they sit at the dinner table and text. But there could be operatives at work we know not of; that they know not of: With the social media as it is today, a revolution could be called in five minutes and the paid lackeys subdued before they could organize. Maybe that is why the NSA is so intent on monitoring your cell phone!

  6. Perhaps Earl is right, and the parting gift of our generation to our kids will be wholesale slaughter. That we’ll settle the issue of overpopulation by eliminating much of it; that we’ll settle the issue of extreme wealth distribution by eliminating that too; and we’ll maintain a functional climate by reverting again to muscles rather than fuel.

    That would be the result of our base capabilities. Our animal heritage. Our self centered egoism. Not the best we can do but the easiest.

    We have in America one hope for less tragedy. Democracy. If we deserve it.

  7. Glad that Prof David mentioned the Frontline presentation. It was an eloquent demonstration of the Right wing’s effectiveness of fear inducement which has become their tool of choice and portent that the grand experiment is not doing well. The NRA wants people to believe that the gov’ment is out to get them any day now, but a stockpile of weapons will save them, the culture notwithstanding. The very idea is a paranoid delusion in which one must work hard to deny all those reports of accidental killings and maimings and craft the belief that rampant gun carrying somehow benefits the public good. To that, we see that the public views torture as a favorable option by a margin of 2 to 1, and that the torture report has failed in its mission. A democracy takes hard work and courage coupled with sanity to make it work. Not happening.

    One good thing is the Sunday Post Tribune commentary by David Rutter, entitled “Pence winning elections, sure, but he’s creepy”. Now that is a situation where people need to develop a healthy fear. Frankly, I think that even the legislature doesn’t like the guy, and many of them would prefer another person.

  8. Just read David Rutter’s article about our creepy governor. When I saw that Christians United for Israel partly sponsored his recent trip to Israel, I looked up that organization. Talk about creepy! Now I find our governor more creepy that what I had already thought.

  9. What is so striking about our governor is that, just like Damien in The Omen, he looks just like what he is.

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