Minority Rule

I recently saw a study showing that Americans hold wildly exaggerated notions about the numbers of people in various minority groups–respondents guessed that Muslim Americans are 27% of the population, that Jews are 30%, and Blacks 41%, for example.(The real numbers are: Muslims, 1%, Jews, 2% and Blacks 12%.) Other group estimates were similarly inflated.

My first reaction was that the research questioned a lot of Americans who can’t add up to 100…(Maybe those who disapprove of teaching Arabic numerals.….)

When it came to sexual orientation minorities, the degree of error was even more astonishing. According to the poll, gays and lesbians were estimated at 30 percent of the population. (While estimates vary, thanks to the persistence of the closet, the article pegged the true number at around 3 percent). Respondents estimated that 29% of Americans are  bisexual–the true number is somewhere in the neighborhood of 4%. And those scary transgender people were estimated at 21%; credible estimates put the number at  0.6 percent). (That’s six-tenths of one percent, not six percent!)

The article considered a number of reasons why these perceptions were so far off.  One possibility was that media devotes disproportionate attention to issues involving minority communities, skewing perceptions. That led me to wonder whether we aren’t also vastly over-estimating the percentage of crazy rightwing Republicans among actual, registered voters.

Last July, Ballotpedia had a partisan breakdown of the number of registered voters in the states that allow voters to register by party and that report those totals publicly.
They reported that, in those states, 49.3 million identified as Democrats, or 39.6%. A total of 36.4 million registered voters identified as Republicans, or 29.2%. Another 38.8 million identified as independents or members of third-parties, amounting to 31.2%.

It’s worth noting that various polls lump party members with Independent “leaners,” and that there are multiple surveys and polls asking members of the general public–registered or not– which party  they prefer. None of this, of course, gives us a firm handle on how many registered Republicans or Republican “leaners” are committed (and arguably commit-able) members of the MAGA base.

And that brings me to the stranglehold that base has on the GOP and policymaking. That stranglehold accounts for the wide discrepancy between public opinion–even among Republicans–and the culture war policies being pursued by elected Republicans.

A recent report from Religion News Service is illustrative.

Americans’ support for LGBTQ rights is higher than ever, according to a new report by Public Religion Research Institute, though two groups have “consistently lagged” in their support for key policies: Republicans and white evangelical Protestants.

Those findings, released Thursday (March 17), are part of PRRI’s 2021 American Values Atlas project, a seven-year survey measuring Americans’ support for LGBTQ rights policies.

The report comes as a number of states are considering legislation related to LGBTQ issues and as questions of whether one can refuse service to LGBTQ people based on religious beliefs are likely to come before the U.S. Supreme Court in the next year. Currently, few states have nondiscrimination protections in place for LGBTQ people.

PRRI has been polling on the issue for several years, and the number of Americans who support same-sex marriage has steadily increased . Furthermore, that increase has occurred among all political and religious groups, rising from 54% to 68%. Support for anti-discrimination protections for LGBTQ people is even higher, at 79%.

Nearly two-thirds of Americans (66%) also oppose religiously based refusals to serve gay and lesbian people — a number that has fluctuated while trending upward from 59% since 2015.

The outliers, as you might expect , are disproportionately Republican and White Evangelical Protestant. But even their support for LGBTQ rights has increased overall– and strong majorities of both support nondiscrimination policies.

So why are Republican politicians eagerly pursuing policies that large numbers of Americans–including significant numbers of registered Republican voters–oppose? As the director of PRRI’s research puts it:

White evangelicals are a small part of the U.S. population, Jackson noted, but they are dependable voters. And evangelical leaders have had close ties to politics and politicians for decades, she added.

“White evangelicals are about 14% of the population overall, which is certainly not what you would think by the amount of focus that they get, the amount of leverage that they seem to have,” she said.

The bottom line–and not just with respect to the wedge issues (sexual orientation, gun laws, women’s reproductive rights, etc.) beloved by MAGA culture warriors–is that all policy decisions in the United States are being held hostage by the minority of cultists who control today’s GOP.

Call that whatever you will, but you sure can’t call it democracy or majority rule.


  1. Facts are facts, and you can’t argue with facts. But, you CAN usually out yell them, and noise is what people pay attention to.

  2. You’re right. I can’t call any of the ravings from the 14% democracy. It’s pure tribalism based on fear of losing power. So, as Todd so often points out, the media is owned and operated by corporations – for the most part – so their bias is rife. Why, for example, does the fundamentally incompetent Ron DeSantis get so much ink and air time for his idiotic “Don’t Say Gay” bullshit law? Is it because the media is feeding its paying customers, stockholders and owners what they ask for?

    On Facebook, the big splash about the beautiful Ms. DeBose winning an Oscar for her role in the terrific remake of “West Side Story” begins with listing all the “letters” she represents. Not a word about how well she dances, acts and sings. THAT is the kind of distortion and imbalance the corporate media is selling to the 14% who have nothing better to do than finding ways to disparage people they fear, dislike, or refuse to understand.

  3. Ron DeMentis is getting so much ink because he knows how to put on a show. He signed the “Don’t say gay” bill at a charter school, where all the kids in their uniforms looked like good Catholic kid (whose sexuality will be repressed anyway) and where the bill won’t have to be followed, because it’s a charter school. Hypocrisy, thy name is Ron.

  4. If you can think back several months ago, before the world’s worst human being attacking the most courageous and righteous country, China was the devil and COVID sold newspapers. We were building up for the inevitable war against China. Now, we’re telling them to honor our sanctions or at least not support Russia.

    Does this meet the bar of a rational country?

    Biden’s gaffes have revealed the real motive for selling arms to Ukrainian Nazis.

    I don’t understand the GOP. Their main donors have an obvious motive, which is quite unpopular with non-billionaires so their puppets like DeSantis, Rokita, Braun, and Young make mouse noises about gays and blacks and Christian victimization for a fraction of their base.

    They really have nothing else to contribute because they are rubber stamps for Charles Koch.

  5. Pretty simple – those 14% are fearful and completely aligned – a true “community” organized into a well-funded ecosystem – Heritage Foundation, ALEC, PACs, mega-churches, etc. The rest of us are fragmented, busy with our own “identitity(ies)/brands and having fun.

  6. Many years ago in commenting on the anti-Vietnam War movement, Abbe Hoffman asserted that for a political movement to achieve its goal it didn’t need a majority, it just needed enough. It seems that 14% is enough.

  7. We have reached perhaps one of the limits of democracy, that it requires an informed electorate. Nobody is to blame for this, it’s a result of the growing gap between what is known by humans collectively versus the relatively limited state of what the average individual knows. That limit is made worse by the well-known human limit of what we each care about compared to what is best for the collective country, the long term, and the world.

    This is exactly the state that several of the designers of our Consitution worried about in terms of how can a knowledge limited population elect a capable government? Of course, it’s even worse now because of the powers of pervasive entertainment media and high-tech advertising capability. Back then the ones who worried about it decided that wealth was an adequate proxy for informed and we see today how effectively the WUW (wealth up welfare) crowd works to get more than their say in elections.

    What’s worrisome is that the condition also means that we don’t have the wherewithal to figure out and implement a solution either.

    Also, what matters is that despite our condition, is there any current example in the world of a better form of government?

    In my experience, yes, in Switzerland, where I worked for a couple of years, which consistently outranks the States formerly United in pretty much all measures.

    Do I see any path from where we are to at least the current world standard in effective culture/government? No, I don’t.

    Unfortunately, this comes at a very inopportune time in history when we are on the verge of peak human population, peak reliance on energy to maintain our expectations of comfort, and addiction to supplying energy in a way that is and will continue to change the very nature of the planet we are limited to, the planet that all of our infrastructure was built adapted to.

    That adds up to my disappointment in the difference between what my generation was given by previous generations versus what we leave behind. Like them, we have been given problems and challenges, unlike them, we will leave them behind unsolved.

  8. Yes to Todd’s and Pete’s analysis, and as to that of Sheila’s, since no one of the groups measured constitutes a majority, perhaps we can assure the blessings of representation of all minorities (and as aggregated – the majority) by adoption of a parliamentary system of government. How to sell this idea to the entrenched interests of Koch and others comfortable with the current means of keeping the polity divided and their balance sheets green would be an issue for future politicians of the new system to solve.

    Calling a constitutional convention for this purpose risks having to contend with all the cultural changes certain to be proposed by today’s crazies, so perhaps we will have to wait for a more propitious time to make such a move – if we can last that long.

  9. errata > I do not agree with all of Todd’s analysis, i.e., his reference to Biden and Nazi Ukrainians.

  10. P.F Collier and sons Encyclopedia 1949 reads,

    “The extremely conservative Venetian republic, which Napoleon finally overthrew, provides the classic example of such an oligarchy; but the free cities of the holy Roman empire, the cities of the Hanseatic league, and the charter towns of England and Western Europe revealed the same general tendencies toward tight oligarchal control by a relatively small but proud and highly cultured aristocracy.”

    Another statement from the Geoffrey Barraclough book,”The Collins Atlas of World History”2003, reads; “Politics in Rome was everyone’s affair, although, the richest citizens and those who were fortunate enough to be born HIGH, formed an oligarchy which shared out among itself the offices of magistrate, military commander and priest.”

    There are tons of examples throughout history. History is cyclical, but history can also reach a saturation point. A point where the society has become completely saturated with conspiracies, lies, useless drivel, and power hungry political sycophants and their diatribe.

    A noted Harvard professor, Carl J. Friedrich, states; “the elite and aristocratic England of the 18th century was an elite-based primarily on blood descent and riches the same was true in Venice. In some countries such as 18th century Prussia, the elite was based on blood descent and military prowess.”

    The term, “Noblesse Oblige”
    Alluded to a biologic superiority of the noble class. A class that did not dare mix with commoners and pollute the noble superiority. They had to maintain their purity in order to best take on the responsibility of rule, and, like Atlas shoulder the world’s burdens. (An example of this would be Rudyard Kipling’s *The White Man’s Burden)

    Unfortunately, in an effort to keep their nobility pure, genetic imperfections compounded themselves and gave way to all sorts of perversions, Mal afflictions, and mental derangement. In most cases they used their Narcissistic Messianic godlike viewpoints to subjugate all of those lesser ones which were most of the subjects they really despised, but needed.

  11. Society will be much better when the ignorant no longer believe in the invisible skydaddy.

    If you can convince someone there is an invisible Daddy up in space,a deity which has been given the attributes of mortal man (jealousy,etc) ostensibly, that individual can be duped by just about anything. I would bet Xtians were probably the biggest buyers of snake oil back in the day. They most certainly are today. Only the ignorant would embrace such a concept as the cruciFICTION. Metaphorically speaking,you can understand why so many Xtian males would applaud the idea of the “dead having risen”(little blue pills anyone?).

    People cling to religion because of their vanity. Moreover,religion is probably the oldest form of virtue signaling.

  12. The lack of adding to 100 was the first thing I thought of, too. My favourite subject was always mathematics, though, so I am biased. Maybe people just don’t understand what percentages are?? (Percent is just “per 100”.)

    The middle-east was a hotbed for mathematics once upon a time. Besides the numerals we use, there are many Arabic words that are commonplace in math and computers. Two obvious examples: algebra and algorithm.

    Regarding the number of true MAGA-Americans out there, I think you can look at Trump’s approval rating across his term to get an upper bound for its size. It appears the lowest he got was 34% approval, so the MAGA crowd is probably at most that. To get a lower bound, look at the percentage of Americans that are white evangelicals, since they are overwhelmingly MAGA-Americans. (I know there are exceptions, but there aren’t many, certainly not on a percentage basis.) If it’s anywhere close to the upper limit, though, it would suggest that MOST Republicans are MAGA-Americans. And that’s scary.

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