Schwab: When you can’t win elections, protect minority rule

We’re trending toward a Senate led by less-populated states that will rob a majority of their voice.

By Sid Schwab

If current trends continue, it’s predicted that by 2050, 70 percent of Americans will live in just fifteen states. Which means they’ll be represented by 30 members in the Senate, while the remaining 30 percent of Americans will have 70. Not insignificantly, the 35 states in which that 30 percent will reside are mostly Red.

The implication is obvious: Minority rule becomes permanent. Rule by those who think climate change is a hoax, who’d rather get rid of immigrants than see their schools improve, who’ll settle for limited access to health care as long as those schools don’t let trans people use the “wrong” bathroom. People who think Trump is God’s prelude to sending Jesus back; who consider freedom of the press their enemy and liars their friends. Who’ve been convinced those warning how widening wealth disparity threatens America are communists. It’s the opposite of original intent.

We’re about there. Our 20 smallest states have fewer combined inhabitants than California’s 40 million. Californians have two senators; those others have forty.

Jefferson, Hamilton, Madison, et. al., were brilliant, but theirs was a country of thirteen states and 4 million people. If their compromise on a bicameral Congress was largely to protect smaller states, they can’t have foreseen the enormous imbalance that would ensue. If they envisioned a Constitution that would allow their democratic republic to function forever, they failed. When the views of a distinct minority wholly supplant those of the majority, democracy is no longer.

Nor is the scale-tilting limited to the Senate. In the House of Representatives, legislators from small (again, mostly Red) states speak for far fewer citizens than those in larger states, giving the former voters proportionately more influence over laws that are made.

Then there’s the Electoral College, whose creation, it’s claimed today, was to keep larger states from having too much clout in the choice of president. But historians know it was less about size than slavery. And it worked as designed: for 32 of the nation’s first 36 years white Virginian slave-holders held the presidency.

In those Made-America-Great days, there were no political parties, no presidential campaigns. Each state selected electors who, unconstrained by voter preference, chose the president and, separately, vice-president. In large part, this was because, in the age when information traveled slowly and not everyone was as literate as they, those dazzling dads of democracy didn’t think the masses could know enough to be entrusted with direct voting. How ironic: information, such as it is, now speeds across the land, embedding like brain-eating amoebae, before thought depolarizes a single neuron.

With the 12th Amendment, allowing political parties to choose their candidates and to hold national elections, those founding concepts became moot. Logically, ending the Electoral College should have been included; instead it’s become even more counterproductive, now a mishmash of rules among the states for how electors’ votes are distributed.

Given the outsize grip minority views have on each house of Congress, the concept that large states must be kept from undue influence on the presidency is indefensible. The president and vice-president are the only federal officers chosen by everyone who exercises their vote. Why should the preferences of, say, Washingtonians, have less impact on the process than those of North Dakotans? How does it make sense that the only officer beholden to and representing all citizens can win with a minority of votes, an outcome impossible for all other elections?

The train of American-style democracy is heading off the rails, and our Constitution, designed to preserve liberty, is pouring coal into the hopper. To restore a semblance of equality, the Senate, whose Republican members have, for the last ten years, been purposefully (and successfully) destroying normal political processes to maintain their personal power, would have to vote for its own elimination. Would a Mitch McConnell (who, amazingly, just announced his legislative irrelevance) ever place the interests of most Americans above his own?

Inevitably, there’s a breaking point. Democracy is meaningless when a majority of people have no power to affect their future, when they see opinions held by a distinct minority holding sway. We’re already there, of course, as polls show far more Americans agree with liberal ideas than those of today’s Republican (non-conservative) Party.

Thus we understand what’s really behind Trumpism’s attacks on immigrants, minorities and their voting rights: The only Constitutional means for restoring majority rule is by Red states turning Blue. It wouldn’t be white Christian Americans who’d make it happen.

Email Sid Schwab at columnsid@gmail.com.

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