Friday, July 13, 2018

America: Tyranny of the Minority, and Rogue Nation Status

Watching Donald Trump - in my view, the most morally bankrupt and dangerous narcissist to ever occupy the White House - wreak havoc on the world order, igniting a trade war that will cost American consumers dearly, shredding long standing alliances, and even seeking to over through the current government in the United Kingdom (all of which likely thrills Vladimir Putin) makes it hard to reach any conclusion other than America is a rogue nation.  Disturbingly, many of Trump's tactics both domestically and internationally mirror the conduct of Adolph Hitler in the early 1930's.  Meanwhile, Trump's rural base cheers as the destruction takes place and the eunuchs in the Congressional GOP do nothing to rein in or remove an unfit occupant of the White House.  How did we reach this point where ignorance and racial hate and bigotry are celebrated by the party controlling the federal government?  A piece in The Economist - one of the few things currently stable in the UK - blames a design flaw in the United States Constitution which now allows a tyrannical and toxic minority of rural voters/states to negate the wishes of the majority of citizens. Even with massive Democrat turnout, it will prove difficult to alter the downward spiral of American politics and, I would argue, morality.   Here are article highlights:
EVERY system for converting votes into power has its flaws. Britain suffers from an over-mighty executive; Italy from chronically weak government; Israel from small, domineering factions. America, however, is plagued by the only democratic vice more troubling than the tyranny of the majority: tyranny of the minority.
This has come about because of a growing division between rural and urban voters. The electoral system the Founders devised, and which their successors elaborated, gives rural voters more clout than urban ones. When the parties stood for both city and country that bias affected them both. But the Republican Party has become disproportionately rural and the Democratic Party disproportionately urban. That means a red vote is worth more than a blue one.
The consequences are dramatic. Republicans hold both the houses of Congress and the White House. But in the three elections in 2012-16 their candidates got just 46% of the two-party vote for the Senate, and they won the presidential vote in 2016 with 49%. Our voting model predicts that, for Democrats to have a better than 50% chance of winning control of the House in November’s mid-term elections, they will need to win the popular vote by around seven percentage points. To put that another way, we think the Republicans have a 0.01% chance of winning the popular vote for the House. But we estimate their chance of securing a majority of congressmen is about a third.
This imbalance is partly by design. The greatest and the smallest states each have two senators, in order that Congress should represent territory as well as people. Yet the over-representation of rural America was not supposed to affect the House and the presidency. . . . America has one party built on territory and another built on people.
By having elected politicians appoint federal judges, the American system embeds this rural bias in the courts as well. If Brett Kavanaugh, whom President Donald Trump nominated this week, joins the Supreme Court, a conservative court established by a president and Senate who were elected with less than half the two-party vote may end up litigating the fairness of the voting system.
[T]he built-in bias is obviously bad for Democrats. But in the long run it is bad for America as a whole, including Republicans. When lawmaking is paralysed, important work, such as immigration and entitlement reform, is too hard. The few big laws that are approved, like Barack Obama’s health-care reform or Mr Trump’s corporate-tax cuts, pass on party-line votes. That emboldens the opposition to reverse or neuter them when they take power. Meanwhile, the task of resolving the most divisive political issues often falls to the courts. The battle over Mr Kavanaugh’s confirmation will be a proxy war over issues, like abortion and health insurance, better suited to the legislature.
[R]ancorous political disputes—over guns, abortion and climate change—split so neatly along urban-rural lines that parties and voters increasingly sort themselves into urban-rural tribes. Gerrymandering and party primaries reward extremists, and ensure that, once elected, they seldom need fear for their jobs. The incentives to take extreme positions are very powerful.
Bitter partisanship, ineffective federal government and electoral bias poison politics and are hard to fix. Changing the constitution is hard—and rightly so. Yet the voting system for Congress is easier to reform than most people realise, because the constitution does not stipulate what it should be. Congress last voted to change the rules in 1967.
Voting reform is not the whole answer to partisanship and built-in bias, but it would help. It is hard, but not outlandish. To maintain the trust of all Americans, the world’s oldest constitutional democracy needs to reform itself.
I agree with the piece.  Wyoming with slightly less than 600,000 residents should not have two U.S. Senators. Ditto for other small, least educated, mot reactionary states.   The Electoral College - which utterly failed its purpose in 2016 - likewise needs to go.

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