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writing for godot

Should We Still Be Calling America a Democracy?

Written by Leonard   
Thursday, 04 June 2020 11:11

The basic definition of a democracy is “government by the people, especially, rule of the majority” [1].  It’s hard to imagine that today, the current US form of governance could even be called a democratic- republic.  While the US is governed by an elected body of representatives, one would think that to be called a democratic-republic, the elected representation should somehow at least reflect the majority of the population.  However, the 22 American states with the lowest populations (5 Blue, 16 Red & 1 Ind.) have a total of ~40M people.  California, a single state, also has a population of ~40M.  However, California, by some antiquated rules, is still only entitled to just two senators, while the 22 smaller states are awarded a total of 44 senators.  It is difficult to see how this inequity could ever come close to meeting the standard of democracy’s one person one vote or rule by the majority. The number of Senators per state (2 independent of population) is also one of the components in the determination of Presidential Electors per state used in the US national election of the President. This is the only US election, at any level of governance, that does not use election by the majority of voters.  It is difficult to understand how states were formed with such an imbalance in populations.

The current advantage in US Senate representation for the Republican party is created by the large number of small Red states (which many Americans believe should be combined in some manner to form a number of single states with much larger populations). This current undemocratic representation is allowing Senate Leader McConnell to autocratically appoint judges, block any proposed legislation from the House of Representatives and protect the President from any oversight or even the recent impeachment proceedings.

The first Constitutional Convention approved an Electoral College plan on September 6, 1787, as mandated by Article I, Section 2 of the United States Constitution and applicable laws. In the first census, the population of the United States was listed to be 3,929,214 [3]. Given that only nine of the thirteen existing states ratified the Constitution in 1789 (others did later) and the total population was about 1% of the current US population, maybe after 231 years a move towards a more democratic union is in order.  Unfortunately, examination of the Constitutionally defined ratification process for Amendments, although it has worked in the past, is another process no longer close to a one-person-one-vote process but gives one vote to each State independent of population.  So, California’s 40M people have the same one vote as Wyoming’s 579 thousand population (a ratio of about 70:1).

Should California’s 40M population be broken into 6 or maybe 10 states and therefore obtain 10-18 more US Senators?  Or should we combine Idaho, Montana & Wyoming (3.433M total population) and North Dakota, South Dakota and Nebraska (3,581M total population) into single states? That would reduce the number of US Senators by eight (all Republican I believe) but bring US governance closer to the goal of a 1-vote-1-person democracy.

Here are just a few recent items that would not have occurred under a more democratic population based representation.  The list could be much longer:

  • George Bush would not have been elected President.
  • Trump would not have been elected in 2016 when we turned our democratic vision into a numbers game based on some arbitrary rules written 231 years ago when the US was in its infancy with only 1% of today's population.
  • The Supreme Court is becoming more unbalanced and is moving too far towards extreme conservative values that are not supported by the majority of Americans.  Nine judges controlling the lives of  330 million people!
  • Voter suppression would have been reduced, leading to more fair elections under a system with a more equitable distribution of Federal Congressional positions.
  • Increased gun control in the US would have saved many of the >35,000 people/year killed by guns, including many of the children killed in school shootings [2].
  • Since Trump, racial and financial inequality has increased.
  • Global warming could be reduced if the Trump government followed  the majority beliefs of the world’s top climate scientists and the US population...sparing thousands of lives and 100’s of billions of dollars caused by sea level rise, floods, fires and droughts, now and in the future.
  • The US, unlike under the Trump administration, would be following international asylum laws and treaties and would not be kidnapping children from their parents and locking them up in cages.
  • The number of people living in poverty and the overall disparity of wealth in the US could have been substantially reduced.
  • Sexism, racism, and white supremacy resurgences would not be encouraged or supported at the level it has been during the Trump presidency.
  • Tens of thousands of American lives (as many as 80-90% of US deaths) could have been spared from death by the Covid-19 virus in the past four months if Trump hadn’t ignored the medical and science warnings [4].

While most Americans still want to believe they have a great democracy but for the last three and one-half years Trump and the Republican Party Congressional membership certainly didn’t behave like one.  America still has a chance...but it has to first Dump Trump in 2020 and then fix its election processes and balance its representative governance.




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