Steve McEllistrem

The Devereaux Dilemma

Why America Is Moving Right

America is moving closer to being a Republican-governed country even though a majority of its citizens identify as Democrats or Independents. How is this happening?

Largely it’s a result of the dictates of the Constitution and the geographic movement of individuals to large cities. Let’s start with the Constitution. It requires two senators from every state, whether large or small. So Wyoming (population 585,000) gets two senators just like California (population 39.25 million). Utah (population 3 million) gets two senators just like New York (population 19.75 million).

In fact, 50 percent of the population lives in just 9 states – California, Texas, Florida, New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Illinois and Georgia. This means that 18 senators represent half of the country while 82 senators represent the other half.

People are leaving rural and semi-rural areas for cities and suburbs – the places where jobs, education and other opportunities are greater. So it’s no surprise that people want to live there, but it does raise certain problems.

The folks who remain in rural communities lean more Republican than Democrat. So even though the US Congress is re-aligned every ten years after the census – with growing states getting more representatives and shrinking states getting fewer – the Senate is a different story. Those numbers are fixed.

And it’s not just the Senate where this becomes an issue. Recall how we elect presidents – a little thing called the Electoral College, which consists of 538 electors – one for each member of the House and one for each senator, with three extra for the District of Columbia.

We’ve already seen examples of how that will play out in the coming years. Only five presidents have won office despite losing the popular vote – John Quincy Adams (1824), Rutherford B. Hayes (1876), Benjamin Harrison (1888), George W. Bush (2000) and Donald Trump (2016), who lost by the greatest margin of any president in history.

These kinds of elections are likely to occur with increasing frequency as the population moves into cities and suburbs. In the not too distant future, I can imagine a candidate winning as much as 65 percent of the popular vote and still losing the election.

Republicans (the winners) will be happy about this, of course, while Democrats (the losers) will not. But whether you’re a Democrat or a Republican, this dynamic leads us to a potentially vast problem – and that is the end of the peaceful transfer of power.

If you are one of the two-thirds of the country who voted for the losing candidate, are you going to accept the results without some sort of action? Many will, I suppose. But many won’t. They will begin by marching and protesting, but if their voices are not heard, many will ultimately resort to violence.

It’s hard to blame people for engaging in a revolution when the vast majority of them feel as if the system is rigged against them. That’s because the system IS RIGGED against them. It wasn’t intended to be rigged in this particular way, of course, but that’s what is happening and what will continue to happen.

So how do we stop it? That’s both simple and extremely difficult. We need to revise the Constitution to make the popular vote the deciding factor. Easy, right? Except, if you live in Idaho or Mississippi, why would you want to revise the Constitution to give yourselves less power?

And since we need two-thirds of the states (or two-thirds of both houses of Congress) to begin the process, and three-fourths of the states to agree to revise the Constitution, it’s going to be very hard (perhaps impossible) to get it done. So the only way to get there may be through revolution.

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