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    • Chris

      Am I the only one who didn't know this? Regardless of which side of the partisan divide we fall on, it's pretty fascinating math. It comes from population trends that shift more population to states like California and New York and away from rural states.

      In about 20 years, half the population will live in eight states.

      The 30% will be older, whiter, and in older industries. Hmmm, having trouble getting my head around what this really means.

    • wx

      The obvious answer is that you'd think it would make the Senate more conservative, perhaps even reactionary. However, in truth the Senate already favors acreage over population, so I'm not sure how much it will change.

      It's a fine balance between the tyranny of the majority and the tyranny of the minority.

      In theory, the House should more closely reflect population and act as a counterweight, but gerrymandering is effectively negating that effect.

      That's how it looks to this non-scholar of civics. I look forward to a more learned answer to your questions.

    • Chris
      Chris MacAskill

      I just re-read the section of the Constitution about the Senate and it's just utterly fascinating to me that they could write a document in 1787 then that could survive so many technological, cultural, and population changes.

      Conservative is one word to use, but I live in a tech-heavy area where most people bemoan what they perceive as a minority pushing so hard for old industries like coal and letting the economic opportunities for solar go to China. So here it's also about the future economy.

    • Richard

      It's not surprising, and as wxwax rightly points out, it's not a significant change from the current situation. California has almost 70 times the population of Wyoming, but each has two senators. Like the electoral college, it is enshrined in the Constitution and is virtually impossible to change--those states with disproportionate influence would never voluntarily give it up, thus making ratification out of the question.

      But at least for now, I don't think it's the most important threat to democracy that America faces. Public policy frequently diverges from the popular will. National polling shows broad support for sensible gun control, better healthcare delivery, affordable education, protection of DACA participants, and a host of other issues that have little chance of being enacted.

      The real problem is the overwhelming influence of oligarchic wealth and organized special interests. Political scientists Martin Gilens and Benjamin Page did a landmark empirical study of what truly influences government policy. Their conclusion was:

      Multivariate analysis indicates that economic elites and organized groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on U.S. government policy, while average citizens and mass-based interest groups have little or no independent influence. (emphasis added)

      Note that the study was based on data collected before the Citizens United ruling of 2010, so presumably things have only gotten worse since. A good overview of the study is here; details here.

      Structural factors do matter, but for the foreseeable future I think the electoral college is a larger problem than the Senate. There is a slight chance that the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact will attain the needed support to effectively eliminate the electoral college without changing the Constitution, but it still has a ways to go. It probably won't happen till a Democrat wins the presidency while losing the popular vote. I'm not holding my breath. In the meantime, the sad truth is that like most other countries in history, the US is governed by the Golden Rule: those with the gold make the rules. Disproportionate representation in the Senate is merely a footnote.

    • Pu

      How many of those products from your tech-heavy area provide jobs for middle Americans who have worked manufacturing jobs for generations? Can you point out a large I-Phone factory in, say Indiana? For the most part, high-tech companies everywhere in the US provide good paying engineering jobs but ships the bulk of the jobs to low cost labor countries.

      I agree that it would be in the USA's best interest, and in the long-term best interests of West Virginia coal miners and midwestern manufacturing line workers if we encouraged, for example, solar energy and other environmentally friendly technologies. But I also understand the point of view of the West Virginia coal miner that needs to put a meal on his family's table TONIGHT. Workers in this country aren't stupid - they know that they aren't going to get the jobs created by East or West coast software and engineering campuses. It would go against his own best interests for a WV coal miner to vote for a Senator who promised to shut down the mines and subsidize solar energy - nobody is going to build a solar panel plant in the US, let alone southern West Virginia.

      Look at another booming industry - automated driving. There's a lot of hardware to be assembled such as radars and cameras. . None of that hardware is assembled in the USA, let alone in West Virginia. I know because I design the machines to make them.

    • Chris

      Incredible, informative posts. Thanks! I'm off reading the links. Related and also interesting: why Elon Musk spreads his political donations like he does.

    • Chris
      Chris MacAskill

      I can understand how life must be horribly difficult in coal communities and I can understand why they voted as they did: a charismatic man promised to bring back coal and steel jobs.

      I can't imagine being a dairy farmer and watch how plant milks and huge factory farms eat into your livelihood when it's the only thing you know and you work so hard. No wonder farmer suicides are tragically high.

      What's hard for me to understand is why, when a Harley plant goes offshore or a nail factory has to layoff after steel tariffs, voters in those areas remain so resolute about having made a good choice. It doesn't feel to me that tax cuts for the rich, eviscerating the Affordable Care Act, or Canada slapping import tariffs on dairy are in their interest so I would have expected to see some erosion in support there.

    • wx

      Yeah, that sounds about right.

      Statehood for Washington DC would upset the applecart. In a good way, from my perspective. Which is why the GOP would do everything in its power to stop it.

      Puerto Rico is another candidate, but as I understand it the people there are, at best, ambivalent. They'd prefer an effective goverment atop an independent country, I think.

    • Richard

      Most oligarchs tend to hedge their bets. They're buying access to policy makers. When a specific policy is at stake, the contributions will be more targeted.

    You've been invited!