An interesting demographic set me to thinking recently. Half of the US population lives in just nine states: California, Texas, Illinois, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, Georgia and Florida. This aggregation is actually much more dramatic. Half of the country lives in the darker counties below. Fully eighty percent of the population live in urban areas and the suburbs that surround them, and this number is growing increasingly larger.
If you happen to be one who sees the leaves, and not just the forest or the trees, The New York Times has a detailed 2016 election breakdown that zooms in on even greater detail.
If the conventional wisdom that more populated areas tend to be more liberal is the case, the United States should be much less conservative than our current political climate seems to be. Voters in denser areas should be electing representatives that promise more government, and yet our Congress has grown anything but friendly to such traditional liberal ideas.
The conservative control of the House of Representatives is attributed by many to the gerrymandering of district lines to maximize the number of predictably Republican districts. How predictable? Over 90 percent of Representatives who run again are reelected. You can well say that one thing Congress is good at is taking care of itself.
Even when voters have to compete with self-protective incumbents, change can occur, and we may be on the cusp of such a moment in the upcoming mid-term elections. Certainly, Democrats have done well in special elections in recent months.
The Senate, however, is a much different matter. Each state has two Senators, regardless of that state’s population. Currently, 39 states’ voters are more conservative than not, and if population trends continue as they have, this number is apt to grow. Conservative control of the Senate is thus likely to prevail for as long as one cares to predict.
Indeed, the Founders had something like this in mind when they devised the Senate. During the negotiations leading to the Constitution, less populated states demanded a way to protect their interests from the will of the majority. In that respect, their compromise still does what it intended.
Now, that is not to say that change never occurs. Only two years ago, 44 states’ voters leaned right. Still, a liberal Senate is unlikely in the lifetime of any voter alive today. And the Senate not only must approve any law but also controls the appointment of judges and the Cabinet.
Perhaps all this begs the question of where I stand in the political spectrum. I am a sailor, and my compass, like all, has 360 degrees. It does not by its nature distinguish between left and right. I do have a few positions on issues deemed political, as should we all. Most of all though are two things I believe. No one has a monopoly on the truth, and the louder one’s voice the more likely one is to be wrong.
Of course, I could be wrong, but then….
P.S. A thoughtfully critical article concerning the Electoral College, which is perhaps the least democratic institution in our Constitution can be found at this link in The Week.