jueves, 24 de noviembre de 2016

MercatorNet: The political power of rural USA

MercatorNet: The political power of rural USA
The political power of rural USA

The political power of rural USA

And that's the way the Constitution designed it.
Marcus Roberts | Nov 24 2016 | comment 

I said that I wouldn't blog anymore about the election, but apparently it's still a big deal for a lot of people and apparently people still have interesting stuff to write about it. And anyway, all of my good readers still like to hear about how The Don won. Right? 
This comes from the rapidly growing “Have you ever realised that the USA is not actually a direct democracy?” file and not surprisingly originates from the New York Times (can someone who gets a hard copy of the paper tell me if they have a black border around their broadsheets signifying their mourning?) The point has been made, usually in passing, frequently over the last few days that Trump didn't win the popular vote and therefore...something. Usually it's made to slightly delegitimise the result or claim that he's not representative of the American people.
The problem with this is that there is no way of knowing how the campaign would have been run had every vote mattered. That is, Trump didn't spend time or energy campaigning in Washington, California or New York because there was little to no chance that those states would vote Republican. But if every vote counted in the election through some form of direct proportional system, then presumably the Trump campaign would have devoted more resources to the large cities on the East and West coasts.
Similarly, Republican voters in those deep blue states would have been more likely to come out and vote rather than think that their vote doesn't matter since their state is going Democrat anyway. (Actually, that is one factor for the USA's low election turnout, for many people there is simply no point in voting, unlike in say, New Zealand...) Similarly, there is no way of knowing if more democrats in Wyoming or Texas would have voted nor how the Clinton campaign would have campaigned if the vote had been directly proportionate. In short, the popular vote means nothing in the USA's current system. Because it is a republic, not a “pure” or direct democracy. 
Which leads me to today's topic – the disproportionate power of rural areas in the USA's federal system. (Isn't it funny how all these “issues” and “problems” are only coming out now...) Suddenly, because rural voters are becoming more united as a “voting block” the rural “bias” in national politics is becoming a “potent Republican advantage”. As I saw someone put it around Election Day – suddenly rural Americans are voting as a minority, in much the same way as African-Americans do, and now they are seeing their potential electoral strength. But because of inbuilt advantages given to rural areas in the American constitutional arrangement, this voting en masseis powerful. 
First, most obviously, the Senate is made up of two Senators from each state, no matter how populous. Thus, California has the same number of Senators as South Dakota. Thanks to the increasing urbanisation of America and the growth of certain cities and not others, the Senate could theoretically be controlled by a majority made up of Senators from states that contain just 17 per cent of the population of the USA.
The Connecticut Compromise setting up this one state = two senators was arrived at when 95 per cent of the USA was rural. More importantly, it was designed specifically to not be democratic; it was to prevent the more populous states deciding the fate of the nation as a whole. And it was designed to stay; the Compromise is the only provision in the Constitution which cannot be amended. This has an effect on the Electoral College since each state gets as many college votes as it has congressional delegates. Wyoming gets three Electoral College votes – one from the House and two from the Senate. California gets 55 from the same process, but the two senators for each state skews the result, so that Wyoming gets three times more votes in the Electoral College than its population would suggest. (Of course the example also works for a large Republican state, like Texas and a small Democrat one, like Washington DC...)
In the House, the distribution of voters also favours Republicans since: 
“Republican voters are more efficiently distributed across the country than Democrats, who are concentrated in cities. That means that even when Democrats win 50 percent of voters nationwide, they invariably hold fewer than 50 percent of House seats, regardless of partisan gerrymandering.” 
And at a more local level: 
“Jeffersonian suspicion of big cities also appears in the sites of state capitals: Albany and not New York; Jefferson City and not St. Louis; Springfield and not Chicago. Political scientists at the University of California, Davis, have found that most state capitals were located near what was then the population centroid of each state — typically closer to the geographical centre of the state, and not the place where the most people already lived, breaking with how much of the world sited its capitals.” 
Of course, one response could be to decry the result of the constitution's workings and infer things are unfair. The other response might be to figure out how to get rural voters to vote for you, instead of for the other side...

It’s Thanksgiving Day in the United States and time for the rest of us to say thank you to the US for being the world leader in gratitude. Is there any other nation that sets aside a day of national Thanksgiving? Could any country, including America, agree today on what to give thanks for, let alone whom to thank?
So, thank God for a tradition that goes back more than 200 years, when the answer to those questions was obvious. Thus George Washington, at the behest of Congress, proclaimed the 26th of November 1789
A day of public thanksgiving and prayer devoted to the service of that great and glorious Being who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be,  including the peaceable and rational manner in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness,and for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed.
(BTW Shannon Roberts has posted George Washington’s “Rules of Civility and Decent Behavior in Company and Conversation” – all 110 of them – to enhance your Thanksgiving experience.)
Even more famously, Abraham Lincoln on October 3, 1863, listed everything from fruitful fields and healthful skies, through the orderly conduct of the civil war and the growth of production and population, to the nation’s augmented strength and vigoramong the bounties of divine providence:
No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People.
Lincoln's acknowledgement of civil strife and prayer for healing the wounds of the nation will strike a chord with many today:
And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.
President Obama's 2016 proclamation, though quite nice, never achieves the resonance of his predecessors' proclamations, perhaps  because he never manages to mention God, without whom a national act of thanksgiving loses its point somewhat:
On this holiday, we count our blessings and renew our commitment to giving back. We give thanks for our troops and our veterans -- and their families -- who give of themselves to protect the values we cherish; for the first responders, teachers, and engaged Americans who serve their communities; and for the chance to live in a country founded on the belief that all of us are created equal. But on this day of gratitude, we are also reminded that securing these freedoms and opportunities for all our people is an unfinished task. We must reflect on all we have been afforded while continuing the work of ensuring no one is left out or left behind because of who they are or where they come from.
We know some Americans are not feeling very grateful about the election results. That’s tough for the unbelievers among them. The rest, though, can be thankful that what the Lord has given, he can also take away.
Happy Thanksgiving to all our American readers!

Carolyn Moynihan
Deputy Editor,

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