The fact that the Founders set out to create a system where rural American’s voices weren’t drowned out by larger, more urban, States is one that we hear over and over. Especially among Republicans. What they don’t say is the result is a system where land has more value than people, at least when it comes to both the Electoral College and the Senate. The two most consequential elected bodies in the nation.
Anyone with even basic knowledge of American politics knows the Electoral College elects the President, who has plenty of power himself. This includes writing Executive Orders as well as, more crucially, nominating judges to federal benches, including to the Supreme Court. The Senate then has the power to confirm or reject these nominees to lifetime appointments on these courts, who can then rule in their own right. The courts can strike down any laws that don’t fit their personal constitutional interpretation and even meddle in elections themselves.
The first issue here is half the US population lived in only nine States in 2016, which means 18 Senators next to the other half’s 82. Democrats won by almost 18 million more combined votes in the 2018 Senate races yet the GOP increased their majority by one for a 53–47 seat edge.
While not as egregious as the Senate, the Electoral College also benefits a smaller group of (mostly Republican) people. For example, each of the 55 electors in California (pop. 39.51 million) represents 3.18 times as many people as each of the three electors in Wyoming (pop. 578,759). That means a Californian’s vote for President is worth 3.18 times less than a resident’s of Wyoming. This and many more examples are why Hillary Clinton won 2.9 million more votes than Trump yet still lost the Electoral College and thus the election.
The reality is the most accurate measure of the American public is the House of Representatives, even with its extensive partisan gerrymandering. Compared to the earlier example, Wyoming has only one at-large district and thus one seat in the House while California has 53 seats. This makes for far more equitable representation reflective of the population than both the Electoral College and especially the Senate.
But what does the House get for such representation? Absolutely zero policymaking power beyond what the other branches of government allows. At the very least they need the Senate with a two-thirds Presidential veto-proof majority, a tall order in today’s political climate. At the most they need both the Senate and the President’s signature as well as hope it won’t be overturned by the courts later on. This lack of power is why in the 2019–current session almost 400 bills from the House have remained DOA in the Senate and there’s virtually nothing they can do about it.
Meanwhile the minority-elected President can churn out executive orders and have judges rammed through by minority-elected Senators, setting policy for decades no matter who is elected. Minority-elected Senators can also acquit that same minority-elected President after he’s been impeached by officials elected by the majority of Americans. That doesn’t sound very democratic system, even for a Republic.
An argument can be made for at least one of the three elected bodies to skew towards more rural farming States so their voices are indeed heard to some respect. However, when the two most influential elected bodies can consistently impose minority rule there is a problem. A problem that is in total conflict to what a Representative Democracy — or Republic if you prefer the latin term— is supposed to be. One that values the will of its people.
At the end of the day, if your ideas cannot win over the majority of your fellow citizens you shouldn’t you either have to try harder or get better ideas? Rather than keep relying on an unfair system where you can still win and impose those ideas on everyone anyway. While there have been some efforts to make such change, like the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact, perhaps a more federal approach is needed.
As large States like Texas trend blue and the prospects of Democrat-friendly jurisdictions like D.C. and Puerto Rico gaining Statehood increase, the shoe may be on the other foot one day soon. Perhaps that’s the day things actually start to change.