Pollster Scott Rasmussen writes a brief, daily post for Ballotpedia called “Number of the Day.” It’s an excellent, bite-sized chunk o’ statistical knowledge that gives an enlightening view of our nation from one of America’s great polltakers.
Monday’s “Number of the Day” was “49.5% of the U.S. Population Will Live in Eight States by 2040“—and continued with a discussion of the Electoral College.
For the unfamiliar, the Electoral College takes a lot of heat, usually from progressives (and especially so since President Trump won the 2016 election in the Electoral College, but lost the popular vote by margin of some millions). There have been multiple attempts to abolish the Electoral College throughout American history, with the most successful effort coming after Richard Nixon’s electoral victory in 1968 (of course, that effort failed—fortunately). Critics argue that the institution is “undemocratic,” as it seems to violate the principle of “one person, one vote.”
Fortunately, the Framers of the Constitution were wise enough to realize the pitfalls of popular democracy, which they believed devolved into mob rule and, ultimately, tyranny (see also: the French Revolution), and also anticipated the dangers of a small group of urban voters being able to swing presidential elections at the expense of voters in rural States.
It is precisely this fear that Rasmussen’s demographic data highlights. Rasmussen writes that nearly half of the nation’s population will live in one of eight States by 2040: California, Texas, Florida, New York, Pennsylvania, Georgia, Illinois, and North Carolina. That means that, in a popular system, those States could nearly swing a presidential election themselves.
Some readers might object that those voters are not uniform, and a popular vote would put a State like Wyoming more into play (as those ~600,000 voters—projected to be around 688,000 in 2040), but that assumes a level of individuality that, while attractive to the libertarian-minded, is not realistic.
Rural sections of the country have different goals, values, and concerns than urban centers. A State with one or more major metropolitan areas would dominate national politics.
Rasmussen touches on this dynamic in Congress, too. Currently, large States enjoy a huge advantage in the House of Representatives, the most “democratic” chamber at the federal level. Small States, on the other hand, possess greater leverage in the Senate, where every State gets two Senators, regardless of population. California—with its fifty-three Congressmen—can run roughshod over Wyoming in the House, but California’s Senators have the same clout as Wyoming’s two.
In essence, then, the different sections of the country have to reach some level of compromise to accomplish anything. Rural States have to throw urban States a bone to get legislation passed in the House, and urban States have to support some rural State measures.
Indeed, this is largely how the farm bill and food stamps get passed: rural Republicans vote for food stamps for the urban poor, and urban Democrats vote for corn subsidies for rural farmers.
That’s all Civics 101, but, as Dr. Samuel Johnson wrote, “People need to be reminded more often than they need to be instructed.”
A final thought: what happens when rural-urban compromise breaks down? The values of the rural portions of the country—chiefly the South and Midwest—are increasingly at odds with the values of the bicoastal elites and their scattered archipelago of continental metropolises. In that case, shouldn’t we throw out the system, as we’ll just get gridlock?
To quote the Apostle Paul, “God forbid!” That divide highlights the necessity of separation of powers. I’d rather not have a demiqueer otherkin alternative poetess-programmer (that’s the most ridiculous caricature I could conjure up) and xyr pansexual two-spirited Wookie life-mate ramming ultra-leftist progressive policies up my butt like a hamster at their next vegan pottery party, just as I’m sure the Wookie life-mates wouldn’t want me dictating my rustic Biblical morality to them (but, just so we’re clear, you people have lost your way).
The only major threat, as I see it, is that Congress has so abdicated its responsibility to the executive branch and its unelected bureaucracy of careerist swamp creatures, that we could see the further rise of executive overreach. That’s why progressives howl at the moon in protest to President Trump—they think he’s going to wield the sword of executive power against them the way President Obama did against us.
But with the Deep State so ensconced in our national life, I sometimes fear that we’re living in pre-Augustusean times. In the meantime, let us hope President Trump can correct the course; that Congress will once again jealously guard its prerogatives; and that the Electoral College stands for centuries to come.