Wednesday, March 24, 2021
Making bad democracy worse
One man, one vote. Ideally in a democracy every vote counts the same. In reality, due to representative democracy bundling votes into one candidate, the power of individual votes can depend on where you are voting. But in most countries the variation is minor. A notable exception is the United States of America, which has one of the most unequal systems of voting of all Western democracies. For the senate, every state, regardless of size and population, gets two senators, making votes in smaller states a lot more powerful. And the somewhat weird electoral college system for the U.S. presidency makes it so that a lot of votes don't count at all: If you are a Republican in California or a Democrat in Alaska, turning up for the presidential election has a zero percent chance of affecting the outcome.
An optimist would hope that politicians would be working on making elections in America more fair. But in reality both sides are very busy trying to game the system to their advantage, making it even less fair. Republicans try to make voting more difficult, hoping that it affects richer, whiter voters less than poorer, blacker ones. Democrats are trying to add new states, like Washington D.C. or Puerto Rico, hoping to permanently shift the balance in the senate. Republicans try to use the U.S. census and gerrymandering of voting districts in order to make sure a white minority keeps the majority of political power. And of course both sides deny that any of this is power politics, but paint their efforts as making elections more fair.
I have been predicting political violence in the USA on this blog before January 6, and I was right. There is actually an easy trick that allows you to see into the future: Study history and look for parallels! Abraham Lincoln supposedly said that "You can fool all the people some of the time and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.". As much as US politicians try, you cannot create a system that permanently disenfranchises a large number of voters, and have stability at the same time. The USA is perilously close to the point where the losers of elections will never recognize the result anymore, and sooner or later that will blow up in violence.