Seventeen percent. That’s the percentage of eligible voters who voted Republican in 2014. Fifty-five percent: That’s the percentage of Republicans in Congress right now. Something has gone hideously wrong in the Matrix somewhere.
Of the two houses of Congress, the Senate is generally considered the more prestigious. It’s been called “the world’s greatest deliberative body,” which isn’t always a compliment. However, it’s also been called “profoundly undemocratic,” “archaic” and “unrepresentative of the people.” And those things have proven true after almost every election; by its very nature, because the senate has two representatives per state, regardless of state size or population, the Senate makeup rarely reflects the popular vote — and that’s particularly true this year.
Tomorrow, Joe Biden will be swearing in a new class of senators to congress. This class, elected by the zombie midterms of 2014, will be made up of 46 Democrats and 54 Republicans. After last year’s nobody-voted election, Republicans quickly went out to claim that taking the Senate, along with the House, meant that the Republican Party was more popular than ever. It was a mandate on Republican rule. However, the numbers tell a different story — not one of public decision, so much as one of a hideously broken system.
According to a study conducted by FairVote, the 46 Democrats currently sitting in Senate have gotten 20.7 million more votes over the 2010, 2012 and 2014 elections than the 56 Republicans. Tallied up, that’s 67.8 million to Dems, and 47.1 million to Republicans. Or, to put it another way:
Democrats got a full 50 percent more votes than Republicans, and lost nine seats. Or to put it yet another way:
If the Senate actually represented the voting public, it would be 68-32 to Democrats, instead of 54-46 to Republicans.
Then again, over- or under-representation in Senate is nothing new. It has to do with the nature of the system. Rhode Island gets exactly the same representation as California, California (with 38 million people) gets the same representation as Wyoming (with 584,000 people). With a system so hopelessly rigged to favor small and underpopulated rural states, it shouldn’t come as any great shock that it biases toward Republicans.
Granted, that bias may not be enough to guarantee Republican over-representation every year. In 2008 and 2012 (Obama’s two election years), when everybody in the world came out to vote, Democrats were over-represented. But in off years, when much fewer people voted, Republicans were over-represented. Overall, though, from 2008 at least, including those two overwhelming Democratic victories, the Senate has proven biased toward Republicans.
That should prove no great shock, though. Republicans have always represented the minority of views in the United States. That’s been true since the inception of the party, and it’s one of the functions of a Republic system. Representation of the minority of views in government. That’s what the Senate is for, and it’s why we have both a Senate and a House of Representatives. The House is supposed to represent the majority, counterbalancing the Senate’s minority. Again: The House is supposed to represent the majority.
But unfortunately, the House has been corrupted by something called “gerrymandering.” Gerrymandering relies on something called the “wasted vote” principle, which is exactly as abhorrent as it sounds. The practice of drawing district lines around, ethnic and political populations in order to split votes has been called “institutionalized racism” practically since its inception. And it’s made the notion of majority representation in the House an utter joke.
In 2012, Democrats won the popular vote in the House 49-48; but the House remained solidly under Republican control, thanks to gerrymandering. In fact, that year, Democrats would have had to beat Republicans by a whopping 6 percent of the popular vote to win even a simple majority.
And even if the Democratic Party had won by the impressive 7.9 percent they did in 2006, in 2012 they’d have just barely edged out Republicans 220-215.
Many states have tried, and some have succeed, in eliminating gerrymandering, going back to the population districting that was used at the nation’s inception. But states run by conservatives often face some pretty underhanded opposition to passing gerrymandering legislation.
Take Florida for example: Florida voters voted to outlaw gerrymandering by a whopping 61 percent a few years ago. It passed the popular vote and the legislature. But that same year, Florida also elected Tea Party overlord Rick Scott; and Rick Scott, with the stroke of a pen, undid democracy by sending the law into a hellish maze of bureaucratic red tape, “pending an approval from the Justice Department” that it didn’t need.
An approval it certainly hasn’t needed since Anton Scalia decided racism wasn’t a thing anymore, and that the Civil Rights Act was so 1964.
So, the Senate is biased to minority Republican control by nature, and the House (which is supposed to be the more democratic of the two) is even more biased to minority Republican control because of gerrymandering. And conservative overlords like Rick Scott and his fellow Tea Party conspirators aim to keep it that way. “Constitution” be damned.
Between those things, and the lowest voter turnout since the middle of WWII (36.4 percent), is anyone really surprised that we’re now under rule by a group of people who less than 17 percent of eligible voters actually voted for?
Forget Mitt Romney’s “47 percent.”
Let’s have a talk about the difference between 17 percent and 55 percent. Seems like that particular coding error has caused some pretty serious glitches in the Matrix.