Majority Rule?

There’s been a lot of talk about majority rule, and what it means, including the fact that, although Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by almost three million votes, she lost the election in the Electoral College. Or the fact that in a number of states, including Wisconsin, the political party that controls the most seats in the state legislature actually received less votes than the “minority” party.

The other day I came across another set of statistics that provided additional insight on the issue, even though I couldn’t say that I was necessarily surprised. A national poll by the Gallup organization revealed that 61% of Republicans believed that President Trump was leading the Republican Party and the country in the right direction, but that 71% of all voters, including Republicans, believed the opposite, that Trump was taking the country in the wrong direction.

Now, on first glance the figures don’t seem to add up, but they actually do. Currently 25% of all voters identify themselves as Republicans, and 61% believe in Trump’s policy direction. That means that the Republicans supporting Trump only amount to 15% of the voting population. Add to that the fact that only 7% of Democrats believe Trump’s policies are good for the country, and since 27% of all voters identify as Democrats, these Democrats represent about 25% of the electorate. Then add in the 48% of voters who call themselves independents, and 68% of them oppose Trump’s policies.

So… the political party that represents, theoretically, 25% of the population is enacting policies opposed by 71% of the people. While the government is stable and at least marginally functioning, can the United States actually be considered a functioning democracy in the sense that government reflects the wishes of the majority?

1 thought on “Majority Rule?”

  1. Wayne Kernochan says:

    I have recently finished reading Ron Chernow’s new biography of Grant, which goes into detail on race issues during the Civil War and Reconstruction. Looking back on Reconstruction, Grant remarks that until the Civil War, the slave states were credited in the Constitution with 3/5 of a person population for each black slave, thereby inflating their political clout far beyond their actual share of the population in the House and ensuring that Presidential candidates in order to win the Electoral College needed to win the favor of some slave states. He then notes that despite the 15th Amendment, southern black vote suppression effectively nullified the Amendment because of the large black populations then remaining in the South. In that sense, until a much larger share of the black population moved North over the end of the 19th century and early 20th, the government could not really be said to be expressing the will of the majority over much of our history.

    On the other hand, even considering those precedents, 25% still seems close to unprecedented.

    I am also increasingly concerned about the way that (anecdotally) it appears that representatives, especially on the Republican side, are insulated from voter rather than party disapproval by the prospect that if they lose, they land well-paying jobs in the media or think tanks (not just lobbying any more), as long as they don’t “blot their copybooks” for rich donors. This sounds like the American version of the British “quango”, or “quasi-non-governmental organization”, that served as the cushy job for high government employees as long as they did not “rock the boat”, and as so effectively skewered in the British comedy Yes, Minister.

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