The genius of the American political system was once its ability to change. Between 1784 and 1992, Americans amended their constitution 27 times, adjusting their governance structures to reflect changing contexts and values. Today, the idea that the American political system is imbued with genius sounds like a ridiculous joke. Our government has become rigid and sunk into decades of failure. It seems incapable of dealing with the various crises that the American people are currently facing, and in addition to this insufficiency, its structure seems practically immutable.
Our political system fossil inspires particular frustration within the Democratic Party. Democrats, after all, are the governing party of activists, and a political system that virtually excludes government action to right wrongs is virtually useless for such a faction. In addition, our government institutions offer systematic and unquestionable advantages to the Republican Party. While Republicans have moved away from traditional American values, the undeserved primacy our government gives to the GOP puts our very democracy at risk.
The list of biased institutions is long. Although Republicans seem literally unable to win the popular vote for president, they have occupied the White House for 12 of the past 20 years. This is because the Electoral College gives disproportionate power to the small white states and disadvantages a Democratic coalition increasingly focused on the coasts and in the Mississippi Valley. The Electoral College is such an illogical feature of our government that although many republics around the world have emulated America, none of them implemented this minority system. It is a catalyst for minority presidents.
Yet despite all the inequities of the Electoral College, no institution allows Republicans to claim an undeserved advantage like the US Senate. The Senate overwhelmingly favors the voters who make up the Republican base – white and rural. It is absurd that the Dakotas have twice as many senators as California even though their population is smaller than the Piedmont Triad, the third largest metropolitan area in North Carolina. Moreover, the filibuster allows Republicans, who already represent 40 million Americans less than their Democratic rivals, to veto the vast majority of the Democratic agenda. The Senate rules favor Republicans almost as much as the Senate structure itself.
The other branch of the US legislature is also characterized by the privilege of the GOP. The 2010 election will likely go down as one of the most significant midterm elections in U.S. history, as it gave Republicans the power to draw constituencies. With majorities blocked by gerrymandering, GOP lawmakers have entrenched their party in almost permanent majorities. They’ve already secured majorities in states like Wisconsin and North Carolina for a decade, and the power of redistribution technology will allow them to draw slanted districts for another, and maybe another after that. Democrats must win the popular vote by nearly 6 points to take control of Congress. A Democratic takeover of the purple state legislatures is almost unthinkable.
The political system of the United States is broken and seems extremely difficult, if not impossible, to repair. The point is, Republicans from Newt Gingrich to Mitch McConnell to Donald Trump bear overwhelming blame for the failures of our political system. They have created a system that gives their party far more power than its minority of voters should. Given the crisis we find ourselves in, Democrats should not apologize for changing the political system and restoring fairness and functionality to government that should belong to the people.
Alexander Jones is an original contributor to PoliticsNC.