America at present not only is a country whose governance is out of sync with its population, it’s a country whose governance meets the definition of tyranny by the minority over the majority, one of the founders greatest fears.
Many safeguards and checks and balances were set in place in order to deter such an eventuality. But ultimately, the responsibility will always rest upon the majority itself, its enlightenment, attentiveness and constant vigilance. Sadly, whether Americans in recent years have retained those qualities sufficiently is a real question. But at the very least, the minority’s ability to continue its present hold over the majority is not yet a foregone conclusion.
Keep in my mind that should Republicans successfully seat another Donald Trump-appointed Supreme Court justice, adding to the two appointed by George W. Bush, four of nine Supreme Court justices will have been appointed by presidents who did not receive a majority of Americans’ votes. As it now stands a third of the court has been appointed by minority presidents.
To make it worse, in the case of George W. Bush’s election, not only did he lose the popular vote, but a Republican-dominated Supreme Court ordered the vote count to be terminated in the state of Florida, one which had it continued ultimately would have given the state, and the presidency to Al Gore (See: over votes).
Again, in the case of Donald Trump, not only did a majority of the electorate oppose him, but the election itself was indisputably tainted by interference from a foreign power, whose express goal was to put him in the White House.
One can’t excuse the shoddy voter participation of the majority, especially in post-2008 elections. But the result, in particular in the 2010 midterms, was to give Republicans domination of a great many state governments, leading to enactment of voter suppression laws that contributed significantly to the outcome of the 2016 presidential election.
All of this comes on top of the systemic advantages currently working in the minority’s favor. The Senate drastically over represents smaller population states. California’s forty million citizens have the same number of senate seats as North Dakota. New York’s millions have the same representation as tiny South Dakota. Twenty-two states whose populations added together equal that of California’s retain 44 seats in the senate to California’s two. And so the priorities and preferences of these small, largely rural rightwing states predominate.
In the House of Representatives, congressional seats have been gerrymandered in such a way that major population centers in numerous states retain a single congressional seat, while the rest of the state’s geography is divided into countless districts, guaranteeing smaller, more conservative areas have considerably more representation in the House of Representatives than the majority of the population.
And then there’s the obsolescence of the Electoral College. Democrats have won the popular vote in six out of the last seven presidential elections. And yet, should Trump finish out his first term, Republicans will have controlled the presidency for 12 of those 26 years, nearly half. Does that seem like majority rule to you?
Together, these are the factors that allow an extremist political minority opposed by the majority to dominate all three branches of government, and to lock their advantages in going forward.
But the tension created between the governing and the governed long may simmer, but eventually it will boil. The temperature of the inevitable conflict between the tyrannized minority and the majority can only rise. Exactly how this conflict will play out in the United States, and how it will be resolved remain to be seen.
It’s worth noting, and we can see it in front of our eyes, that as the rumbles from the majority grow in volume, so the absolutism and the autocratic tendencies of the majority spike in turn. From the point of view of the minority, a classic strongman, a natural autocrat is a useful convenience, and they’re lucky enough to have one at this very moment.
The Republican, and now Trumpian dedication to ideology above country, to party over democratic principles is evident for all to see in the vicious and unprecedented attacks upon America’s traditions and institutions, including federal law enforcement and system of justice.
And what are the goals of this ideology? An obliteration of capitalism’s balance between labor and capital in favor of the permanent domination of capital, the perpetual subservience of workers; a permanent disparity in wealth, tax burdens shifted to the middle and working classes, investments shifted from the working and middle classes to the wealthiest; corporate and business unaccountability, in service to an exotic brand of Ayn Rand, eugenics-based feudalism (the call it supply side, or Austrian School, pick your snake oil); the promulgation of anti-science propaganda; and theocratic and cultural regression on everything from gay rights, abortion rights, to civil rights in general.
One can observe in the smug grin of Mitch McConnell the level of confidence in the right’s capacity for rigging the system, and engineering this minority rule in perpetuity.
What it will take to depose this tyranny is difficult to estimate, but likely it will require the fight of our lives. Whatever it takes, we need to do it.