Markos Moulitsas: Our rigged system

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Before he improbably stumbled into the White House last week, Donald Trump was sounding an alarm that our electoral system was rigged.

And he was right. Our system of government is absolutely rigged. Just not in the way he claimed.

{mosads}In a real democracy, the candidate with the most votes wins. But thanks to our archaic Electoral College system, we now have two presidents in the last 16 years who have won without a popular vote mandate. The addition of two extra electoral votes to each state makes a citizen’s vote in a small state like Vermont worth far more than a vote in a large state like California or Texas. So much for “one man, one vote.”

In defense of the Electoral College, Alexander Hamilton wrote that it would ensure  “that the office of President will never fall to the lot of any man who is not in an eminent degree endowed with the requisite qualifications.” Yet the College has elevated George W. Bush and Donald Trump — two men lacking any endowment even hinting at the requisite qualifications — to the White House, against the manifest will of the electorate.

While amending the Constitution to scrap the Electoral College would be a tall order, there is an easier option. The National Popular Vote Compact would require its signatory states to cast its electoral votes for the winner of the popular vote. All it needs is for states totaling 270 electoral votes to pass it, and organizers are currently at 165.

But it’s not only the Electoral College that’s rigged in favor of small and rural states — the Senate is even worse. If Wyoming were a California city, it would only be its fifth largest, barely ahead of Fresno, yet both states have the same representation in the Senate. The founding fathers may have sought to protect the interests of small states, but as the nation has grown, the effect has been to confer extraordinary power on those small states and their citizens. Democrats should push heavily for statehood for both D.C. and Puerto Rico to balance out some of this inequity.

The House is rigged. The 2010 Republican gerrymandering of the chamber is so extreme, it would require Democrats to win the House popular vote by more than 8 percentage points to even have a chance to retake control. How extreme is the gerrymander? Republicans hold 13 of 18 seats in Pennsylvania, five of eight seats in Wisconsin, 16 of 27 seats in Florida, nine of 13 in North Carolina, and nine of 14 seats in Michigan, despite these states all being virtually tied at the presidential level. In Virginia, a state with two Democratic senators and that Clinton won last week, eight of 11 representatives are Republican.

And then there’s the willful disenfranchisement of Democratic voter groups, particularly people of color — from limiting early-voting times, to restricting the number of voting machines in urban areas — compared to easy voting in suburban and rural areas — to limiting the franchise for ex-felons who have served their debt to society, to voter-roll purges, to voter ID laws, and on and on and on. Successful suppression efforts in cities like Detroit and Milwaukee depressed the vote enough that they were literally Trump’s margin of victory in those states.

So yes, our American electoral system is rigged. But the GOP isn’t interested in fixing it. A real, fair American democracy would decimate its hold on power. 

Moulitsas is the founder and publisher of Daily Kos.

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