Fixing Unfair Representation in the United States House of Representatives

A map of the original 13 colonies of the United States as they were in 1776. They continue to have disproportionate power.
A map of the original 13 colonies of the United States as they were in 1776. They continue to have disproportionate power in legislative decision-making. Click on map for enlarged version.

One of the interesting statistics in the Kavanaugh confirmation to the Supreme Court in October 2018 is how disproportionately the vote represented WASP Americans and their European ancestry. The white voters represented by the Senators who voted in favor in contrast far outnumbered the other ethnic groups represented by the Senators who voted against. David Leonhardt has an Op/Ed in the NY Times today that goes deeper into this disparity and why it exists—and how statehood could be used to partially correct the imbalance.

Any Fix Dilutes Current Power

I’ve often heard that the reason the Republicans will never vote for statehood for DC, for example, is that it would automatically add two Democrats to the Senate since DC votes overwhelmingly Democratic. Less often mentioned is that increasing the number of states would take away Representatives from other states. Unlike the Senate, which has two seats per state, the House has a set number of Representatives, theoretically assigned by population. Not only would states lose representatives if there were more states to be represented but they would be disproportionately Republican since the Republicans have worked so hard to gerrymander white districts for themselves.

“The Senate’s White–State Bonus: It’s time to end the longest stretch in American History without a new state” published 15 October 2018 and as The Senate: Affirmative Action for White People: And why it’s time to make Puerto Rico and Washington, D.C., the 51st and 52nd states on October 14.

A cool trick. Academics often publish the same data over and over, called churning, to build their resumes. Articles in ten different journals telling the same story count as ten research papers. The Times has given Leonardt two identical articles with different titles in the same publication on two successive days.

Fixing Unfair Representation

Leonhardt’s presentation of the problem of fair representation of ethnic groups:

The anti-democratic tendencies of the Senate are well known: Each citizen of a small state is considered more important than each citizen of a large state. It’s a deliberate feature of the Constitution, created [originally] to persuade smaller states to join the union. Over time, though, the racial edge to the Senate’s structure has become much sharper — for two big reasons.

First, the states whose populations have grown the most over time, like California, Texas, Florida and New York, are racially diverse. By contrast, the smallest states, like Wyoming, Vermont, the Dakotas and Maine, tend to be overwhelmingly white. The Senate, as a result, gives far more special treatment to whites than it once did.

The second reason is even more frustrating, but it would also be easier to fix. Right now, about four million American citizens have almost no congressional voting power, not even the diluted power of Californians or Texans. Of these four million people — these citizens denied representative democracy — more than 90 percent are black or Hispanic.

They are, of course, the residents of Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico. Almost half of Washington’s residents are black, and nearly all of Puerto Rico’s are Hispanic.

Another solution has been to suggest that California be split into 2 states. Also discussed is making New York City the first city state. In both cases the states are so different in population and culture from north to south that they would be easier to govern in addition to having more representative participation in governance.

The Principle of Equal Representation

Representation can become skewed over time when it is based on formula’s that make assumptions about future populations. Basing representation on principles instead of numbers would allow representation to be adjusted to fit the current reality while preserving the same equity, or correcting it. The principle of having one legislative branch based on per capita representation and one based on the governance units of the nation, “The United,” recognizes both the states equally and the population on a proportional basis. To add states may help adjust the imbalances because the new states bring more ethnic diversity, but the domination of the Republican gerrymandered white districts within predominantly white states still preserves the “pure” white vote giving it unacknowledged dominance.

Should inequitable representation at the state level be allowed to persist when it defies equality at the federal level? as an American citizen?

The next post is on the value of nationalism within our global consciousness as a way to rise above the distinctions in national governance. In the same way we separate religious institutions and government, shouldn’t we separate ethnic identity from American identity?

A Treasonous President

If any other citizen of the United States did what Donald Trump did on 16 July 2018 in the news conference with Putin, they would be arrested the moment they set foot back on American soil. The FBI would be waiting for them. Having been briefed just before leaving for Europe, Trump denied the truth of the briefing and the contemporaneous indictment of 12 Russians of interfering with our 2016 election. He took the side of Russia against the United States intelligence forces—all of them.

One unique quality of the investigation of Russian interference on the 2016 election is that the investigations conducted by intelligence experts repeatedly find evidence of Russian collusion to elect Donald Trump. More correctly, to defeat Hillary Clinton who had as Secretary of State admonished Russia for human rights violations. Even as Putin clearly admitted Russian interference.

Further, Trump made these assertions on foreign soil, not in discussion with the US intelligence agencies, with whom he has refused to meet. His comments denying the validity of the Justice Department’s indictment of 12 Russian government officials have been widely condemned in the United States as treason, and in Europe have been regarded with astonishment and alarm.

As evidence, Trump repeatedly faulted the US investigation with absurd claims of investigative failure, for example, to obtain the server and the impossibility of proving anything without it. The “server” is not missing and is not a server. It is more like whole building full of servers, computers, and other things unnamable—all present and accounted for.

More confirmation of Levitsky and Ziblatt’s assessment that democracy in the United States is in peril as the result of Trump’s actions and decisions, and by the forces that led to his election, Trump repeatedly denies the validity of anyone who questions him.

From transcripts of the press conference:

REPORTER: Thank you. Mr. President, you tweeted this morning that it’s U.S. foolishness, stupidity, and the Mueller probe that is responsible for the decline in U.S. relations with Russia. Do you hold Russia at all accountable for anything in particular? And if so, what would you consider them — that they are responsible for?
TRUMP: Yes, I do. I hold both countries responsible. I think that the United States has been foolish. I think we’ve all been foolish. We should have had this dialogue a long time ago — a long time, frankly, before I got [in]to office. And I think we’re all to blame. I think that the United States now has stepped forward, along with Russia. And we’re getting together. And we have a chance to do some great things, whether it’s nuclear proliferation, in terms of stopping — because we have to do it. Ultimately, that’s probably the most important thing that we can be working on.
But I do feel that we have both made some mistakes. I think that the probe is a disaster for our country. I think it’s kept us apart. It’s kept us separated. There was no collusion at all. Everybody knows it. People are being brought out to the fore.
So far, that I know, virtually none of it related to the campaign. And they’re going to have try really hard to find somebody that did relate to the campaign. That was a clean campaign. I beat Hillary Clinton easily. And frankly, we beat her — and I’m not even saying from the standpoint — we won that race. And it’s a shame that there can even be a little bit of a cloud over it.
People know that. People understand it. But the main thing, and we discussed this also, is zero collusion. And it has had a negative impact upon the relationship of the two largest nuclear powers in the world. We have 90 percent of nuclear power between the two countries. It’s ridiculous. It’s ridiculous what’s going on with the probe.

PUTIN: Once again, President Trump mentioned the issue of the so-called interference of Russia when the American elections, and I had to reiterate things I said several times, including during our personal contacts, that the Russian state has never interfered and is not going to interfere into internal American affairs, including the election process.

REPORTER: Did you want President Trump to win the election and did you direct any of your officials to help him do that?

PUTIN: Yes, I did. Yes, I did. Because he talked about bringing the U.S. Russia relationship back to normal. …When President Trump visited Moscow back then I didn’t even know that he was in Moscow. I treat President Trump with [the] utmost respect. But back then, when he was a private individual, a businessman, nobody informed me that he was in Moscow.

Transcript quoted from the NPR website, CNN, CNBC, and The New York Times. The Times has also posted the full video of the press release with the transcript.

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The Class Divide

“We need to peel our eyes away from the mirror of our own success and think about what we can do in our everyday lives for the people who aren’t our neighbors. We should be fighting for opportunities for other people’s children as if the future of our own children depended on it. It probably does.”

Matthew Stewart. The Atlantic. June 2018.