Democracy


Politics Counts: Growing Minority Vote and GOP


By Dante Chinni, The Wall Street Journal, March 22, 2013

Since its loss in November, the Republican Party has been going through the typical stages of political grief that starts with anger and ends with recalibration. On Monday, in its latest attempt to assess what went wrong in 2012 and what it should do going forward, the GOP released its Growth and Opportunity Project report.

While it tackles everything from policy to logistics, the report pays special attention to the need for the Republicans to reach out to women and minorities…

The demographic shifts over the past few decades have not only changed the composition of the national electorate, they have had a particularly heavy impact on the electoral vote. Two things have happened over the last 20 years in the U.S. First, the non-white population has grown. The white, non-Hispanic population has shrunken to about 65% today from about 75% in 1990. Second, and crucial for national elections, that population has grown in states that are also growing…

That means the influx of minority voters has an amplified effect on presidential politics…

That growth is not only making those states more Democratic in their votes, it’s helping make those state’s more powerful electorally speaking…


Smaller States Find Outsize Clout Growing in Senate


By Adam Liptak, New York Times, March 10, 2013

The disproportionate power enjoyed in the Senate by small states is playing a growing role in the political dynamic on issues as varied as gun control, immigration and campaign finance.

What is certain is that the power of the smaller states is large and growing. Political scientists call it a striking exception to the democratic principle of “one person, one vote.” Indeed, they say, the Senate may be the least democratic legislative chamber in any developed nation.

Behind the growth of the advantage is an increase in population gap between large and small states, with large states adding many more people than small ones in the last half-century.

There is a widening demographic split, too, with the larger states becoming more urban and liberal, and the smaller ones remaining rural and conservative, which lends a new significance to the disparity in their political power.

The threat of the filibuster in the Senate, which has become far more common than in past decades, plays a role, too. Research by two political scientists, Lauren C. Bell and L. Marvin Overby, has found that small-state senators, often in leadership positions, have amplified their power by using the filibuster more often than their large-state counterparts.

Beyond influencing government spending, these shifts generally benefit conservative causes and hurt liberal ones…

One plan, enacted into law by eight states and the District of Columbia, would effectively cancel the small states’ Electoral College edge…

In a recent Gallup Poll, 61 percent of Republicans, 63 percent of independents and 66 percent of Democrats said they favored abolishing the system and awarding the presidency to the winner of the popular vote.

In 2000, had electoral votes been allocated by population, without the two-vote bonuses, Al Gore would have prevailed over George W. Bush…

“The conception of political equality from the Declaration of Independence, to Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, to the Fifteenth, Seventeenth, and Nineteenth Amendments can mean only one thing — one person, one vote,” Justice William O. Douglas wrote for the court in 1963, referring to the amendments that extended the franchise to blacks and women and required the popular election of the Senate.

The rulings revolutionized American politics — everywhere but in the Senate, which the Constitution protected from change and where the disparities in voting power have instead become more extreme.

In his memoirs, Chief Justice Earl Warren described the cases from the 1960s establishing the equality of each citizen’s vote as the most important achievement of the court he led for 16 years…


Is Congress seeing a break in the partisan ice?


E.J. Dionne Jr., Opinion Writer The Washington Post, March 10 2013

Just when our politics seemed destined to freeze into a brain-dead brand of partisanship, party lines started cracking up.

It is common in politics to assume that whatever has been happening will keep happening. But a series of events last week suggested that human beings — even those of a highly partisan and ideological sort — bridle at being confined in intellectual straitjackets.

Hope about anything in our politics seems outlandishly risky these days. But we have had a taste of how less-rigid partisanship can enliven and add substance to our debates. We might get to like it.


 

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