American democracy's built-in bias
Its elections no longer convert the popular will into control of government
Every system for converting votes into power has its flaws.
Britain suffers from an over-mighty executive;
Italy from chronically weak government;
Israel from small, domineering factions.
America, however, is plagued by the only democratic vice more troubling than the tyranny of the majority: tyranny of the minority.
This has come about because of a growing division between rural and urban voters.
The electoral system the Founders devised, and which their successors elaborated,
gives rural voters more clout than urban ones.
When the parties stood for both city and country that bias affected them both.
But the Republican Party has become disproportionately rural and the Democratic Party disproportionately urban.
That means a red vote is worth more than a blue one.
The consequences are dramatic.
Republicans hold both the houses of Congress and the White House.
But in the three elections in 2012-16 their candidates got just 46% of the two-party vote for the Senate,
and they won the presidential vote in 2016 with 49%.
Our voting model predicts that, for Democrats to have a better than 50% chance of winning control of the House in November’s mid-term elections,
they will need to win the popular vote by around seven percentage points.
To put that another way, we think the Republicans have a 0.01% chance of winning the popular vote for the House.
But we estimate their chance of securing a majority of congressmen is about a third.
In no other two-party system does the party that receives the most votes routinely find itself out of power.