Mehdi Hasan in New Statesman:
How democratic is the United States? According to a poll released by the bipartisan Democracy Project in June, a clear majority (55 per cent) of Americans consider US democracy to be “weak”, with two-thirds (68 per cent) saying it’s “getting weaker.” Half of Americans believe the nation is in “real danger of becoming a non-democratic, authoritarian country”. In February, the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) classed the United States as a “flawed democracy” for the second year in a row. The US ranked 21st in the EIU’s Democracy Index, behind 20 “full” democracies including Germany, Canada and the UK. “Popular trust in government, elected representatives, and political parties has fallen to extremely low levels in the US,” the EUI analysts wrote. “This has been a long-term trend and one that preceded the election of Mr Trump as the US president in November 2016.” Indeed it did. The sad truth is that Donald Trump is a symptom, not a cause, of the United States’ democratic dysfunction. Consider his own election victory: Trump secured the presidency in November 2016 despite winning three million fewer votes than Hillary Clinton. Turnout stood at a miserable 55.7 per cent; more Americans stayed at home than voted for Trump and Clinton combined.
Consider the president’s latest appointment to the Supreme Court: the scandal-plagued Brett Kavanaugh was confirmed by the Senate, in a 50-48 vote, earlier this month – the narrowest confirmation vote since 1881. Not only did a majority of Americans oppose his appointment, but the 50 senators who put him there represent states covering just 44 per cent of the US population. Consider the Senate itself: each state is guaranteed two senators, regardless of their size. Yet, given current demographic trends, by 2040, according to calculations by Baruch College political scientist David Birdsell, “70 per cent of Americans are expected to live in the 15 largest states … That means that the 70 per cent of Americans get all of 30 Senators and 30 per cent of Americans get 70 Senators”.
Consider also the upcoming midterm elections, on 6 November, described by former White House strategist Steve Bannon, no less, as “a referendum on the Trump presidency.” Thanks to Republican gerrymandering, reports the Washington Post, “some independent analysts think Democrats will need to win the popular vote by seven to 11 percentage points just to get a bare majority” in the House of Representatives. In 2016, Republicans managed to secure 55 per cent of the seats in the House with less than 50 per cent of the vote.