GOOD.is has released this infographic illustrating the significant disparity between the current demographic makeup of the United States Congress (both houses combined) and the actual population of the United States. There is a clear drag on progress in most Americans’ access to Congressional office, and it appears the composition of Congress would shift to the Democratic party, given the current policy platforms and voting tendencies of distinct (and overlapping) demographic groups.
The Republican party’s national political operation has, for this reason, been pushing to reduce access to polling locations for groups that tend not to favor the election of Republican candidates. A more democratic response (lower-case d) would be to find more appealing candidates and policy positions more relevant to a major of today’s American voters.
Independent voters often account for much of this disparity, as the composition of the independent (or non-aligned) electorate shifts significantly from one election to the next, and that shift often coincides with higher or lower turnout within the base of electoral support for one of the two parties.
That connection, and the disparity between actual population breakdown and Congressional representation, suggests independent voters are not exercising full agency or truly independent judgment in terms of their electoral choices. This accounts for the vast disparity between what voters say they think of complicated policies like the Recovery Act or the Affordable Care Act, where most of the specifics are in line with what they want.
It also explains how the people of Wisconsin elected an extremist regime that would defy the law, deliberately violate multiple court orders, threaten the use of force to prevent protest and to deny opposition legislators access to the legislative process, and strip Wisconsinites of basic rights.
Every citizen has a responsibility to ensure that we move toward being a nation where democracy is so pervasive that no one is disadvantaged by ethnicity or gender in the project of winning elective office. Independent voters have an important role to play, and can help drive the two major parties toward a more people-centered politics, more reflective of contemporary demographics and contemporary values.
One response to Wide Disparity Between Demographics of Congress & US Popupation
I think that the Wisconsin elections exemplified the tendency for many Americans to demand a “quick fix” and to punish the politicians who do not provide it. It also shows an “all or nothing” approach from the left who were disappointed that Obama and the other Democrats did not totally pass the libera/left agenda. Thus many people who should have known better and who could have worked hard to sway many of the independents seemed to sit on their hands to give some kind of message to the Democratic party.
I hope that the luke-warm Obama supporters now realize that their “all or nothing” approach empowered a right wing group with a much more aggressive “all or nothing” outlook. Unfortunately I hear from many of the leftists a yearning for a third party to the left of the Democrats. It is obvious that the affect of such a movement would be to put the Republicans in power. Once in full control again, the Republicans would distort all of our laws passing numerous bills that would require 2/3 or even 3/4 votes to undo as well as ramming through Constitutional amendments.
Ironically, for all the talk of Obama being “transformational”, it is the Republicans and the Tea Party in particular that are tranformational. They have acted swiftly to enact laws that will change the landscape of our country and lock in their dominance for a long time. If the Democrats manage to recover full control of Congress and retain the Presidency in 2012, they should take many pages from the Republican transformational book.
Personally, I wish that Obama would have been a more aggressive leader for the principles he seemed to espouse in his election campaign. I realize, however, that there are many factors that block a highly aggressive approach. Anything that makes him appear similar to a clenched fist radical will quickly scare off the white voters. So he tries to be Mr. Compromise. Of course, the Republicans give him little credit for his centrist (and actually moderately right wing) approaches. They still consider him to be a socialist-communist-Islamist. But there may be nothing better that he can do.
If you stand back and look at what Obama has accomplished it is actually impressive. He passed a reasonably good healthcare bill. Part of it may get declared unconstitutional but at least it conveys the underlying principle that everyone should have healthcare. His policies have checked the economic free fall and added 1.8 million jobs in 2.5 years. This is a lot slower than I hoped but I hoped for a larger stimulus. At least it is something. He has made some good Supreme Court picks. Just think if there had been a Republican President choosing people for the Court! He has eliminated “don’t ask don’t tell.” Many of those running now for the Republican nomination would outlaw homosexual activity totally. And he has done all this in a gentlemanly, compromising way (except the healthcare bill which was ultimately rammed through).
If the Democratic “core”and the bulk of the Independents desert the Democratic party in 2012, we will get much worse than a return to the Bush years. We will get the beginnings of a rightwing dictatorship. I hope that folks with moderately right, through centrist, through left wing views will think about what our country would be like if the Tea Party really took over.