As is always the case anymore, and not that it makes a darn, Democrats got millions more votes nationally than Republicans last Tuesday.
We're a mere 18 years into a millennium that's already given us two second-place Republican presidents--George W. Bush in 2000 and Donald Trump in 2016.
A few months ago, we had a second-place president nominate a right-wing ideologue to affix the U.S. Supreme Court in an anti-woman majority probably for a generation. That right-wing ideologue got confirmed by a U.S. Senate that contained a Republican majority although the Democratic membership got more cumulative popular votes than the Republican membership.
This is the point at which Trumpians scoff and say the rules are the rules and that we've always been a republic, not a democracy. And it's where I say I know that.
I'm merely pointing out, for purposes of our helpful self-awareness, that the nation has become so divided by place, with Democratic voters bunching up in urban clusters and Republican ones living apart amid the corn fields and the bear woods, that the contemporary effect of minority rule has become more pronounced. And it's unfortunate, provided you think that people, even those not looking like you, matter more than cornstalks or grizzlies.
I'm not saying we should change the Constitution to give California more senators than Arkansas. I'd like to say it, but I won't. What I am saying, in regard to the lone office we elect nationwide, the presidency, is that we should abolish the antiquated electoral college and install the popular-vote winner.
We could remain a nation of co-equal states in regard to the U.S. Senate while ending the exploding practice of second-place presidents. The president could become the people's choice, not the sparsely populated states' choice.
Yet I know it's out of the question. Republicans and small states stay in control because of the minority-rules premise they dare not give up.
Beyond that, parties in control at the state level gerrymander their House of Representative districts, which were intended to be the more purely democratic element of our governance, after each decennial census.
So, last Tuesday, Democratic House candidates nationwide got more than 7 million more votes than Republicans. Twenty-four years before, two years into the Bill Clinton presidency, Republicans also got 7 million more votes nationwide than Democrats in the House midterm elections.
For that advantage, Republicans in 1994 gained 54 House seats--a bona fide wave. But, on Tuesday, the Democrats' 7-million vote nationwide advantage in House races produced a lesser wave, a gain somewhere between 35 and 40 seats, depending on a few still-undecided races.
Why would a 7-million advantage produce a 54-seat gain for Republicans in 1994 and a 38-seat gain for Democrats in 2018? We can't be precise without studying every seat and every constituency. But we can make a solid first assumption: We've had two censuses and reapportionment exercises since 1994 and controlling incumbents got their districts redrawn in their own images and thus made incumbency harder to dislodge.
As I mentioned Sunday, Arkansas voters probably will get an opportunity in 2020 to end that practice by passing a citizens' initiated constitutional amendment.
Meanwhile, last Tuesday, Democratic candidates got 45 million votes in the contested Senate races while Republican candidates got 33 million. Yet Republicans gained a Senate seat or two or three, depending on how Florida and Arizona turn out.
How could that be? Part of it was bad luck for Democrats--35 of the 100 seats were up and 26 of them happened this time to be seats Democrats were defending, 10 of which were states won by Trump in the last election.
In the large states where Democrats were triumphant Tuesday in Senate races, they tended to win by big margins--in New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Wisconsin, New Jersey, Virginia and Minnesota--while Republican winners or leaders were held close in their biggest states, Texas and Florida.
And there was one other factor: The biggest state of all and the nation's most Democratic one--California, of course--had its own odd system--again, of course.
In California, the top two candidates in the open primary advanced to the general election.
It turns out Republicans are so pitiable in California that the Democratic incumbent, Dianne Feinstein, was opposed in the general election by another Democrat. So California had 7 million Democratic votes and no Republican ones in its Senate race.
What might all of that possibly portend for the presidential race in 2020?
Not much, probably. There'll be 20 million more voters in the presidential race. A mere 70,000 of them might again flip Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania and thus the electoral college for Trump, assuming the situation remains static and the Democrats don't produce a strong presidential candidate not currently evident.
But the best bet is that, per usual, for the nothing that it's worth, Democrats will get more votes.
John Brummett, whose column appears regularly in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, is a member of the Arkansas Writers' Hall of Fame. Email him at email@example.com. Read his @johnbrummett Twitter feed.
Editorial on 11/13/2018
Print Headline: JOHN BRUMMETT: Votes that don't matter