Minority Rule in Congress Likely to Worsen – 2020 Census Shows Dramatic Reduction in Rural Population

Percent Change in County Population 2010 to 2020
Percent Change in County Population 2010 to 2020

Slate.com: “[While] metro areas grew, vast stretches of the country continued to bleed population. About 53 percent of all U.S. counties shrank between 2010 and 2020. You can see them in the sea of burnt orange on the graph [above], rural regions and small towns that often have few residents to begin with. In total, they were home to about 50.5 million people in a nation of more than 331 million.”

“This isn’t a new story per se. Rural America and small towns have been losing residents for decades. But the trend seems to have accelerated. From 2000 to 2010, for instance, only around one-third of all counties lost residents.”

This will undoubtedly exacerbate a longstanding inequity of representation in Congress.

In the House today, Republicans, who mostly represent rural districts, control 26 state delegations, while Democrats – who have the majority of seats – control 23 state delegations. (The delegation from Pennsylvania is split). Much of Trump’s strategy to overturn Biden’s election earlier this year was aimed at changing results in swing states to his favor in order to get to an even split in the Electoral College. If the Electoral College vote had tied, the vote would have gone to the House. In that vote, each state gets one vote based on the majority party of its delegation. Trump would have taken the presidency, 26 to 23.

The over-representation of rural areas is most acute in the Senate.

Daily Kos from February 2021: “Even though Democrats narrowly won a majority in the Senate this year, the institution as a whole still gives Republicans a massive undue advantage—and has done so for decades. To illustrate this, Daily Kos Elections has compiled a spreadsheet that calculates the popular vote for the Senate going back nearly three decades and also shows the proportion of the country’s population that senators from each party represent.

“The implications of this data are astonishing: As shown on the chart below, Senate Republicans have neither won more votes nor represented more Americans than Democrats since the late 1990s. Despite that fact, the GOP has controlled the Senate just over half the time since then, a development that has not gone unobserved.”

Senate Popular Vote and Population Represented 1990-2020
Senate Popular Vote and Population Represented 1990-2020

Minority rule is also a factor every four years in the Electoral College. Most states are “winner take all,” in which the number of electors is based on the size of the state’s congressional delegation. (A couple of states attribute their electors by congressional district.) But because of over-representation by low-population rural states, the Electoral College is weighted toward Republicans. In just past the 20 years, it has given the presidency to two Republican candidates who lost the popular vote: George W. Bush and Donald Trump.

The irony, if it can be called that, is the Bush and Trump turned out to be, hands-down, the worst presidents since Andrew Johnson, at least.

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