America and the next 244 years 📊 July 5, 2020

How long can the experiment last?

Welcome! I’m G. Elliott Morris, a data journalist and political analyst who mostly covers polls, elections, and political science. Happy Sunday! This is my weekly email where I write about news and politics using data and share links to what I’ve been reading and writing. 

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Dear reader,

Independence Day offers us a time to reflect on our nation’s history. Many of us celebrate the framers’ dedication to freedom and liberty, though recent years have also brought with them popular acknowledgement that our country’s great men failed to actually practice what they preached. But this year I am not looking back, but considering the future. Can America last?

America and the next 244 years

How long can the experiment last?

Many of you will know that I’m generally pretty down on American democracy. I think the original design of our government was agreed upon via an unforgivable compromise over slavery which has created lasting electoral malapportionment and myriad inefficiencies in our governing institutions. Our country was founded by scoundrels—both in their political and personal dispositions—who primarily sought economic freedom from Europe and whose fledgling nation reflected these selfish interests more than a productive, evolving and majoritarian republic.

Of course, you have to hand it to the founders for creating the freest Western nation on earth at the time. But after 244 years it is beginning to show its age.

Earlier this year, I wrote about why the two-party system the founders chastised and then ultimately participated in is dooming progress and destabilizing our politics. Geographic polarization has also fashioned in the US Senate a particularly egregious infringement on our rights to universal suffrage. And though they intended their social contract to be amended over time, most of our leaders have only abused it for their own political means, and today compromise over amendments seems impossible. Here’s how I summed up that piece:

So, then, we’re screwed right? At least in the near-term, I don’t see any hope for fixing American democracy.

First, polarization of electoral reform has already killed bipartisan support for it—at exactly the moment when we desperately need it.

Second, the Senate and electoral college will continue to be stains on American democracy regardless of the mode of election.

And third, the political hobbyists who have jumped on the RCV train aren’t likely engaged in the activities that would actually bring about reforms.

Yet there’s that age-old adage we haven’t considered. “It’s tough to make predictions, especially about the future.” I’m pessimistic about reform—but maybe, just maybe, there are people out there who can prove me wrong.

I’m not any more positive today, but I am hopeful. The younger generations age generally predisposed to progress, and it does seem possible that we can start getting reform right.

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What I'm Reading and Working On

Book stuff. Did I already tell you about this old novel of political fiction by a political scientist named Eugene Burdick, The 480? Let me remind you about it again. It is an utterly fascinating and good read, even if I do disagree with its ultimately elitist ideas about democracy.

Thanks for reading!

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