Wednesday, May 11, 2005

The Race Card

I recently became interested in how the Constitution (as a system of democracy instead of more direct methods) affects racial minorities. One of the most common defenses for constitutional democracy is that you need it to protect minorities, in the face of evil majoritarianism. Well it’s clear from the start of our country that the Constitution didn’t afford them protections of this sort, and as recently as the sixties were they continually screwed by the filibuster and federalism. But now as recognized citizens they benefit from all these “minority protections” more than lose from them, right?

No. Why?

  1. The Electoral College: The states with the largest minority populations are written off first. A presidential campaign is never about how to improve life in New York or California, and these groups are ignored as they are just ceded to Democrats, while the agricultural sector gets every photo op they could want. Supposedly to balance the problems of our general elections we have primary elections – but when the two most important states are New Hampshire and Iowa, you’ve only exacerbated the problem.
  2. First Past the Post Representation: In general when you have very localized and minority interests, FPTP disenfranchises them. They get a few seats where they account for 90% of the population, and they don’t get any seats where they account for 10% of the population, leaving them disproportionately unrepresented. Add into the fact that Congress is in fact about politically powerful individuals, and not just representatives of certain parties or ideologies, you get an elite non-lack class magnified further.
  3. The Senate: And this is worse. South Dakota gets 2 Senators. And California gets 2 Senators. Let’s say that California was half black half white, and ten times the size of all white South Dakota. So for a proportion of 10 black people for 12 white people, you get 1 black Senator for 3 white Senators. Not to mention that the Senate is way more important than the House.
  4. Local-Based Education: Running, and thus funding, very important social programs (and what’s more important than education? Maybe healthcare, but we don’t provide that, largely due to the aforementioned problems) based on the local tax base may be an interesting principle about community responsibility in abstract. In practice it makes the kids of rich parents more well of, and screws the kids of poor parents.
  5. Gun Control: One measure to bring down crime is prohibited from ever being enacted, due to assumptions that are obviously outdated (the ability and necessity to fight off a foreign invade with small arms). Regardless of whether you actually think minorities are impacted more by crime and lax gun laws, minorities certainly think they are (to the tune of 73%).
  6. Washington Fucking D. C.: The motherload of all Constitutional absurdities, the city of 600,000 people, 70% of whom are non-white, doesn’t get represented in the Senate, the House, or get it’s own state government that could raise commuter taxes like most cities do. Not only is this crazy, it’s also purposeful. The reason DC doesn’t get representation is because it votes 90% Democratic, something correlated with it’s large non-white population.

This isn’t just a list of NAACP complaints, but examples that flow from the Original Sin of our Constitution. It was written 222 years ago by rich white men. When Adams and Madison argued over balancing the interests of small states and big states, country life and city life, no one argued for representing the interests of racial minorities. Not that minorities need to be thought of at every step if you have a principled process, but if your Constitution is just a series of deals between negotiating interests (which ours is), that someone was left out of those negotiations can never really be forgotten.

Attempts to alleviate these problems in the past of course haven’t been very popular (bussing, racial gerry-mandering), but that’s kinda the point. A system that starts off with such wrong assumptions and foundations, is not best fixed by tweaking with compromises that don’t respect the spirit of equal democracy.


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