Political science geekery ahead… if you want actionable stuff about the game, though, we have that too… but politics is also a form of game theory, like the game itself.
The U.S. looks insane to the rest of the world because of some apparently minor political structures that over-power rural states and under-power urban ones. If you read The Federalist Papers (don’t worry, you won’t), you’ll see the concern about balancing powers among states expressed repeatedly. A quick history lesson: the American Revolutionary War (or “The war of the ungrateful colonists” depending on where you are) lasted from 1775 – 1783, and at the end of if the U.S. states created a joint and ineffective government guided by a document called the Articles of Confederation, which didn’t allow for sufficient coordination among the states; that ineffective document led to the creation of a Constitutional Convention in 1787, and the ensuing document was eventually ratified by the states in 1789.
Way back then, smaller states were worried about being bullied by larger states, and, to prevent that from happening, and to prevent the usurpation of the presidency by a tyrant, the U.S. Senate was designed to give each state two senators, irrespective of the state’s size, and the Electoral College was created to put a barrier between the possibly tyrannous will of the people and the power of the presidency.
The world had very little experience with democracy back then, and the states’s representatives were more like start-up founders than CEOs implementing a mature business process. They had no idea what the f**k they were doing and did the best they could with the limited experience they had at the time. Those features may have seemed good in the agrarian period when they were created, but since then the Electoral College has shifted from “stop tyrants if necessary” to “vote according to the vote of the people of a given state.” In modern presidential elections, that means only a handful of states matter, and the votes in those states count for far more than the votes of other states. At the same time, the ratio of the population of the smallest states and largest states has grown enormously. Montana has just a million people in it, and Idaho has just 1.7 million, while California has 40 million. Yet Idaho and Montana between them have double the Senate representation California does. A fairer, alternate Senate system might have two senators per state, and distribute those senators by state lines whenever possible, but also attempt to use a non-partisan commission to distribute senators. In a system like that, Idaho and Montana might have two senators, but California, Texas, and New York might have 3 – 4 senators (getting us closer to the “one person, one vote” ideal).
Instead, we have a system in which some rural votes are far more valuable than other rural votes. It’s also proven to be internationally true that, the more urban an area is, the more it votes towards the left. But the U.S. has a peculiar system that disproportionately empowers rural areas, and that’s had big international consequences over the last 20 years.
Continue reading “U.S. politics is defined by the structure of the American constitution:”