- Americans overwhelmingly support a number of policy proposals, such as background checks for all gun owners and paid maternity leave.
- But those incredibly popular proposals are not being put into practice by our politicians.
- That’s because those in power — including the Senate, courts, and White House — represent a small minority of the country’s population and are unduly influenced by special interests.
- It is unsustainable.
- Michael Gordon is a longtime Democratic strategist, a former spokesperson for the Justice Department, and the principal for the strategic-communications firm Group Gordon.
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Ask any middle schooler about the basic role of government and they will answer — correctly — that it is to represent the views and ideas of the American people. Policies supported by a clear majority deserve action.
Today, representative democracy is on the brink as our government demonstrates an unprecedented disconnect from public opinion.
For instance, 83% of the public supports background checks for gun owners, but that hasn’t come to fruition. Some 77% of Americans want Roe v. Wade upheld, but that precedent keeps getting chipped away at. And 84% of the nation supports paid maternity leave, which has yet to become law despite President Donald Trump’s promising it during his 2016 campaign. We see time and time again that even overwhelmingly popular public views don’t translate to policy.
That’s because our three branches of government live under minority rule.
There is a disconnect between Capitol Hill and Main Street. Trump, whose rise was fueled by his message of taking on a “rigged” political system that failed to reflect the views and values of everyday Americans, understood and exploited that reality.
But the problem predates Trump. With gerrymandering as the standard and open primaries out of favor, politicians have tacked more to the base of their parties and away from the middle.
As a result ideas move or stall based on the power of a small group of primary-election voters and politicians who have gamed the system to block ideas that are overwhelmingly popular.
While minority views should be protected and voices outside of the consensus heard, the issue is that all three branches of the federal government are now in the hands of a group of politicians pushing distorted views to the mainstream:
- The Senate: The structure of our Senate made sense in 1789 as a guarantee that smaller states would be heard. Today, smaller states have a significantly disproportionate voice, and the Republican Senate majority represents a historically low proportion of the country’s population.The narrowest majority of 50 senators who last year confirmed Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court represent just 44% of the US population. Many of these senators are the same ones blocking action on issues backed by most Americans, like gun safety, election reform, and climate change.
- The courts: A Senate majority representing a historically small percentage of the population enables an equally problematic court system, well beyond the Supreme Court.