Majority Rules? Not in the US

November 13, 2016
Posted by Jay Livingston

Correction (November 14): I misread the House returns, reversing the totals for Republicans and Democrats. The Republican House candidates got a higher total vote --51.4%. They won 55% of the seats.

Update (November 23): The popular vote for president now shows Clinton ahead by 2 million votes.

It’s official. The US government is now in full control of the less popular political party. More Americans voted for Democrats than for Republicans, but the minority party now controls all three branches of the federal government.

President: The Democratic candidate got more votes than did the Republican candidate.
    Clinton 60.1 million 62.4 million
    Trump 59.8 million 62.2 million

The Republican will be in the White House.

Senate: More votes were cast for Democrats than for Republicans.
    Democrats 45.2 million
    Republicans 39.3 million

The Republicans have a 51-48 edge in the Senate.

House:  More votes were cast for Democrats than for Republicans.
    Democrats 56.3 53.2 million
    Republicans 53.2 56.3 million

In Congressional seats, Republicans have a 237 - 193 advantage.

Judiciary: At the Supreme Court level, two justices – Alito and Thomas – were confirmed by Senators who represented a minority of the electorate. More Americans voted for Senators who voted Nay than for Senators who voted Yea. That pattern will likely hold for whoever Trump nominates for the seat that is currently vacant. That seat is vacant because Republicans refused to allow Obama’s nominee, Merrick Garland, to come up for a vote. Many of them hinted that if Hillary had won but Republicans still controlled the Senate, they would continue this tactic for four more years.

They have taken the same delaying approach to lower-level federal judgeships, so Trump will have many of those to appoint. In these too, the Republicans have shown themselves willing to trash long-standing norms for the sake of GOP hegemony. As Nina Totenberg explained (here) the day after the election,

If history is any guide Republicans will abandon — as they have before — traditional protections for the minority party, meaning that the views of opposition party senators will not be considered in the appointment of judges, even from states where both senators are Democrats. Senate Democrats, even when they controlled the Senate, did honor those GOP views, but Republicans have forsaken that traditional accommodation in recent times.

In my mind’s ear, the phrase “ruling minority party” calls up images of Saddam and the Ba’ath party in Iraq, or the Assad regime ruling Syria despite the Alawites being very much a minority— not exactly governments to emulate. I do not know if this strange and anti-democratic arrangement – the party with the most votes frozen out of power – has ever occurred before in US history. But for at least the next two years, the minority rules, and you can be sure that they will do everything in their power to keep it that way


Dan said...

Can you provide a source for this data? I'm seeing it shared on facebook but do not see sources on the congressional votes cast

Jay Livingston said...

I think I got the info from USA Today (here). As I said in the correction, on the House vote, I mistakenly switched the R and D totals. The post is a bit of an embarrassment, and I was thinking of removing it entirely. Instead I just corrected it. Over all three branches, I'd still classify if as rule by the party with fewer votes, but it's not as bad as I originally stated (i.e, overstated).