MSNBC host Joy Reid made waves over the weekend when she tweeted that the voting power of rural Americans was the ‘core threat to our democracy.’
I’m sorry, what did she say?
The exchange began when MSNBC producer Kyle Griffin tweeted a Wall Street Journal piece that claimed that by the year 2040, over 70 percent of Americans will live in the largest 15 states, meaning that 70 percent of Americans will be represented by 30 senators, and 30 percent of Americans will be represented by 70 senators.
By 2040, about 70% of Americans are expected to live in the 15 largest states. They will have only 30 senators representing them, while the remaining 30% of Americans will have 70 senators representing them. https://t.co/f1SibnIGHv
— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) November 25, 2017
Reid responded to this tweet by noting that this disparity was a threat to American democracy:
This is the core threat to our democracy. The rural minority — the people @JYSexton just wrote a long thread about — have and will continue to have disproportionate power over the urban majority. https://t.co/fzBHaZ9kzR
— Joy Reid (@JoyAnnReid) November 26, 2017
Does she have a point?
The Wall Street Journal’s analysis says it is based on a prediction by David Birdsell, dean of the school of public and international affairs at Baruch College in New York City. However, Birdsell’s prediction does not appear to have been based on an actual scientific study. Birdsell’s prediction has been frequently quoted online, but it appears to be based on nothing more than a guesstimate from a political science professor, as opposed to any rigorous social analysis.
However, even if it were based on an actual scientific analysis, analyses of population migration trends are fickle. Previous historical predictions about migration to inner cities were foiled when suburban migration began. Then, unexpectedly, predictions about the continuing pace of suburban migration were foiled when Americans began moving back into cities in the last decade.
The truth is that no one can accurately predict the future of population distribution.
But even if Birdsell’s prediction is correct, it isn’t a new phenomenon or something the founders were unaware of. As of the 1790 census, 74 percent of America’s population lived in the seven largest states, which means that America’s population has always been concentrated in larger states, since the time of its founding.
The writers of the Constitution were certainly aware of this fact when the Constitution was drafted. It was the principal reason for the Connecticut Compromise, which is widely credited with having saved the entire Constitution.
In other words. Reid is not objecting to a threat to American constitutional democracy. She’s objecting to a central feature of American constitutional democracy — a central feature that has been present since the founding of the country.