Stupid democracy

Blazing Saddles

Democracy is flawed, but self-correcting with an educated electorate. However, here in the United States, we have the stupidest possible form of democracy.

A candidate wins the popular vote for president by 2.8 million votes, but loses the election, as happened in 2016?

That’s just stupid.

A Senate where senators elected by 43% of the population can block legislation backed by senators representing 57% of the population?


An election in the most populous state, California, where if the governor is not supported more than half the people voting, a candidate backed by 30% of the voters could take his place?

Dumb. Extremely dumb.

A Supreme Court whose makeup is determined by who is president when its members randomly happen to die — or when a leader in the Senate feels like scheduling hearings? One president who gets two nominations in eight years, and another that gets three in just four years?

Pretty screwed up.

Election laws that either encourage or put obstacles in front of voters, based on whichever party happens to control the legislature in a state?

Makes no sense.

Legislative districts designed by computer to elect candidates from the party that controls a state legislature?

Hardly democratic.

Two extremely flawed parties whose candidates we must pick from — with only the slimmest possible chance that candidates from outside those parties will ever win?


Three-year-long campaigns dominated by mob rallies and media concentrated on horse races and “gaffes?”

Who would design a system like that?

People who get their information from social media that amplifies the most extreme and inaccurate information that confirms what they already believe?

Yeah. That’s pretty stupid.

Democracy off the rails is still better than dictatorship

Winston Churchill said, “Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all those others that have been tried.”

And he was working in a parliamentary system, which avoids many of the worst parts of American democracy.

These facts are indisputible:

  1. The party with fewer voters will use election rules and geography to maximize the power of those that represent its views.
  2. The party with more voters will try to make it as easy as possible for those voters to vote and to reduce the power of the minority.

When it comes to ordinary politics, compromise is still possible. That’s how the Senate passed Biden’s infrastructure bill, for example.

But when it comes to election rules, compromise is unattainable, because it is literally a zero-sum game. If I get more votes, that’s bad for you. If you get more votes, that’s bad for me. Pay no attention to posturing about “fairness” and “fraud” and the like — all electoral rules are a simple fight about making it easier for one party or the other to win an election.

It’s a terrible system. But at least it includes regular elections. Elections permit us to hear candidates’ views. They enable us have a say, even if our choices are limited. They enable us to correct mistakes we made in electing the wrong people.

By all means, let’s keep attempting to fix our flawed American democracy. Let’s elect people who make it more democratic, and cast out people who pass electoral rules whose only purpose it to make it easier to elect people more like them.

I won’t let up on my criticism of the stupidest possible implementation of democracy.

But I certainly prefer it to no democracy at all.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


  1. Answer: Perhaps you you are demonstrating one of the benefits of many years of writing and editing daily, trying to stick to a disciplined schedule.

    Question: How the HECK are you continuing to write such content-ful thoughtful pieces WHILE MOVING HOUSE?

    With gratitude from a lurker who is also planning a move and yikes! / J

    1. According to the very article you linked to, a democracy is “a type of government where the power to govern rests with a country’s people rather than a ruling family (a monarchy) or a single individual (totalitarianism). That means that citizens control how their government operates, usually through voting.”

      We are not a direct democracy (everyone votes on everything). But we are a democracy, because we vote for our leaders.

      A republic in which the officials are elected is a type of democracy.

      The two are not mutually exclusive.

  2. “And he was working in a parliamentary system, which avoids many of the worst parts of American democracy”

    That is an assumption / opinion.

    With issues like these are you just wanting to let off steam? Not clear if you are promoting any solutions to the problems you outline.

    Maybe you are suggesting we adopt a parliamentary system (btw, that itself won’t solve the issue of who gets on the Supreme Court), but that just seems like trading one set of problems for another.

    There are many problems and ways to game the system in parliamentary systems too.

    Explore those, explore the whys of how the current system was structured this way, and then answer: Is a parliamentary system really, in the net total, any better?

    I think that is MUCH harder to answer, once one actually consider all this.

    BTW, I’m not liking what I am seeing in our country, politically, either.

    At core, I think it does come back to the citizens – do they (we) respect our democracy?

    If so, why are we letting a minority of people in both parties drive the direction? Define our collective conversation?

    Why do we listen to the grifters and the power-hungry? Get riled up and played by them like marionettes?

    Is it because we are so comfortable and bored (1st world problems) that politics is our new sport, our entertainment?

    If we don’t fix our own culture around this, parliamentary system is not going to help.

  3. A thoughtful piece and well-reasoned, Josh.

    Both parties are to blame for what we’ve seen, and will continue to see, and the mass media are complicit in helping them maintain their grip on their partisans to ensure that the machine keeps on grinding out the same old grist.

    Your point about election rules is well-founded also. In my state, the dominant party implemented a “top-two” election runoff rule, meaning that the two largest vote-getters in primaries are the final choices in the general election, regardless of party affiliation – and with the majority of voters belonging to that dominant party, minority-party opposition candidates are effectively removed from the race in most places.

    It all comes down to who has the most money and the loudest bullhorn. Because the voters themselves (at least, the ones who actually vote) don’t actually do any due diligence before voting – they just listen to the sound bites.

    Ami I cynical? Yup. Justified? You bet.