It has been July 4 in America for some months. Fireworks. Marches. Talk of revolution, and of liberty and equality. Declarations of had-it-up-to-hereness. And a reminder and resumption of our centuries-long arguments with the compromises built into our founding.
At the heart of every one of these new or renewed arguments is the sense that our existing government mechanisms for solving deep, abiding problems have proved inadequate or no longer work. And at the heart of that lies the thorny question of the very structure of our representative democracy. Today in GEN, former Obama speechwriter David Litt takes the light occasion of Hamilton, the musical, coming to Disney+ to explore one of the compromises that vexed Alexander himself and that in many ways is the defining crisis of our time: The tyranny of the minority.
“On issue after issue — gun violence prevention; climate change; taxes; responding to Covid-19 or police brutality — the states, as represented in the Senate, are standing between the will of the people and the actions of their government,” writes Litt in “The Future Alexander Hamilton Warned About Has Arrived.” Through the Electoral College and a Senate that gives the same representation to California as it does to Wyoming, which has one sixty-eighth the population, America today is a kludged democracy that no longer enacts the will of the majority.
“Authoritarianism looms, but we are far from helpless in the face of this threat,” writes Litt, who recommends that if Democrats retake the White House and Senate their first order of business must be D.C. statehood, to begin to right the power imbalance in a Senate whose elected Republican majority today represents more than 20 million fewer people than the Democratic minority.
Elsewhere in GEN, Jessica Valenti considers the “two different ideas of American freedom” on display in recent weeks: “While protesters are demanding the freedom for Black people to live without fear of state violence and murder, white conservatives are complaining that their freedom is being infringed upon because they can’t shop at Costco without a light piece of fabric against their face….these two Americas have always been there; but there is something jarring about watching them in tandem.”
So enjoy the day off, the burgers, the moment for reflection. I’ll be staying in as usual, watching the nightly fireworks.