Get Woke!

Governor Ron DeSantis of Florida has declared war on “woke.” “Florida,” he said, “is the place where woke goes to die.” The DeSantis administration has defined woke as:

…the belief there are systemic injustices in American society and the need to address them.

DeSantis administration

So are there systemic injustices in America? Yes, absolutely there are. The murder of George Floyd by a police officer highlighted the fact that police officers have far too often been able to get away with reckless brutality and murder of persons in their custody. The murder of Ahmaud Arbery brought the injustice of a Civil War era law in the state of Georgia under such public scrutiny that the state legislature was forced to change the law and to implement Georgia’s first ever hate crimes law. On January 12th 2023 the Justice Department ordered City National Bank to pay $31 million for its refusal to underwrite mortgages in predominantly Black and Latino districts– a behavior that was outlawed in 1968. All of these examples show that there are indeed deep and pervasive injustices in American society. Perhaps those who use the term “woke” derisively just don’t think that any such injustices warrant a solution.

Why do such injustices persist in a nation that is supposed to stand for “liberty and justice for all”? At a national level it’s chiefly because we live under minority rule. Let’s begin with the House of Representatives. The U.S. Constitution (in Article I Section 2) says that every state must get at least one representative in the House. And the Reapportionment Act of 1929 capped the total number of representatives at 435. Those two constraints together have conspired to over-represent states of low population. California, for example, has about 27% less representation in the House than it should have on the basis of population alone.

The Senate is designed to represent states, not the people, since each state gets two senators irrespective of population. There are 9 states that together have about 51% of total U.S. population. That gives those 9 states only 18% representation in the Senate. That means that less than half the people in the United States have control of 82% of the votes in the Senate. That is, the Senate massively over-represents states with low population. Do you want to know why the Senate is the place where legislation goes to die? That’s why.

And of course there is the Electoral College. In the first 23 years of this century we have already had two presidents who won their elections with a minority of the popular vote– because of the rules governing the Electoral College. And those rules give favor to states of low population.

So the House of Representatives, the Senate, and the Presidency are all under the control of a minority faction of the American public– a faction that predominantly favors rural perspectives. Rural America has been steadily diminishing over the past 233 years. In 1790 about 5% of total U.S. population was located in urban centers. Now the number is over 89%. The U.S. Constitution as currently amended over-represents a diminishing portion of American society. And that is an injustice that most definitely needs to be addressed.

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