America has become a nation of minority rule.
Two of the past three presidents received fewer votes than their opponent. In 2017, most legislation passed by the Senate was supported by senators representing only a minority of the population. And after the confirmation of Justice Brett Kavanaugh, all five of the conservative Supreme Court justices—a majority of the Court—have been appointed by presidents who lost the popular vote, supported by a group of senators who received fewer votes than the opposing senators, or both.
The U.S. Constitution has several provisions that can produce antidemocratic electoral outcomes. The Electoral College is a clear example. But it is not the only one. The apportionment of senators by state, not population, naturally gives those in less populated states disproportional representation. And even in the House of Representatives, the will of the majority can be thwarted due to gerrymandering and the lack of representation for citizens living in Washington, D.C., or in U.S. territories.
None of these arrangements are necessarily partisan, and for much of the nation’s history, they did not consistently favor either political party. But today, the system is in tension with the bedrock principle of democracy: majority rule. Due to an advantageous distribution of voters in the right states, the Republican Party has repeatedly been able to control the federal government despite a lack of popular support. In 2016, for example, Republicans failed to win a majority of votes cast for the House, Senate, or the presidency, yet nonetheless secured control of all three.