Monday, August 6, 2018

One elected official represents 75,000 citizens while another represents nearly a quarter of a million.

Some interesting information in this opinion piece, An inconvenient Census truth: Democratic districts have fewer U.S. citizens in them by Howard Husock.

In democracies there are an enormous number of mechanisms designed to reflect the will of all individual citizens into the structure of the state. Direct democracy versus a republic. Parliamentary versus Presidential. First past the post versus proportional representation. Steady voting maps versus frequently changed voting maps. Unicameral versus bicameral, etc. Advantages you gain from one approach entail necessary disadvantages as well. This complex ecosystem of trade-offs is reflected in the insight of Arrow's Impossibility Theorem. It is impossible to have all the ideal advantages and none of the disadvantages.

Husock -
An Axios analysis finds, for instance, that 10 Democratic districts include a foreign-born population of higher than 40%, compared with just two Republican districts. Only 11 Republican seats have at least 20% foreign-born residents, compared with more than 50 Democratic seats.

In Ohio’s fourth congressional district, represented by House Speaker hopeful Jim Jordan, just 2% of residents are foreign-born. In New York’s 14th district, where Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez gained national celebrity for her upset primary victory, some 50% of residents are foreign-born.

It’s almost certainly the case that an average Democratic district includes fewer citizens among its roughly 735,000 residents than an average Republican district. Census data indicates that as of 2010, just 44% of the foreign-born are naturalized citizens — down from 64% in 1970.

This has implications not just for Democrats but for democracy.

For instance, in Montana — which, in 2016, had just one Congressional district for the entire state — just 2% of residents were foreign-born. Then-Rep. Ryan Zinke (now Secretary of the Interior) needed 285,358 votes (of 491,000) to win 56% of the vote. That same year, outspoken California Congresswoman Maxine Waters needed just 167,017 votes (of 219,000 total) to garner a much higher percentage of a much smaller total vote. In her district, 32% of the population is foreign-born — and 46% of residents are even as she, an African-American, is perennially reelected.

On rare occasions, Republicans can benefit from the same situation. Rep. David Valadao from a district in California’s San Joaquin Valley won his seat with just 75,000 votes—of a total of just 132,000 cast.
I am not convinced as to how material the real world impact is arising from these disparities but it is conceivable that they could be material.

This is in many ways an ancient issue. Britain had its rotten buroughs until 1832. The US had its three fifths compromise. Many countries wrestle with representative imbalances between city and country or between industrial areas and agricultural areas. Short of direct democracy (which has a raft of problems attached to it), there will always be some challenge to ensure that all citizens are equally represented.

While there is certainly a partisan aspect to this, I think the issue is of importance more from a legitimacy perspective. If groups of citizens, of whatever affiliative identity, feel that the system is structured to preclude their full and fair representation, then you end up with much more serious problems than as to which party holds office. Witness the DNC's problem with super-delegates and the impact on Sander's supporters and their subsequent voting inclinations.

Part of why Husock's information seems pertinent has to do with personal experience.

I am American born but owing to my father's career in the international oil industry, I grew up in many countries overseas. As a consequence, I have a fairly dense network of foreign friends. I also know a large number of foreign born friends who have subsequently become American citizens.

On Facebook, I have observed that a seemingly high percentage of those upper class, well-educated foreign friends who have become Americans through marriage or naturalization, are also virulent social-justice/postmodernists with frequent, sometimes vitriolic, positions against America, Americans and or against conservative Americans. This has always struck me, as a practical matter, as an oddly unwise biting of the hand that feeds you.

It has also raised in my mind a further wrinkle in the complexity of the net benefits and costs of immigration. If immigrants are highly likely to take policy positions against the interests of native-born Americans (or be seen to do so), it weakens the case for immigration among the native born.

I have long dismissed this impression. It's Facebook. People on the left, from my experience, seem much more inclined to shout positions from the rooftops, leading them to appear to be much more prominent than they are. The dozen or so foreign born friends, but now American citizens, who routinely bad-mouth America and Republicans on Facebook are the squeaky wheel. To shift to Bastiat's frame, there is always the seen and the unseen. It is easy to see the vocal authoritarian postmodernists shouting on Facebook, it is not so easy to see those other new Americans, proud of their adopted country, quietly going about their business. I have dismissed the impression but it rankles a little bit.

The point that Husock raises, therefore, has some salience. Just what is the policy preference profile of native born Americans (especially multi-generational) compared to that of recently naturalized Americans? Is there a sharp deviance? How does that map onto geographic clustering and concentrations of foreign born in urban areas and the possibility that representatives from different districts represent starkly different proportions of native born Americans?

I don't know. My instinct is that there is probably, on balance, not much of a skew. But I can't be certain. It is an interesting issue.

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