There’s One Simple Reason Why Republicans Benefit Most From the Structure of Our Government

At the root of nearly every discussion concerning the flaws in our government lies the elephant in the room: Our Constitution. 

While our Constitution is an amazing document that ultimately led to the creation of one of the most powerful societies in all of human history, the truth is, we’re still talking about a document that’s well over 200-years-old, written during a time when the world (and society) was a much different place.

Obviously, with only 13 states, our government was much smaller than it is today. The very 1st United States Congress had less than 100 members, making it smaller than just today’s Senate.

Imagine how much more efficient Congress would be today if we could reduce it by four-fifths.

Today, we have 50 states and 535 members of Congress.

People have often asked me why it seems like Republicans nearly always have the advantage when it comes to control of our government. There are several answers such as:

  • Liberals tend to be more apathetic voters.
  • Republicans tend to be older and white, the demographic that votes the most consistently.
  • Gerrymandering of congressional districts.
  • The GOP is much more “cult-like” in that they all buy into the same ideologies where liberals tend to be much more diverse.
  • Voter ID laws tend to suppress voters who tend to vote for Democrats.
  • Liberals tend to be more whiny when they don’t get their way (sorry, it’s true).
  • Republicans are better at “marketing” and driving a message consistently.
  • Republicans are great at exploiting people’s basic ignorance of how our government works.

The list goes on and on.

But there’s also another huge advantage Republicans have that makes it much easier for them to have more power in our government: Geography.

Liberals tend to be concentrated in more populated areas in fewer states and counties.

If you look at a county-by-county breakdown of a presidential election, it’s a ridiculous “sea of red.” Here’s that breakdown of the 2008 election when President Obama easily defeated Sen. John McCain:


If I were to take someone who knew absolutely nothing about how our elections work, or the 2008 election, and ask them who they think won, the candidate represented by red or blue, odds are they’d quickly say the “red one.”

You can literally start at nearly the most southern tip of Florida, and snake your way to basically the most northwestern edge of Washington, without having to go through a single blue county.

That’s a huge geographical advantage for Republicans. There’s a reason why the only two men since 1888 to become president without winning the popular vote were both Republicans.

As of writing this (votes are still being counted), Hillary Clinton is ahead of Donald Trump by well over two million votes – a lead that only seems to be growing as more votes get counted.

We’re seriously looking at a situation where an elected president might lose the overall popular vote by 3-4 million overall votes — which is not how democracy is supposed to work.

But the problem is, because the structure of our government and the electoral college favor geography more than actual votes, Republicans have the edge because they control the “rural” aspect of the United States where liberals are mostly concentrated in major cities or larger population centers.

This geographical advantage is seen even more in the Senate where each and every state, regardless of population, has two senators.

Very red states with fairly small populations such as Alaska, Wyoming, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, Utah, North Dakota, South Dakota, Idaho and West Virginia practically hand Republicans a guaranteed 20 spots in the Senate, which is a huge advantage when it comes to winning majority control.

Because liberals are much more concentrated as far as where they live, our entire structure of government benefits Republicans who tend to dominate most of the areas between our major cities and most populated areas.

While the Founding Fathers clearly didn’t mean for this to happen, nevertheless, it has become an unintended consequence based upon a nation they never knew would grow to the size that it is. In today’s society, we’ve given a fairly sizable advantage to “rural America” (aka conservatives, aka Republicans) when it comes to the overall control of our government because we’re living in a system that, while it’s not intended to, does favor geography over population when it comes to who has the majority in Congress.

Allen Clifton

Allen Clifton is a native Texan who now lives in the Austin area. He has a degree in Political Science from Sam Houston State University. Allen is a co-founder of Forward Progressives and creator of the popular Right Off A Cliff column and Facebook page. Be sure to follow Allen on Twitter and Facebook, and subscribe to his channel on YouTube as well.


Facebook comments

  • Michael Rapaport

    I have a close friend who marched by my side against the War in Vietnam and for civil rights. Alas, he has changed into a right winger. When I pointed out that Hillary may win by well over 2 million votes he responded with the geography answer. He said if you begin at Philadelphia and drove you could drive forever before you reach a county that voted for Hillary. I told him maybe so but he was a college professor while I became a Corporate executive. I added that I have been in just about every major city in this country and he should trust me because he wouldn’t be comfortable living in most of them. So elitist as it might sound I don’t particularly care what a guy in Jackson, Mississippi thinks

    • Doug Cochran

      Can anyone explain to me why the weight of a person’s vote should be proportional to the amount of land they have around their house?

      • Michael Rapaport

        because we have an electoral college and until that changed we don’t really have a democracy. then one thing from this last campaign that sticks in my mind was John Kerry saying his job consists of running around the world speaking to world leaders about the benefits of democracy and the weird looks he got in return.

      • Doug Cochran

        My question is why we _should_ have a disproportional system, not why we _do_. Sorry, didn’t mean to pose the question to you in particular, but to anyone willing to think about it. I’ve seen a lot of maps similar to the one above which spread the reds and blues into the counties but shows only the two colors. A more accurate representation would be to shade the counties according to the number of voters for each candidate.

      • Michael Rapaport

        but they are the same. The reason why is because this
        country is insane letting itself be ruled by a document written so long ago when everything was so different

      • strayaway

        But the Constitution does allow itself to changed by amendment. It could even be amended to eliminate itself. I doubt that you would like the results if minority positions were suddenly not protected by the Bill of Rights.

        However, much of the animosity toward the electoral college is bogus because it assumes that Hillary would have won my 2M votes were there no electoral college. That is unlikely because why do Republicans in California or New York even get off their couch knowing their states overwhelmingly vote Democratic and that all 55 electoral votes in California go to the Democrat whether or not a Republican left his couch? My guess is that a lot of Republican voters would suddenly surface if they thought their vote would take away some electors. Trump didn’t even bother campaigning in California because under the electoral college that would have been a waste of his time. Eliminating the electoral college would change campaign strategies and that would produce a different result.

      • Dinsdale

        It’s more accurate in terms of local demographics, but it’s still a winner-take-all contest. It’s just more glaringly obvious in the Presidential election, and a vote in Wyoming counts for something like 400% of a vote in California. It’s first-past-the-post…and California is sometimes the only reason to stay up late on Election Day. A given election could be over once the polls close in the Mountain time zone, without CA’s huge population still to count, and thus its weight in the EC.

        There is no perfect system. If there was, that’s what everyone would use.

      • strayaway

        If you and 118,000 other progressive voters moved to Wyoming where only 21.9% voted for Hillary and all voted, your vote would count for more and you could elect two more Democratic Senators. Also, maybe there are some progressive couch potatoes in Wyoming who would come out and vote if there was any reason to just as Republicans presently have no reason to vote in California because of the electoral college.

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  • Very well written and with a lot of facts. You clearly thought this article out. Thank you.

    Yes, Democrats are whiny. Everything you said is true.

    Republicans will never allow the constitution to change to modernize the document, as their entire agenda is power and feeding their cult.

    What are we progressives to do?

    Are there any ways to change the heart and mind of average rural folk and get them to wake up and smell the sauce?