These issues are not California’s alone: There are similar problems in other states’ big cities, among them Seattle, Portland, New York and Chicago. You might even say that these urban issues constitute a kind of national problem. But neither Joe Biden nor Trump dwell much on them, because they aren’t the problems of Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania or Florida.
Every two years, I think about how thoroughly I am being ignored, and each time I’m more infuriated than the last. Twice in my lifetime, the loser of the national popular vote has won the presidency. The same injustice might happen again this year. But even if it doesn’t, don’t conclude that all is well and good with the way we pick the president.
Consider last week’s debate between Mike Pence and Kamala Harris. By my count, the candidates mentioned fracking — an issue of environmental and economic importance in southwestern Pennsylvania, one of the most prized battlegrounds — 10 times. First, Pence accused Biden of wanting to ban fracking, then Harris said Biden would never ban fracking, then Pence said he would, then Harris said he wouldn’t, the whole argument very much like the one my kids have over who gets to take a shower second.
By comparison, the wildfires that set ablaze the western United States last month received only glancing mention — and it was Susan Page, the moderator, rather than Harris, California’s junior senator, who brought them up. Page mightn’t have bothered. When Pence was asked about the fires and other climate disasters, he ended his answer by insisting that Biden would ban fracking.
It wasn’t just fracking over fires. In both the vice-presidential and the presidential debates, nobody mentioned housing or homelessness, a top policy issue for people in my state. There was barely a mention of building new roads, bridges or expanding public transportation — Harris raised the issue mainly to take a shot at how Trump has turned his plan for “infrastructure week” into a joke.
Then, of course, there is the Supreme Court nomination that Republicans are ramming through the Senate. Because Republicans derive much of their political strength from many small states, the Senate amplifies their power; as CNN’s Ronald Brownstein pointed out last month, the 47 Democratic senators represent nearly 169 million people, more than the 158 million people represented by the Senate’s 53 Republicans.
If Amy Coney Barrett, Trump’s nominee to replace Ruth Bader Ginsburg, is confirmed along partisan lines, the Supreme Court will cross “an undemocratic milestone,” as Adam Cole pointed out in Vox. For the first time, “a controlling majority of the court will have been put there by senators whom most voters didn’t choose.”