The Path Toward Majority Rule in the U.S. Congress

The U.S. Senate majority can end routine obstruction — as the U.S. House majority did 130 years ago.

Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is threatening to obstruct all Senate business if the Democrats attempt to pass ordinary legislation by majority vote. He claims that the 60-vote requirement was part of the “Framer’s vision” for the Senate. It wasn’t. It was the product of happenstance and compromise. Image: Gage Skidmore.

Representative Thomas Reed, Speaker of the House, had a problem a few weeks into the regular session of Congress in early 1890. His Republican Party was in control of the House, Senate, and Presidency for the first time in 16 years, elected on an ambitious legislative program. But the Democrats were prepared to use a quirk in the House rules to block his narrow majority. …


The Supreme Court fails to address the real problems in the way the American President is elected

In July 2020 the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously found that states can take measures to prevent presidential electors from “reversing the vote of millions’’ of citizens, because in the United States “We the People rule.” The months since this confident statement have shown, on the contrary, that the rule of the people is precarious. …


I took a deep dive into 10 years of bicyclist crash data from Oregon. Bicyclists and would-be bicyclists are concerned with the risk of injury. Many assume that the main danger is being hit from behind by a motor vehicle, but the Oregon data show dramatically that the main danger to bicyclists is turning and crossing movements at intersections and driveways. I confirm my previous finding that motorist speeding and impairment, darkness, rural location, higher speed limits, and turning trucks at intersections are the best predictors of severe crashes. I find that most motorist-caused bicyclist fatalities are associated with criminally…


Bicyclists and would-be bicyclists are often concerned with the risk of injury. Yet what do we know about bicycling crashes and injuries? In this article I examine 30,000 bicycle crashes to understand the types of crashes that occur (e.g. rear-end vs. angle) and I use a logistic model to understand the factors that make crashes more severe. I compare these results to a recent study from the National Transportation Safety Board which, I find, has been over-emphasizing bicycle facilities such as separated bike lanes and under-emphasizing the role of user behavior.

Image of bicycle on road at night, suggesting that the bicyclist may have fallen off.
Image of bicycle on road at night, suggesting that the bicyclist may have fallen off.
Photo by Ian Valerio on Unsplash

Project Background

Even though every state and the U.S. DOT’s National…


In search of family recreation, a substitute for closed gyms, or a way of getting around when public transportation is unsafe, Americans are rediscovering the bicycle (again). The New York Times, NPR, CNN, and the Guardian have all taken note of the new bike boom, which is also occurring in Germany, the UK and probably other countries in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. There are lots of great reasons to start bicycling, including fun, fitness, and transportation. The reduction in car traffic during the pandemic has made streets more accessible.

There are still millions who have not yet acquired the…


How to Unlock Democracy in the United States

The most glaring deficiency of the U.S. Constitution is its failure to follow democratic norms. This has become apparent this century with two Presidents elected despite more votes going to another candidate. We are also still fighting for the right of citizens to vote as the Supreme Court has thwarted laws passed by Congress to prevent states from denying voting rights. Properly fixing these deficiencies requires an amendment. But another democratic deficiency is that the Constitution is “practically unamendable.”

I would like to propose a way out of this dilemma. It is increasingly likely that the Democrats will have full…


It’s becoming increasingly likely that the US will see widespread cases of COVID-19, overwhelmed hospitals, and many deaths. There are many ways that the new coronavirus could affect the 2020 U.S. elections — none of them good.

No candidate will want to campaign wearing personal protective equipment.

Here are some of the bad things that could happen to our national elections over the next 10 months:

The primaries are disrupted.

Already, some states that voted on March 3 took extra precautions to prevent the spread of the virus at polling places. Washington State, currently home to the worst known outbreak, votes entirely by mail — luckily for them. Oregon and Hawaii are the only…


No one has managed to get elected to the U.S. Congress with a label other than “Democrat” or “Republican” for 72 years. Yet virtually every other democracy has more than two political parties represented in the national legislature— even countries using the same electoral system as the US.

Electoral reform has become part of the American political dialogue, and ranked choice voting is the favorite fix. In Breaking the Two Party Doom Loop, Lee Drutman argues that RCV will lead to the development of a multiparty system, and is therefore an essential step in overcoming today’s “toxic” politics.

Certainly the development of multiple political parties would, by definition, eliminate binary, polarized politics. And changing the rules to permit new and stronger political parties is, in my opinion, an essential reform. But the history of electoral reform shows that first you need multiple parties to promote changes to voting…


Every presidential election cycle, people and pundits complain: why Iowa and New Hampshire? Inevitably, they offer improved ways of nominating presidential candidates. Just as regularly, nothing changes.

In the world of the party nomination process, the delay in releasing the 2020 Iowa caucus results is completely irrelevant. The precinct caucuses elect delegates to county caucuses, which in turn elect delegates to a state convention, which in turn elect 41 delegates to the national convention — in July. There is no problem if it takes several days to tabulate the results.

But in the world created by the media and public…


President Trump’s assassination of General Suleimani, the second most important Iranian government official, has been called an act of war and a declaration of war. Under the U.S. Constitution, only Congress has the power to declare war. But Presidents have come to completely dominate foreign policy, despite the text of the Constitution, with the result that enormously important policy decisions are subject to the whims of one person — even if that person is rash, ill-informed, and easily angered. Fixing this defect is more obviously important than ever — but no easier.

An Angry Trump, Afraid of Looking Weak, Makes an Impulsive Decision that Stuns His Military Advisers

Trump and his Secretary of State have claimed

Paul Schimek, Ph.D.

data scientist, democracy advocate, transportation analyst

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