How to Fix Politics: Fix the Senate

Todd Tucker
Sep 20 · 3 min read

How to Fix Politics? @Politico asked nearly 100 scholars and activists to offer their fixes.

Here’s mine: Create new Senate seats for Native Americans, as well as for the over 4 Million Americans in DC and the territories that lack voting representation. (…)

The congressional exclusion of so many of our citizens was on full display yesterday, as the House held its first hearing on statehood and congressional representation for DC. (…) And last month, the Cherokee Nation appointed a delegate to Congress — a seat it is entitled to under long broken treaties with the US.

But the big fixes our country needs — from the Green New Deal, to Medicare for All, to a wealth tax, to DC statehood — face an obstacle: an obstructionist and unrepresentative Senate. (…)

There are many worthy ideas out there, from the campaign by @IndivisibleTeam and others to eliminate the filibuster, to @davidmfaris’ splitting up of California, to outright elimination of the Senate. We profile those and others in this report: (…)

My proposal adds to the conversation by taking seriously some of the arguments made by people that like the Senate. @jiwallner @leedrutman @julia_azari canvass (but don’t necessarily advocate for) some of those in a podcast dropped yesterday.

Julia Azari✔@julia_azari

New podcast episode featuring me, @jiwallner and @leedrutman — should we abolish the Senate? …

James Wallner@jiwallner

Should we abolish the Senate? …

The arguments “for” include: 1) Having to bargain with a very powerful Senate — with long terms and empowered with unique oversight responsibilities over the executive and judicial branches — helps make government more effective, legitimate, and globally credible. The countermajoritarian Senate helps protect minority rights; and:
3) Our government is a compact of both people and subfederal units — both need a powerful voice in DC. I’ll take these in reverse order.

As scholars like @LauEEvans and many others show, contemporary federalism is about more than states: it includes tribes, a capital district, and territories. Federalism Today should include those in the Senate. (…)

Going to #2, the minority rights the Senate seems best at protecting is that of rich white men. These dudes will be even more of a minority in the coming decades, but their over-representation for a century to come will cement class/racial minority rule.

Waleed Shahid✔@_waleedshahid

Can we start by calling it a House of Lords?

See Waleed Shahid’s other Tweets

As @kendrabozarth argues here, adding Senators from the majority non-white DC, territories, and tribes — individuals likely themselves to be non-white — will help ensure that our government is more representative of the country as a whole. (…)

Finally, on #1, the US government will look more serious at home and abroad if it manages to actually address inequality and climate change — something that Senators from these generally lower income and more climate-exposed regions might be more likely to care about and act on.

One more point: my proposal — which could be easily paired with statehood for the entities that wanted that instead — has at least potential bipartisan appeal. While DC is heavily Democratic, Native American politics and the territories are more contestable by both parties.

There’s a lot of great stuff in this @Politico special issue, including from @FeliciaWongRI @prof_mirya @HBoushey @julia_azari @leedrutman @SlaughterAM and others.

I encourage you to read them all. I know I will be! (…)

Todd Tucker

Written by

I write about democracy, political economy, and trade. Fellow at the Roosevelt Institute and Roosevelt Forward.

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