Time to Defund the Senate
Here are some fun facts and figures when talking about the United States of America and the world:
The population of Los Angeles County is larger than every state with the exceptions of California, Texas, Florida, New York, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Georgia, and North Carolina.
Wyoming, with its population of 578,759 as of 2019, is much smaller than the population of San Francisco with its population of 881,549.
Now, for a very simple question that would hopefully be known by all Americans — how many Senators does Wyoming get in representation? Two. California? Two.
Los Angeles County and San Francisco? Zero.
The United States Senate has to be, without a shadow of a doubt, one of the most powerful, and conversely, one of the least representative democratic bodies on the planet. Born out of a compromise when creating the constitution that even Alexander Hamilton and James Madison thought little of except as a matter of political expediency/black mail in creating the union in the first place. The make-up and election of Senators has stayed mostly the same since 1789, though with the exception of direct elections to the Senate implemented by constitutional amendment in 1913. Every state, regardless of population, would have two Senators to represent them — it would not matter if one had a population smaller than most major cities, or if one state was larger population wise than say Canada or Australia.
With the powers of voting on Supreme Court justices, treaties, approving cabinet members, conducting impeachment trials, and by having six year terms, it is considered the more prestigious of the two bodies in our congress, with many members of the Senate being household names due to the small number of Senators we have in the United States, which has a re-election rate of 84 percent. President Lyndon Baines Johnson once crudely explained the difference between the Senate and the House of Representatives in political power as the difference between chicken salad and chicken s*it.
This lopsided system where a constituency of 578,759 has the same ability to elect the same number of Senators as a virtual nation state like California, is, on the very face of it, one that cannot be truly representative of the people of this country and actually tilts the political chessboard towards states that are rural, sparsely populated, and almost to a fault much more politically conservative than the nation taken as a whole. It’s a built-in gerrymander on a national scale, something that the GOP are more than happy to keep in place.
So why are we continuing to do this, when it’s obvious that the Senate is neither very representative of this nation, very small, and extremely powerful? In the 18th century it might have made sense to have such an aristocratic body in place due to the problems of communication and distance, as well as having a very ill-educated population that could be easily swayed by a demagogue or outburst of self-destructive populist passion; in the 21st century it’s the oligarchy enshrined by constitutional law.
It’s time that the United States takes a hard look at a body that for years blocked Civil Rights enshrined into law procedures that require a ridiculous 60 vote majority to pass anything of worth via the cloture rule which is unconstitutional, and can block legislation from the more democratically representative body, the House of Representatives. Just like the police powers and budgets that have been considered sacrosanct since time immemorial, we should look to trimming some of the powers of the Senate.
An argument could be made that a small distinct body of individuals should be allowed to look into who becomes the next Supreme Court justice, and what treaty should be signed, and who becomes the next Secretary of State or Attorney General. After all, you may want to have such a group whose only focus and time is to really just look over those very specific and important issues instead of having a large body of 435 individuals do it like the House of Representatives — though the House, in of itself, is also problematic for how small it is considering its average constituency of 747,000 people, the highest number of population to representative ratios in the developed world. It would be like having a super-committee of a greater legislature.
But to have such a small body rule on every measure at every time is undemocratic and obscene to modern democratic practices. Perhaps it’s time to curtail their powers, stop the ability of them to block measures from the much more democratic House, and like the police, really scrutinize their common practices and politics.