According to Robert Reich, the Senate is an anti-democratic body.” Tim Murphy, senior writer for Mother Jones, calls the Senate, “completely useless and undemocratic.” These misguided and un-American statements are based on Senator Joe Manchin’s announcement on Fox News, that he would not be voting for the Democrat proposed $2 trillion Build Back Better bill. Discounting the importance of the Senate, or questioning it’s place in our government, is unhelpful and just wrong.
First let’s look at the Senate that so many of those on the left, including Reich and Murphy, attempt to trash as an undemocratic governing body. The outrage stems from the fact that West Virginia with a population of under 2 million people has the same representation in Congress as the state of California which has a population of 39 million. On face value, that might seem unfair. But is it really?
In order to answer this question, we need to go back to the earliest years of our Democracy. In the 1790 census, Virginia was the most populous state with just under eight hundred thousand people. Delaware, the least populous state, counted fifty nine thousand people. The question that needs to be put forth is why would Delaware have chosen to join the union and ratify the Constitution if the citizens of Delaware weren’t provided some level of equality in governing the newly formed United States? Remember, one of the reasons for the rebellion against King George III, was taxation without representation. Essentially, if only based on population, Delaware would have had very limited representation, the very thing the colonists were fighting against. The creation of a two chambered congress, one being the Senate, where Delaware had equal voting power to Virginia, ensured it’s place in the Union.
Fast forward to the present. While it’s true that West Virginia and California both have two Senators, California has 53 representatives in the House of Representatives and West Virginia only 3. To put this another way, California is afforded 12.2% of the representation in the House, and West Virginia is afforded only .0068% based on their populations. Is that fair? The Senate ensures that West Virginia has some level of representation in the governing of the country. It’s not simply at the mercy of California or New York.
If the idea that two Senators per state is unacceptable or unfair because Joe Manchin who represents a small state with a different constituency than Dianne Feinstein from California, has an equal vote, to Feinstein, I would take issue with that. The framers of the Constitution by establishing the Senate, ensured that might didn’t always make right. And just because Senator Feinstein and Senator Schumer represent two of the largest states in the Union doesn’t mean they should be able to bully Senator Joe Manchin. Clearly he doesn’t believe that either. Just read the Constitution or Federalist paper #51 where the three branches of government are clearly spelled out. Apparently Robert Reich and Tim Murphy haven’t read it, fully understood it, or think it’s outdated.
The reason for setting up the three branches of government was to establish checks and balances. Within the legislative branch framers established the House and Senate. Our system was set up so that governing would be difficult and complex, hence, only 27 Amendments in our 245 year history, 10 of them being the Bill of Rights. A slow moving government doesn’t make rash decisions. Each branch would check the other, thereby not allowing one to overtake the other.
Reich and Murphy, acting from emotion only, call the Senate undemocratic because one man had the power to kill the bill. One Senator, from a small state. I believe exactly the opposite. It’s genius and just how the framers intended it. If the Democrats had even one more Senate seat, they could have easily passed the bill. But “We the People” chose our Senators and as it stands the Senate is 50-50, with Democrats holding the tie breaker. If the Democrats held 60 Senate seats then they could pass any legislation they choose. It has nothing to do with the Senate as a functioning body.
The Democrats have been looking at many different ways to circumvent the system. Dissolve the Electoral College, eliminate the filibuster, pack the court. Gerrymandering is something both sides participate in, although Democrats do their best to control the narrative that only Republicans engage in this practice. All of these things are acts of desperation and clearly demonstrate their inability to rule effectively. The left complains about the suppression of voting rights but the Republicans are merely trying to change the rules the same way the democrats are trying to change the rules. No difference!
We should all be grateful that the framers had enough foresight to build the longest standing Democracy in the world. Robert Reich, Tim Murphy and the Democrats claiming that the Senate, in this case, is to blame for their inability to pass a bill that very few Americans have read or understand, is unconscionable. Though imperfect, since there is no perfection, the United States continues to change and grow as the country changes and grows. If the Democrats want to pass a comprehensive BBB bill, let them not blame the system of government but rather themselves for not presenting a strong enough case to convince the Senator from West Virginia to vote for it.