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Abolish the Senate | The week

As of Thursday morning, it looked like a deal on President Biden’s agenda was at hand. After seven months of slow and painful amputation of many of the proposal’s most popular elements – like paid family leave and prescription drug price reform – Biden announced his party would advance with $ 1.75 trillion . Rebuild Better Framework, a package less than half of what it originally offered. For that he said: “Everyone is on board.”

But they are not. In fact, the two main refractories in the Senate, Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) And Joe Manchin (DW.V.), have still to commit to vote for the bill despite having demanded all these amputations.

This is the Senate for you. Just two senators (perhaps serving as a cover for a handful of others) forced Biden to drastically reduce his ambition and made the Democratic Party look even more like a bunch of idiots in the pocket of special interests than it does. really is – which means that a parcel. The Senate is a broken and failing institution that no longer serves any positive purpose, if it ever did. It’s nothing more than a blood clot in the aorta of American politics, and it needs to be cut before it kills us.

The most obvious argument against the Senate is that it constitutes a grotesque affront to the fundamental principles of democratic fairness. “One person, one voice” is the intuitive and logical moral foundation of an equitable system of political representation. This is why the ownership conditions for voting were abolished in the 19th century. This is why African Americans got the vote in 1870 and again in 1965. This is why women got the vote in 1920.

But the Senate does not respect this principle. And there is no reason other than the self-interest of small states that the residents of Wyoming should 69 times (not nice!) the representative weight of Californians in the Senate, or for Vermonters to have 45 times the weight of Texans. The Senate bias is not even consistent – it just depends on the chance of the distribution of the population. Back in 1920, Nevada was the smallest state, with only 77,407 inhabitants, and its voters in the Senate were 134 times the weight of voters in then-largest New York.

Historically, the randomness of this bias has somewhat offset its injustice. But this is no longer true: despite Texas, the Senate is clearly tilted to the right. Its median seat is approximately seven points more conservative than the national electorate, simply because there are so many low-population states filled with rural whites.

The Conservatives defend the Senate, ostensibly on principle, but come on, it is rigged in their favor. The most common argument is probably about federalism and how it supposedly protects human rights. The Senate and its filibuster are among “the rare tools preserving (what remains) the enumerated powers and federalism”, writes David Harsanyi to the National Review.

But the colossal injustice of the Senate actually makes anti-federalist. Rather than preserving local authority, the Senate grants small states extremely disproportionate influence over national Questions. Currently, the Senate authorizes Arizona and West Virginia (with a population of less than 9 million combined) to dictate the terms of national fiscal, social, and climate policy in California and New York (population: nearly 60 million).

A second argument against the Senate is that it does not operate remotely as it was designed. The supposed justification because an upper house (in addition to being a political takeover by bare hands by the small states when the Constitution was drafted) was that it would decentralize power and tame majority domination in accordance with the Madisonian logic of checks and balances: “Thwarting the will of the people is precisely what the Senate is here to do”, writing Kevin D. Williamson, also at National exam. Senators will want to preserve the power of their institution, according to the argument, and they will act according to that logic.

It doesn’t happen remotely these days. The Senate does not act as an independent body that can actively challenge the power of the House, the President or the Supreme Court. It only does one thing: obstruction.

The only remaining vestige of the Senate’s putative status as “the world’s greatest deliberative body” are a handful of idiots like Manchin and Sinema who cling to the extralegal tradition of filibuster as somehow inciting compromise. bipartite. Instead of checks and balances, the constant deadlock in Congress means that power has inexorably flowed to a bloated president and judiciary.

Today we have parliamentary-type parties in a constitutional system explicitly designed to prevent party formation. Whether a congressman is a Democrat or a Republican tells you almost everything you need to know about how they will vote; whether they are a representative or a senator is almost irrelevant. This means that the only practical effect of the Senate is to add another point at which oligarch lobbyists can garrot popular Politics.

One might argue that without the Senate, it would be easier for the Republicans in power to do bad things. In 2017, for example, an ObamaCare repeal vote failed by a vote in the Senate. And it is true that if you allow a half-decent party to adopt a semi-sane policy, you also allow a bad party to adopt a horrible policy.

But two other things are also true. First, horrible policies, like taking health insurance away from millions of people, are generally not popular. And second, if one believes in democracy, a legitimately elected majority should be allowed to carry out its political program. The process of democratic collective reason demands it – only then can citizens clearly judge the results of policy and punish or reward incumbents.

Now, of course, it’s hard to imagine getting rid of the Senate. Entrenched polarization and partisanship mean that it is now impossible to change the Constitution. But that just means it’s time for creative thinking. For example, as pseudonym writer suggests, a unified party could pass a law in which the Senate would deprive itself of its powers by agreeing to automatically adopt whatever was approved by the House. Or we could temporarily turn the city of Washington, DC into 100 states, adding 200 new senators to vote the helpless upper house. (This is how the House of Lords lost most of its power in Britain many years ago.) Or we could convene a Constituent Assembly to draft a new Constitution, which is basically how the current one was created.

These ideas may sound drastic, but they’re not that far removed from the harsh procedure Republicans have played. No one had ever tried to hold the national credit rating hostage, effectively stole a seat on the Supreme Court, or drawn to steal a presidential election by a tendentious legal trickery until the Republicans do so without excuses.

America is surrounded by crises from climate change, to extreme inequality, to our broken health care system, and so on. The dysfunctional, unnecessary and grossly unfair Senate is the number one reason we struggle to do anything about them. It is time for the Senate to go.


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