Friday, November 22, 2013

The Senate: An Inherent Check On Majorities

New York gets two Senators. So does Wyoming. California gets two. So does Mississippi. Yes, Texas gets two, and so does Vermont, but on the whole, Senate majorities are inherently skewed toward the old Confederacy and homes where the buffalo roam. This is no accident. The Senate was devised to greatly privilege rural states over more citified ones and, as things turned out in the early 19th. century, keep the slave states in the union as the northern industrial states eclipsed them. In its 21st. century incarnation, the Senate is a kind of great, big work of Republican gerrymandering. 

Just look at the states' population figures here and reasonably conclude that conservative Republicans do not have, at least, a built-in, ten seat advantage in the Senate (not to mention a corresponding advantage in the electoral college). Hendrik Hertzberg, typically, cogent on the subject here, once estimated that forty Republican Senators could represent as little as about twenty percent of the population. Imagine a French National Assembly that had to depend on Jean-Marie Le Pen to pass anything.

Keep all of this in mind when you read or hear inane talk about how, in ending the filibuster, Senator Reid showed insufficient consideration for the interests of minorities, a "strong-arm move by Senate Democrats," according to Jonathan Weisman in today's Times. The Senate is inherently an overabundance of consideration for the interests of (bigoted, evangelical, gun-slinging, etc.) minorities. The filibuster just reinforced their power ridiculously.

The Senate, in other words, is the last place Republican minorities should get the extra consideration of a super-majority. I fear Senator Carl Levin may be right to fear that, when Republicans eventually win back a majority, which given their contrived advantages, and without statehood for the District of Columbia, they well might. Then, it will be the urban majorities that will be lacking the protections of a super-majority. So be it. Better give government the means to work.  As Hertzberg says, the real check on power is an election.