Calls to abolish the Senate, are downright dangerous.
I have seen several articles on Vox, among other places, that have called for the abolition of the United States Senate. Many of these articles are written by people who would consider themselves to be liberals or progressives.
What stood out for me was a Vox article that said;
Democrats have a Senate problem, and not just in the sense that Republicans currently hold the majority or that the prospect of that changing in 2020 is relatively slim. The problem is that the odds of ever changing it are slimmer than is generally realized.
Data for Progress, a progressive think tank and advocacy organization, is trying to raise alarm bells about the issue. In a new memo, co-founder Colin McAuliffe writes that “the Senate is an irredeemable institution” that’s biased 3 percentage points in the GOP’s favor and systematically underweights the interests of nonwhite Americans.
Of course, the fact that the Senate gives extra weight to the interests of people who live in low-population states is not news. That’s an undemocratic, inegalitarian principle that was deliberately baked into the Senate from its inception. What’s new is that changes in American life have made its disproportionality more consequential.
If the United States Senate was abolished, the legislative branch would be left to the United States House of Representatives. While that might be attractive to progressives based upon the current makeup of the House, it should alarm them if they look at recent historical trends. This is only the fifth year since 1994 that Democrats have controlled the House. That’s slightly under 21% of the time within that timeframe.
Putting the House of Representatives in charge of the legislative branch also empowers a phenomenon that liberals hate: gerrymandering. Hyperpartisan state legislatures would have more control over what legislation gets passed at a national level. While Democrats made major gains at the state level in 2018, Republicans have complete control of the redistricting process in important states such as Texas, Ohio, Florida, and North Carolina. North Carolina has a Democratic Governor, but North Carolina does not give the Governor a role in the redistricting process. Republicans also maintain control of the state legislatures in other critical states that recently elected Democratic Governors such as Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania.
Let’s not forget the Senate had a major role in stopping many attempts of repealing the ACA, most notably the last one. While the Senate has sometimes held up Democratic legislative priorities, it has also been an important check on the House’s partisan excesses.
Eliminating the Senate would also remove this check from Cabinet and Judicial nominations (assuming the simplest reconstruction of the Constitution). The Senate has, for the most part, done a good job of derailing nominees who are too extreme or unqualified.
Many articles mention the equal number of Senators for each state even though there are different populations between states. These writers think that it is unfair that California has the same number of Senators that Wyoming has. That’s a defendable position to have, but it misses the point.
The Constitution was set up to form a balanced republic. Giving each state two Senators was a way to be fair to the smaller states, so they had a way to defend their interest from a majority of large states. It has provided states with a way to block legislation that would harm their state’s economies or people’s lives. An example that has been blocked because of the power of U.S. Senators is the plan to deposit nuclear waste on Yucca Mountain in Nevada.
The powers of U.S. Senators did provide the south with a way to defend slavery and Jim Crow. That was bad. However, the U.S. Senate did help end both slavery and Jim Crow. The Senate has historically shown the ability to overcome obstacles that defend bad institutions when they are defended by powerful Senators. The Senate still has the ability to do so today.
Drastically modifying or abolishing the Senate would upset the balanced republic created by the Constitution. Modifying or abolishing the Senate would destroy a critical check on the U.S. House’s partisan excesses. It would also upend the system of checks and balances between three branches of government. One branch would end up being dominant over the others. This opens the possibility of unchecked abuses of power that are not able to be corrected.
Let’s look at past elections, specifically the 2008 Senate elections.
This was a time when Democrats had Senators in deep red states like Louisiana, Arkansas, Montana and South Dakota.
After this election the Democrat Party had 57 seat majority in the Senate. The April 2009 party switch of Pennsylvania senator Arlen Specter from Republican to Democrat and the July 2009 resolution of the Minnesota election in favor of Democrat Al Franken increased the Democratic majority to 60–40. This was the last time Democrats won U.S. Senate seats in Alaska, Arkansas, Iowa, Louisiana, North Carolina, and South Dakota.
And this was when Senate Democrats held the Senate from 2006 to 2012.
From 2010 to 2018, Republicans have controlled House of Representatives. A period of 8 years, which reminds of the time when Democrats held the House of Representatives for 40 years, since the 83rd Congress (elected in 1952) to 104th United States Congress in 1995. A different time with different values and beliefs to be clear, but the point still stands.
Reality check progressives, even if you did abolish the Senate. That won’t stop Republicans from controlling the House.
The composition of the United States Senate is not democratic. That’s fine. The United States is not a democracy and never was. It is a republic that has a system of rules that contain democratic elements. The rules are difficult to change in order to protect those that are not in the majority. Considering who is currently in the White House, Democrats should be thankful for that.
Liberals should stop calling for the Senate to be abolished. People calling for it have miscalculated the consequences of doing so if they have not ignored them altogether. The Senate is too important of an institution to dismantle, and I am thankful that abolishing it would be a difficult task to complete.
Article from r/Libertarian: For a Free Society