Two Senators Per State Is Not Representative Government
By Dixie Laite, dametown.com // Look, I’m just going to say it: Country mice, you’re killing the country. Not sure what I mean? Rural America is fucking up America (not all of you, but a lot of you. You know the ones).
See, it’s not the entire state of Texas that voted for a cowardly baboon. It’s not Florida or Alabama or Georgia that votes for the least progressive candidate. Cities and population centers in these states invariably vote for the same candidates supported by urban centers in other, traditionally more progressive states.
So it’s actually not a matter of North vs. South, or Coastal vs. Midwest. Election results continually demonstrate that it’s a matter of city mouse vs. country mouse. Rural areas and small towns are intent on pulling America into a God-fearing, brown-people-hating, journalism-, women- and science-ignoring past. Wary whites cling to a delusional Dark Age based on lies, bigotry and simple-minded perspectives that can’t hold up under the light of facts or coherence.
Our national folklore clings to an idealized vision of a heartwarming heartland, but this fantasy doesn’t hold water – or sane elections. Sure, it used to be that country mice had it all over us city mice. The Mr. Deedses of this world were simple but wise, reading worn copies of Thoreau as they alternated between fishing, farming and helping their neighbors. They were simple folks whose calm, rustic wisdom showed up anxious city folk who happened into their virtuous Valhallas.
But that romanticized view of farm folk was never really true. Frank Capra’s populism tugs at our heart strings and lift us up on the silver screen. But in real life, it’s mostly rural people who tug our country down. It’s primarily country mice who support your Father Coughlins, George Wallaces, Joseph McCarthys, Donald Trumps, and other hate-mongers. They are the ones who oppose the human rights and scientific facts that most educated people take as givens.
Untold thousands suffer, the planet itself is circling the drain, but a minority that holds fast to illogic and hatred still dominates our politics and laws. Why?
One reason is because America is a republic, but not a democracy. As we learned all too painfully in 2000 and 2016, our country is not a one-person/one-vote system. In addition to an irrational Electoral College, half our Congress – the ones who shape our courts and judicial system – are a Senate built on a compromise to satiate slave-owners almost two and half centuries ago.
Why does every state, regardless of its population, get two Senators? The country was founded on a strong states’ rights foundation that envisioned all states as equal individual components of a national mosaic. The fear was that the larger states might use their population numbers to force through legislation that was “harmful” to the smaller states; in other words, the abolition of slavery. The larger, more heavily populated states wanted a unicameral governing body based on popular representation while the smaller, less populous states wanted a unicameral body with each getting equal representation. In order to get past this dispute, a compromise was made to placate small states and slave states. Now, we’ve inherited this bicameral legislature.
Slaveowners in the 18th century wanted a counterbalance to the populous North in order to retain their “peculiar institution.” This legacy from the evil of slavery means that the least diverse, least educated portion of the country has a stranglehold on the nation. The two Senators per state formula allows a small fraction of America’s populace to make decisions and pass laws that do serious harm to workers’ rights, civil rights, women’s rights, the economy, and the environment. Given the state of emergency climate change imposes, this formula continues to put the entire planet in peril.
The stakes could not be higher.
Why should a state like Idaho get the same representation in the Senate as the state of New York, when just the population of one New York City borough dwarfs Idaho’s entire population? We no longer need to placate slaveholders, nor should we continue to appease their descendants who want to maintain outdated, often bigoted ideologies in the face of a vast majority of citizens’ disapproval.
This is not democracy, and this IS dangerous.
For example, in the 2018 midterm elections, Democrats won the popular vote in the Senate races, 55.4% (40,558,262 popular votes) to the Republicans’ 43% (41,490,026). Democrats had a solid majority, but Republicans ended up adding 3 seats. The Republicans win Senate seats in states with lots of empty land, i.e, rural states.
We’ve recently seen how the Electoral College plays a role in dismantling our democratic system, and we’ve seen it undermine and oppose the will of the people in two separate elections just in the last two decades. We see how our Congress ends up bowing to the will of the country’s country mice – a fraction of the actual country. Statistics show us that the urban parts of the country lean towards moderate politicians. They also show us that as of 2010, urban populations made up more than 80% of the country – and that number grows every year.
The nation is being held hostage to – let’s be frank – an under-educated, older, and less sophisticated minority. Somehow this minority (aka Trump’s “base” and Fox News’ key demographic) end up unfairly and perilously dominating our national politics, national security, and the laws affecting human rights and the planet’s survival.
I realize it won’t be easy. I realize it will be arduous and acrimonious. But this is monumentally important, and it is time we addressed it. As a woman who fears for her rights, and as an Earth-dweller who fears imminent apocalypse, I wish others would join me in demanding that we discuss scenarios to fix this outdated, supremely anti-democratic, and frankly dangerous legacy.