Most Americans look at the U.S. Senate as the pinnacle of deliberative democracy in the world. It’s not. Not even close. And not nearly “democratic.”
Our U.S. Senate, in the year 2020, is ridiculously removed from the nascent agrarian nation, the half slave-state nation, from which it was originally founded centuries ago. Back then, there may have been rational argument or compromise why some smallish cotton growing state would stand on equal footing with the likes of New York. But today? Today, we see the injustice of the matter with first, the senatorial kidnapping of Barack Obama’s Supreme Court pick of Merrick Garland, and now, the almost certain last-minute railroading in of Donald Trump’s “lost the popular vote by 3 million” third Supreme Court pick. Nothing in these last three selections of justices reflects popular opinion in America. Not of the president nor senatorial representation. Rather, it reflects primarily the collective opinion of small whitish states, having little in common with our greater (and more educated and productive) population.
The U.S. Senate is so out of balance on representation per capita, that Wyoming, with two senators and 568,000 citizens, outguns Californians with the same number of senators but representing 39.5 million people. Wyoming voters out-represent Californians by 69 to 1. A Wyoming senatorial vote is 69 times more powerful than ours.
Alabama voters get eight times more senatorial representation than you or I. Alaskans get 53 times more. And Kentucky, from where the infamous anti-democracy Mitch McConnell hails, hammers Californians with nine times more senatorial power.
“But the House of Representatives is population-based and makes up for the Senate.” Absolutely, the House is more per capita democratic. The House does some things and the Senate does others, and right now the Senate gets to ram through lifetime appointment Supreme Court justices. Justices, who because of their largely white, often (at least outwardly appearing) religiousness, often don’t nearly represent the will and morality and fairness of the overwhelmingly more diverse general population.
The Senate has become a tyranny of a small, old, shrinking, white folk clinging to America’s carbon-based, often racially tinted past, rather than representing its forward-thinking, progressive, diverse, future-driven younger population. And now, comes Trump’s third for-life justice pick, jammed in, nearly while Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s body is yet warm…
Moscow Mitch, back in 2016, denied Barack Obama even a hearing on his Merrick Garland Supreme Court pick: “I can now confidently say… the nomination should be made by the president the people elect in the election that’s underway right now… I believe the overwhelming view of the Republican conference in the Senate is that this nomination should not be filled, this vacancy should not be filled by this lame duck president…”
But that was Obama’s pick with eight months before the election, and this is Trump’s pick with just weeks to go. McConnell’s disingenuous line is, “As of today, there are 43 days before Nov. 3 and 104 days before the end of this Congress… The Senate has more than sufficient time to process a nomination. History and precedent make that perfectly clear.”
So much for honoring history. Indeed, so much for honor itself.
During the Merrick Garland days, Lindsay Graham stressed, “I want you to use my words against me. If there’s a Republican president in 2016 and a vacancy occurs in the last year of the first term you can say, ‘Lindsey Graham said let’s let the next president, whoever it might be, make that nomination.’ And you could use my words against me, and you’d be absolutely right.”
None of that matters to Lindsay anymore…
These are our two most powerful senators, most powerfully corrupted. And you and I will live with whatever hyper-conservative judgements come down from a now non-representative Supreme Court.
And this Mitch McConnell? He sallies a state with NINE times the senatorial representation of you and me and all Californians together. It takes California, Oregon, Washington state, Nevada and Arizona to match backwards his Kentucky. Go coal!
And Lindsay? South Carolina’s 5 million residents get eight times your senatorial say, and thus eight times your Supreme Court pick. And they will, any day now.
All this rolls up to a more and more recognized tyranny of ever-shrinking minority against the progressive, growing majority. Smaller states continue to shrink against their growing, more populous peers. Yet small-state senatorial influence continues to grow anti-proportionally.
We’re approaching a tipping point of wide electorate dismay. If you’re conservative, yes, you’re thrilled with recent events. But if you’re not a climate change denier, if you’re hoping to move forward rather than stay hammered to a stake pounded in the past, you’re feeling quite ripped off and non-represented.
And that’s precisely because you are indeed underrepresented. Coming from a populous state, you are not remotely fairly represented in the undemocratic U.S. Senate. In modern, hyper-tech 2020, the aged, southernish Senate will again reach backward in time, selecting again a Supreme Court justice who’s non-representative of the greater U.S. population.
The inequity in our system just became very real, with very long-lasting consequences. Whether or not you agree with the coming pick, as a Californian, you had nearly no voice in this democratic debacle.
Senatorially, big states bound, tied, and gagged.
Gary Horton’s “Full Speed to Port!” has appeared in The Signal since 2006. The opinions expressed in his column do not necessarily reflect the opinions of The Signal or its editorial board.