Senators are in fact elected to staggered six-year phrases, with a 3rd of the chamber up each two years. To find out the favored vote for any given Senate, due to this fact, we’ve mixed every social gathering’s vote totals for each Senate election over a three-cycle interval. Nevertheless, since totally different election years have differing ranges of voter turnout that complicate the duty of aggregating votes throughout a number of years into an correct gauge of public sentiment, we now have additionally calculated the proportion of the 50-state inhabitants represented by every social gathering in a given election yr, though each metrics nonetheless yield related outcomes.
The figures for 1998, as an example, embrace all Senate contests from that yr in addition to 1996 and 1994, plus the share of the inhabitants represented by the senators elected in these years. Taken collectively, as you possibly can see within the chart beneath, they present the GOP with a slender 50-48 benefit—the final time Republican senators received extra votes than Democrats. And you need to return two years earlier to seek out the newest event when Senate Republicans represented extra of the nation’s inhabitants than Democrats.
Ever since then, Republicans have repeatedly received management of the Senate regardless of dropping the favored vote and representing states with a minority of the U.S. inhabitants, from 2000 via 2004 and once more from 2014 via 2018.
That imbalance has solely grown extra excessive since. At this time, the 50 members of the Democratic caucus represent 56.5% of the 50-state population in comparison with solely 43.5% for the chamber’s 50 Republicans, that means Democrats have tens of tens of millions extra constituents however the identical variety of seats. Democrats have likewise received tens of millions extra votes than Republicans throughout the three most up-to-date election cycles, but when Republicans had won just 1,018 more votes in New Hampshire in 2016, they might nonetheless management the Senate 51-49 in the present day regardless of the general public’s decisive help for Democrats.
Republican minority rule within the Senate has already had far-reaching penalties. 5 Supreme Court docket justices (and plenty of extra decrease courtroom judges) had been confirmed by senates where the GOP majority was elected with less popular support than Democrats. These right-wing hardliners at the moment are poised to make use of their management over the courtroom to assault voting rights and protect Republican gerrymanders whereas putting down progressive insurance policies. This similar minority rule has additionally paved the way in which for enormous tax cuts for the wealthy below George W. Bush and Donald Trump which have facilitated an explosion in financial inequality.
The Senate’s malapportionment and bias toward rural white voters who favor the GOP in disproportionate numbers has grow to be essentially the most essential institutional menace to democracy, much more so than the Electoral School. Given the propensity of the social gathering controlling the White Home to lose seats in midterm elections, there is a significant risk that Republicans will regain the Senate in 2022 despite the fact that Democrats could as soon as once more win extra votes and signify extra folks than the GOP, and this menace of minority rule will proceed for years to return.
Put one other manner, Democrats must roll up decisive wins in a number of election years simply to have a shot at a naked majority. However with the nation’s inhabitants increasingly concentrated in just a handful of large states that management a tiny fraction of the Senate, the possibilities for majority rule might develop nonetheless worse within the coming years.
And this barrier doesn’t even handle the Senate filibuster, an accident of history the place the main use has been to block civil rights laws and now asymmetrically advantages the GOP. Republicans’ essential priorities of enacting tax cuts for the wealthy and appointing conservative judges can already be managed with easy majority votes whereas Democratic priorities equivalent to safeguarding voting rights, defending the setting, and reforming democracy require supermajorities.
Trotting out the insidiously misinformed catchphrase “we’re a republic, not a democracy,” Republicans like to say that the framers of the Structure abhorred democracy and that institutional minority rule is a sacrosanct a part of our constitutional order, however these arguments couldn’t be extra mistaken. Whereas the framers disapproved of direct democracy, they repeatedly made clear that they sought to create a system of consultant democracy where the majority rules with limits, not where the minority rules—in different phrases, a democratic republic.
The Senate’s construction didn’t come about as a reflection of some high-minded ideal but rather was a compromise between self-interested delegates from small states looking for to guard their energy and delegates from bigger states who favored equal illustration primarily based on inhabitants. But even when the Senate was initially established, the most important state only had 13 times as many people as the smallest state. That distinction has ballooned over the following centuries, with California now at 68 occasions the scale of Wyoming.
Luckily for the motion to make our electoral establishments fairer towards the events and to voters of coloration, Democrats have one key device accessible that would modestly assist rebalance the Senate enjoying subject: admitting new states by ending the disenfranchisement of 4 million principally Black and Latino residents in Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico, respectively. Doing so would solely require a easy majority vote—if Democrats comply with curtail the filibuster—quite than a brand new constitutional modification.
Congressional Democrats have already introduced a bill to grant statehood to most of Washington, which Home Democrats passed last year, following on the overwhelming support for statehood by Washington voters in a 2016 referendum. A statehood push can also be underway for Puerto Rico, which passed a non-binding referendum in help of the concept simply final yr.
Within the 19th century, the admission of recent states was frequently a tool for reshaping Senate politics. When confronted with tenuous majorities threatened by white supremacist voter suppression within the South, Republicans below President Benjamin Harrison solidified their maintain on energy not by protecting the rights of Black Southerners however by admitting six sparsely populated northwestern states in 1889 to 1890, together with splitting the Dakota Territory into two states. This choice by Gilded Age Republicans to gerrymander the Senate way back nonetheless occurs to favor the social gathering in the present day.
However even when Democrats admit Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico as new states, doing so would solely modestly cut back the Senate’s appreciable biases towards Republicans and towards voters of coloration, not remove them, because the median seats within the chamber would still lean more conservative and whiter than the nation as a whole.
Over the long run, extra far-reaching measures shall be wanted. The British, as an example, stripped from their upper chamber, the then-reactionary Home of Lords, the ability to dam payments accredited by the Home of Commons over a century in the past. Counting on a single chamber of presidency is feasible: Nebraska eradicated its state Home and adopted a unicameral legislature in 1934, whereas Washington, D.C. is ruled by a single 15-member council.
In fact, proposals like these would require both a constitutional modification—which the GOP would oppose—or an outright break with the constitutional order much like the framers did when ditching the Articles of Confederation in favor of the Structure. Admitting new states is due to this fact essentially the most real looking possibility for stopping the Senate from changing into much more entrenched as a bastion of white Republican minority rule.