Rebuilding Better is on the Ropes Because the Senate is Rigged – It’s Not Just Manchin
On Sunday, Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) appeared poised to scrap the Build Back Better Act, a legislative package funding child care, early childhood education, healthcare, clean energy and tax credits for parents, which is one of the presidents The main legislative priorities of Joe Biden.
It is possible, as my colleague Andrew Prokop notes, to read Manchin’s recent denunciation of the bill as a simple effort to force other Democrats to make harsh concessions.
Regardless of how Manchin’s comments on Build Back Better should be read (he told Fox News that “that’s a no – on this legislation”), the only reason Manchin’s opinion on the legislation Important is that the United States Senate is an ill-distributed train wreck that gives every resident of Wyoming more than 68 times more representation than every resident of California.
Because small states tend to be whiter and more conservative than large states, the constitutional design of the Senate, which gives each state two senators regardless of its population, gives Republicans a huge advantage in the struggle for control. of the Senate. Indeed, if the Senate could be rightly described as a democratic institution, Democrats would control over 56 or 57 seats, rather than holding just 50 Senate seats.
The Democratic “half” of the Senate represents 186,902,361 individuals. Meanwhile, the Republican “half” represents just 143,857,375 people, a difference of 43,044,986. That means Democrats make up nearly 57% of the population, but control only half of the Senate seats.
I derived this number using the United States Census Bureau population counts from the 2020 census. In each state where both senators are from the same party, I assigned the entire state population to this party. In states with divided delegations, I allocated half of the state’s population to each party. (I coded Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Angus King (I-ME) as Democrats. Although both identify as independents, they have reunited with the Democratic Party.)
You can check my work using this spreadsheet. In particular, the population gap seems to be widening. When I calculated this gap using the 2019 census population estimates, I found that Democratic senators were 41,549,808 more than Republicans.
It should be emphasized how much Republicans benefit from the poor distribution of the Senate. In the 25 most populous states, Democratic senators hold a majority of 29 to 21 seats. Republicans, meanwhile, have an identical 29-21 majority in the 25 least populous states.
The 25 most populous states contain almost 84% of the total population of the 50 states. Thus, 16% of the country controls half of the seats in the United States Senate (and that does not take into account the fact that Washington, DC, Puerto Rico and several other American territories have no real representation in Congress).
Granted, Democrats would have a stronger hand in the current Senate if they hadn’t lost winnable races in places like North Carolina and Maine, but unexpected losses and weaker-than-expected candidates are integral to that. any democratic system. The poor distribution of the Senate forces Democrats to stage a perfect match over multiple election cycles if they are to have the chance to implement their legislative agenda. Republicans, meanwhile, can derail the elections they were meant to win and still end up with enough votes to block legislation.
It’s hard to overstate how badly the Senate’s misallocation has caused damage to American democracy. For much of the pre-Civil War era, slave states relied on their disproportionate representation in the Senate to thwart anti-slavery legislation. Beginning with the Lincoln administration, Republicans admitted several underpopulated territories as states in order to maximize their chances of winning the Senate.
Yet while Lincoln’s support for sparsely populated GOP states might be justifiable as an effort to prevent Confederate sympathizers from capturing the Senate, the Republican Party’s state policies quickly turned into a purely partisan takeover. The reason there are two Dakotas, for example, is that the Republicans divided the Dakota territory in 1888 so that they received four senators instead of just two.
Today, if every American’s vote counted equally in Senate elections, the Senate would almost certainly have the votes to pass a Better Rebuild bill, similar to one that has already been passed by the House. Multiple voting rights bills that have been passed by the House would most likely also be law. DC would probably be a state.
Meanwhile, the Supreme Court would almost certainly not be controlled by right-wing Republican candidates and could very well have a Democratic majority. The three judges appointed by former President Donald Trump to the Court, Justices Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett were appointed by a president who lost the popular vote and confirmed by a bloc of senators representing less than half from the country.
The American people elected Biden by a comfortable margin in 2020, and they also voted to give him a majority in the Senate large enough to pass his platform. This agenda is now on the ropes, not because the American people voted against it, but because the results of the Senate elections bear little resemblance to the will of the people.