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Even those vaunted neutral arbiters in the mainstream media have taken a side—shocking!—and come down against the venerable institution that has been a feature of American governance since 1789. NBC’s Ken Dilanian captured the mainstream media zeitgeist when he tweeted: “It may not happen in our lifetimes, but the idea that North Dakota and New York get the same representation in the Senate has to change.
Ignoring the violation of media nonpartisanship, a custom more honored nowadays in the breach than in the observance, this cry of Senate abolition is flawed in several ways. For one, it continues the lefty tactic of blaming institutions for their failure to persuade voters to elect them.
If your weren’t born yesterday, you might recall that as recently as 2011, the Democrats controlled the White House, 59 percent of the House, and a filibuster-proof 60 percent of the Senate. Under the same laws, the same Constitution, and with an almost identical electorate, the Democrats controlled the political branches of government with huge majorities. How did they lose it all? Because the people did not like what they did with that power once they had it. That’s not a broken system, it’s a democratic republic working as designed.
As James Madison wrote in Federalist 62, “the equal vote allowed to each State is at once a constitutional recognition of the portion of sovereignty remaining in the individual States, and an instrument for preserving that residuary sovereignty.” The Senate he helped create did both, representing the states as states, while reflecting and preserving the balance of federalism struck at the constitutional convention.
The Senate did exactly what it was designed to do until the populist progressives last altered its makeup in 1913 with the passage of the 17th Amendment. There were some problems with the old system, in which state legislatures elected U.S. senators, and increasing deadlocks around the turn of the 20th century meant that seats went unfilled more frequently. But rather than fixing that system, progressives abolished it and made the Senate a mal-apportioned version of the House by making its members elected by the people directly.