In this season of goodwill to all we’d like to suggest that Vox send its politics reporter to a high school civics class. He’s either missed his own, fallen asleep during it, or is trying to mislead those who did both.
The reporter’s complaint in a recent piece is that the Senate is undemocratic. Well, yes, the United States is a constitutional republic, which means that it doesn’t have direct democracy.
“The American people elected Biden by a comfortable margin in 2020, and they also voted to give him a Senate majority that is large enough to enact his agenda,” the piece said. “That agenda is now on the ropes, not because the American people voted against it, but because the results in Senate elections bear little resemblance to the will of the people. “
The argument is not that specific Senate elections were stolen, but that the number of votes for each senator differs. Well, yes — that was the point of the system. The Founding Fathers were well aware of the dangers of simple, immediate, direct democracy. A fad can sweep through a population and the law be changed injudiciously. So the system must be able to change the law, but the more important the law that is to be changed, the more difficult it should be to do so.
Minor changes can pass through simply. Major ones are difficult. The Constitution itself is difficult but not impossible to change precisely because it is important that certain things are above the immediate will of the people.
The Senate is a part of this. The House of Representatives is allocated (near exactly) purely by population. The Senate is supposed to be – not by chance, but is supposed to be – above that. Don’t forget that it used to be State Legislatures that appointed, not state voters who decided. That’s also why the election of that house is staggered. So that no Senate will be elected in the one year and so be subject to that same sweep of some fad through the electorate.
The system is built to be able to change matters, yes. But to do so slowly and in a considered manner. Which it is doing with Build Back Better, of course, as the backers of the changes themselves insist they are radical changes to current society. They think they only have this one chance to get those changes through too.
This is exactly what the current system is designed to stop – large changes being made in one small window of electoral time. If large changes really are widely supported then they will gain that support over the necessary electoral cycles to come to fruition. If they don’t then maybe major changes shouldn’t happen.
Vox is around the No. 100 news and media site currently. It gains nearly 20 million site visits a month and is an important part of the media landscape.
This is why we do say that perhaps their politics reporter should audit a high school civics class. The complaint is about the very purpose of the system’s construction. Yes, of course, the Senate is undemocratic — it’s supposed to be. It’s there as a block upon electoral hysteria.