THE US SENATE IS NOT A “PROFOUNDLY ANTIDEMOCRATIC INSTITUTION”

Liberal pundits have begun pushing a seemingly small and reasonable Constitutional reform that is a Trojan horse that would undermine our Constitutional order—eliminating the Equal Franchise for each State in the Senate.

Without citing all the sources (since I didn’t keep track), I have noticed a recurring meme in the literature of liberal law types—that the US Senate is a “profoundly antidemocratic institution”. Moreover, I have read several comparisons that equate the three-fifths compromise of 1787 with the “equal representation for every State in the Senate” compromise insisted on by Delaware in 1787 as examples of how our Constitutional order was from the start, well, evil (for example, see Louis Michael Seidman’s profoundly disturbing “On Constitutional Disobedience” generally).

U.S. SenateThe idea basically is that, to get a Constitution approved, these compromises were urged by Hamiltonian Federalists, and that they run counter to democratic ideals. Obviously the three-fifths compromise fits this category, but the Senate franchise? Seidman and others seem to forget that the point then was that states like Delaware would never want to join in a Union where the votes of large states like New York could drive them without effective representation. The obvious reason this is a popular liberal issue now is that they can read maps. All major coastal cities in the US are heavily liberal and reliably democratic; the rest of the nation is more or less the opposite. And those reliable areas are concentrated in a few states, which means that they cannot get the extensive Senate control they want easily (or at all?). This, to them, is “antidemocratic”.

There are several problems with this way of thinking, and it should NOT be ignored. First, a change to the Constitutional role of the Senate would effectively change the US from a representative republic to something more like a “true democracy”, which means the majority can dictate to the minority. But this is precisely the point in having the equal franchise for every state in the Senate—so that no one group can easily dominate our government and dictate terms to everyone else. People are not perfectible, or intrinsically good (although each person IS intrinsically valuable), so a purely majoritarian approach to government would be disastrous.

Second, such a change would effectively disenfranchise the vast majority of the AREA of the US, putting power solely in the hands of the urban elites. Why does “area” matter? Because if urban elites rule the country, then (for example) further abuse of our agricultural patrimony and land via careless profitable meddling without adequate controls or even the use of the “precautionary principle” will occur—think Monsanto and the rush to capture the food supply through genetic modification. This may suit liberals (or at least urban elites) today, but what about in thirty years? These rules prevent the extremely passionate debates in US politics from always spinning out of control into violence or division; that has only happened once on a national scale. Not everything is about race, or ethnicity, or social issues; many important topics are regionally relevant. Disenfranchising 90% of the land area of the country makes the people who choose to live in less dense areas into de facto serfs, or at best tattered country gentry (which is after all what many obviously already think, based on what they write).

And finally, the thinly veiled objective of this seemingly reasonable, but very dangerous idea, is that the Senate exercises, more and more vigorously, its Advise and Consent role with regard to our judiciary. Changing the Constitution to further turn the Senate into a majoritarian chamber would make it easier to force dramatic change on the nation through a controlled judiciary.

This should NEVER be allowed to happen. I don’t agree with much that comes out of San Francisco politically (well, almost nothing), but I don’t expect to own them or make them live my way. The converse is not true, and because of that constitutional conservatives should vigorously defend the equal franchise in the Senate.

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