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With Mitch McConnell no longer Senate majority leader, there is new hope for change in the Senate. Though the optimism may be deserved, the Senate remains an undemocratic institution. In order for our democracy to move forward, the Senate must be abolished and the House of Representatives expanded.
According to the founding fathers, the Senate was originally meant to be a check on populism. While the House would be subject to the will of the people, the Senate would be elected by the state legislatures so as to not be influenced by the “mob” of the people. The founding fathers didn’t believe pure democracy was best at the time, so they wanted a degree of elitism to check popular sentiment.
In 1913, the 17th Amendment was ratified, calling for the direct election of senators. The American people believed it was time for more democracy in Washington, and directly electing senators would hold them more accountable. By abolishing the Senate, we wouldn’t be acting against the Constitution — we would be continuing our tradition of expanding democracy.
So why exactly is the Senate undemocratic? It’s because each state elects two senators regardless of population. California, a state with a population of nearly 40 million, has just as much representation as Wyoming — which has a population under 600,000. The result is there are 37 million people with 42 senators, but 40 million with only two senators. The system makes it so the voice of people in more populated states is diluted.
Many argue the Senate needs to stay the way it is so rural areas are not dominated by the political beliefs of urban ones. However, holding an entire nation hostage due to a perceived threat to autonomy should never be the answer for a democracy. People who feel dominated by larger population centers can instead advocate for greater state autonomy.
If the Senate is abolished, the House of Representatives will be the sole legislative body of the federal government. Although this may seem overburdening, workload wouldn’t change. Representatives would continue working as they do now, but the bills passed in the House will become law without going to the Senate.
Along with abolishing the Senate, the House of Representatives should be expanded. The House has not grown in size since 1929, but our population has more than doubled since then. Because of this, the population-to-representative ratio has grown from 209,447 people per representative in 1910 to 747,184 people per representative in 2018. Americans have lost representation over time.
By increasing the number of representatives, the population-to-representative ratio would decrease. Statistically, this would make the decisions of the House more in line with the will of the people because a larger sample would be more accurate. Representatives would also be more accessible to their constituents because each representative would represent a smaller area.
Too many times, the House has passed a bill the majority of American people would support only to have it die in the Senate. And while the House can be seen as a good representation of the will of the people, there are still many who feel they need better representation. It’s time to become a better democracy by abolishing the Senate and expanding the House.