Home Opinion OPINION: The Senate has a Republican skew, but a big move could change everything

OPINION: The Senate has a Republican skew, but a big move could change everything

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Zach Richards, a junior studying education, argues that moving Democratic voters from California to less populous states could give Democrats an advantage in the Senate.

Please note that these views and opinions do not reflect those of The New Political.

It is no secret that the Senate gives the small states a big boost. Wyoming, Montana, Vermont, Alaska and the Dakotas may only have one member representing them in the House of Representatives, but in the Senate, they get the same representation as all the other states: two individuals.

California, the most populous state, has 68 times the population of Wyoming, the least populous, and yet they both get two senators to represent them. This is blatantly undemocratic and also exactly what the founders intended.

The founding fathers at the Constitutional Convention knew what they were doing with the Senate. They gave each state an equal number of senators, had the senators elected by staggered elections for six-year terms and set up a system where state legislatures elect their states’ senators, not voters. 

They deliberately set up the Senate to be undemocratic, with the idea that it would act as a “cooling saucer” to act rationally before passing legislation that the populists in the House of Representatives were too passionate about.

Some things have changed in the last 230 years. The 17th Amendment allows for the direct election of senators. But the Senate still remains one of the most undemocratic legislatures in any western democracy, and this gives Republicans an advantage.

Giving small states the same representation as big ones creates a legislature that heavily overrepresents rural Americans, who are much more likely to support Republicans than the median American. This creates a Senate that is skewed 6.6% more Republican than the nation as a whole.

Even if Democrats win the Senate this election cycle, it would only be possible because of two consecutive wave elections for the Democrats and will not change their long-term disadvantage. Given that it is the Senate that confirms judicial nominees, this disadvantage will also lead to Republicans having a long-term advantage in the appellate courts, not to mention the Supreme Court, which would be hostile to any Democratic agenda.

If the Democrats win control of the Senate, it would be foolish of them to take this opportunity for granted. Some have proposed adding Washington D.C. or Puerto Rico as states, with the hope that they would elect Democratic senators and help even out the Republican skew. The Democrats should certainly do this, but there are other, more creative options an incredibly devoted billionaire could attempt, if they felt the need to.

It is hard to overstate just how many votes Democrats “waste” in California. Hillary Clinton won over a million more votes than Trump in Los Angeles County alone — more than the entire population of six states. In California as a whole, Clinton won by a margin of over 4 million votes, voters who could be more useful for the Democratic party elsewhere.

There are other states like Wyoming, North Dakota and South Dakota that are generally considered safe for Republicans. In absolute terms, however, their Republican senatorial candidates do not usually win by that much. 

John Barrasso, the Republican senator from Wyoming, won re-election in 2018 by a margin of less than 80,000 votes. Republican Senator John Thune of South Dakota won reelection in 2016 by about 160,000 votes. Republican Senator John Hoeven of North Dakota won in one of the biggest landslides in his state’s history, and still only got a little over 260,000 votes. There are more than enough Democrats in California to make these states blue.

The math works out well for Democrats — 150,000 California Democrats could move to Wyoming, 200,000 to South Dakota, 250,000 to North Dakota, 150,000 to Montana and 100,000 to Alaska. Assuming these people vote in every election, they would make every state solidly Democratic, while Democratic candidates would still regularly win statewide California elections with over 3 million more votes than their Republican competitors.

This would not solve all the Democrats’ problems. If all five of these states were solidly Democratic, Clinton would have still lost the 2016 election. But it would make the Democrats Senate math a lot easier. 

There are currently 31 states that lean to the right of the country overall. Make these five states more Democratic than the country as a whole, and then it is much closer, with 26 states leaning Republican and 24 leaning Democratic. It would net the Democrats nine seats they do not currently have — one of Montana’s senators is already a Democrat — and make the balance of the Senate 56-44, with Democrats holding the majority.

Moving all these people is easier said than done. However, a billionaire who wants to help the Democrats win could fund the construction of new towns in these states, the five least densely populated in the entire country, complete with the necessary infrastructure to support hundreds of thousands of people.

This type of political maneuvering would be unprecedented, but there would be little way for Republicans to respond. 

There is no Republican equivalent of California. There is no state where Republicans could afford to lose nearly a million of their own voters and hope to still dominate in said state. Going down the list of states with the most people, the most populous state that is solidly Republican is Tennessee, at number 16.

Democrats have won the popular vote in six out of the last seven presidential elections. If the polls are anywhere close to correct, then they are about to get their fourth consecutive popular vote win from this election. There are simply more Democrats than Republicans in the country, and if a billionaire wants the Senate to reflect that, they have the power to do so.

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