Abolish the U.S. Senate

Delaware can and should fix its historical mistake and help make America a real democracy

 · February 20, 2021

The Republican Party has been getting creamed in Delaware lately, but not so much nationally. One reason for this is that the U.S. Constitution hands Republicans a built-in advantage in the U.S. Senate, where representation is allocated not to the people, but to the states. This advantage carries over to races for the Presidency thanks to the absurd constitutional artifact known as the Electoral College.

I don’t like having to fight a permanent uphill battle to enact needed national change. That’s not what democracy — from the ancient Greek demos, meaning “the people” — is supposed to be. Although the U.S. Constitution is, by design, notoriously difficult to change, I must believe that it can be changed, or even replaced, to maintain my optimism about the future of our country.

That’s where Delaware comes in. Being a small state, both in geography and population, Delaware benefits from the Constitution’s transfer of power from populations to states. Unlike most other small (in population) states, Delaware sends Democrats to Congress. Delaware can and should take the lead in proposing reforms to the structural imbalance of power encoded in the Constitution because clinging to our current advantage is ultimately self-defeating. We also bear a special responsibility because our own Gunning Bedford, representing Delaware at the Constitutional Convention of 1787, forced the adoption of the present unequal arrangement whereby the 50 Democratic senators represent 41.5 million more people than the 50 Republican senators. 

We’ve seen where this is going: Trump, who never won a popular majority yet wreaked hellish havoc on our country for four years, is the model for emerging Republican candidates, while many veteran GOP Senators have succumbed to fear of being primaried. In more than a few states, GOP candidates need only win the most vociferous portion of their party’s base, typically angry whites who fear “their” country is being stolen by people of color, to sail into Washington, D.C., where they can block — via filibuster, if need be — the will of Democrats representing the majority of Americans.

President Joe Biden, one of Delaware’s own, told us the 2020 election was about saving American democracy but is this democracy? No. It must change, and we Delawareans must lead the way. It is up to us here, in Delaware, to lead the thinking, discussing, and pushing for change, so we can direct future campaigns to win the hearts and minds of the American people, rather than the historical accidents of political geography known as states.

The stakes are too high to meekly submit to encomiums about “the way we’ve always done things.” The Constitution enables the Right to win power with a minority of voters. Will the Right then use lies and violence to try to keep power? It’s no longer a hypothetical question.