Fair. Balanced. American.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Which states voted Democratic in 1992, 1996, 2000, 2004 and 2008?

I count 17: CA, WA, OR, MN, WI, IL, MI, PA, NY, ME, MA, VT, CT, RI, NJ, DE, MD.

Multiply 17 by 2, and you have 34 senators who come from reliably blue states. The other 26 are in for a re-election fight every time, unless they've achieved sufficient stature to achieve re-election in a state like Robert Byrd's West Virginia, where Bush won by about 15 points.

Then there are other cases like Byron Dorgan and Tom Daschle: moderates who are downright radical relative to states that went for Bush by 20+ points. These senators have stature, but the nature of their states means that when they are faced with a tough political environment and/or a well known opponent, they're in trouble. Bush's landslide, coupled with a tough opponent, the state's sole congressman, killed Daschle's re-election hopes. All the pork he brought to his state as Senate majority leader was forgotten in the onslaught.

Something similar happened recently to Byron Dorgan. He won re-election even in 2004 by a 68-32 margin but with token opposition. This year's poisonous climate for Democratic encouraged incumbent GOP governor John Hoeven to make a run for it, and polling had Dorgan down by 20 points.  He retired from the Senate.

All of which is to say that progressives' anger about Senate Democrats is partly about the Founding Fathers, who gave one-congressman states like North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming, Idaho, Alaska as many senators as California, which has 50-60 times their population. There are more solid red states than solid blue states, and each has two senators. The few Democrats from those solidly red states are never safe, as Daschle, Dorgan and so many others tragically attest to.

And that's one reason Democrats find it difficult to find even 50 senators for genuine progressive change in the Senate, much less 60.

Yes, it sucks. If you don't like it, get some petitions together to amend the constitution to ban the Senate or make its representation population-proportionate. Of course, you'll never get the 67 senators required to get that amendment through the Senate. So you'll have to get enough states to assent to that amendment on their own (not that you could, because there are too many small states) and trigger a constitutional convention, something the extreme right has pushed for decades,  to rewrite the entire Constitution. Such an event might or might not ban the Senate. The only thing we can be sure of is that it would ban gay marriage.

A proportional representation, parliamentary system of government with an elected President, perhaps along the French model, is what the left blogosphere is really pushing for.  It's hardly an awful model, but like any constitutional edifice, its corollaries will structure future outcomes, as surely as ours has.

The bottom line is that at least part of what all of us hate about American politics derives not from our horribly corrupt campaign financing regime but the Constitution itself.  Put the two together, and you have 2009. And 1994.  But not 1980. Jimmy Carter screwed up his Presidency all by himself.

2 comments :

omen said...

bush didn't have a problem ramming things through.

omen said...

i'm not so sure this is a blue vs red problem. dems in the senate routinely gave bush majority support. durbin called it: banks own the place. corporate influence trumps ideology.