Last week, in the leadup to the national midterm general elections, the country was waiting anxiously for “the Blue Wave.” The Blue Wave was the term for an anticipated sweep by Democratic candidates in both the House of Representatives and the Senate, governorships and state legislative bodies.
Would it happen? Or would it be little more than hype created by inaccurate polling and punditry?
The premise for the Blue Wave was two years of an unpopular and divisive President and precedent – U.S. Presidents have a habit of losing support half way through their terms. The voters responded, but the results depend a lot on what filter you use to analyze them.
In the most basic terms, Democrats did well. They won back the House, with 33 seats gained and another 12 too close to call as of this writing. They flipped some 250 seats in state legislatures around the country and gained a number of governorships.
Where the Blue Wave hit a barrier was in the Senate. In a report by Newsweek, Republicans received only 41.5 percent of all votes against 56.9 percent for Democrats cast but still picked up two seats. This has frustrated many Democrats who feel they deserve more after winning popular votes in the Senate, House and Presidency but are left in control of just one of those bodies.
The idea of a popular vote and its lack of a relationship with the Senate has become a key issue since last Tuesday’s election. Liberals have been left wondering why our most senior legislative branch has no relation to popular opinion. How is this a way to govern? The conclusion many seem to draw is that the Senate is an artifact of the 18th century and should be revisited.
As much as I’m no fan of conservative government, I’m not so sure the Senate needs an overhaul. In fact, it’s arguably doing exactly what it was designed to do – serve as a bulwark against public opinion. In fact, it wasn’t until ratification of the 17th Amendment in 1913 that the Senate was actually chosen by popular vote. Prior to that – for nearly 150 years – Senators were sent to Washington by their state legislatures.
As difficult as it may be to come to terms with the fact that the ruling party in the Senate received far fewer votes than the other, a popularly elected Senate, means both houses of Congress would be dominated by California and other large states. The middle of the country would have virtually no voice in national government. And, arguably, fear of that sort of arrangement has made reliable Republican voters out of many of them.
If there is to be any reform of the way the federal government is structured, it might be best to abolish the Electoral College and turn the Presidency over to the popular vote, but leave the Senate as a body that represents all 50 states equally. It’s an important principle that shouldn’t be abandoned because we don’t like the outcome.