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Your Turn: Should We Abolish the Senate and Publicly Fund Elections?

by Countable | 12.6.18

  • On Wednesday, former Representative John Dingell (D-MI) – the longest-serving member of Congress in U.S. history – published an opinion piece calling for the abolition of the Senate and public funding of elections.
  • His piece was a reaction to dramatically eroding public trust in the federal government. Indeed, Dingell noted that while 73 percent of Americans in 1958 trusted the government “to do the right thing almost always or most of the time,” that number has fallen to just 18 percent today.

Proposed solutions

Dingell suggests the following reforms to our system of government:

Full electoral participation – All citizens are automatically registered to vote on their 18th birthday, without further impediment.

Publicly funded campaigns – No private money from any source can be used to finance campaigns, without exception. “If you want to restore trust in government, remove the price tag.”

Elimination of the Senate – This suggestion seeks to address the disproportionate representation that the allocation of two Senators per state creates. “California has almost 40 million people, while the 20 smallest states have a combined population totaling less than that. Yet because of an 18th-century political deal, those 20 states have 40 senators, while California has just two.”

On this point, Dingell quotes Norm Ornstein, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, who predicts that “in 2050, 70 percent of Americans will be living in just 15 states. That 70 percent will then have 30 senators, and the remaining 30 percent of the people, mainly those living in the smallest and poorest states, will have 70 senators.”

Some counterarguments

Proponents of voter registration generally argue that it’s necessary to ensure that only eligible people vote. The Heritage Foundation, for instance, has argued that automatic registration “could result in the registration of large numbers of ineligible voters as well as multiple or duplicate registrations of the same individuals.”

With regard to campaign finance, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that “money is speech,” as Dingell acknowledges in his piece.

The original justification for the design of the Senate was to prevent a situation wherein the interests of rural, more sparsely populated parts of the country were ignored. Supporters of the Senate argue that it protects minority interests from majority rule.

What do you think?

Do you agree with Dingell’s suggestions? Why or why not? Tell your reps what you think, then share your thoughts below.

—Sara E. Murphy

(Photo Credit: iStock.com / Marc Dufresne

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Written by Countable

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(321)
  • burrkitty
    Voted Yes
    12/06/2018
    ···

    I really thought abolishing the Senate was crazy. But the more I look and think about it... the more sense it makes. What’s the point of the Senate anyway? They don’t represent the State anymore which was their original job. Now they’re like Reps 2.5! If Senators were still elected by the state government legislatures then the existence of the Senate would still makes sense as a representation of the Will of the State, but Senators are elected by popular vote just like representatives now. That means their Will is that of The People (theoretically)...they don’t represent the state government interests anymore. So why do they still exist? They are a total duplication of effort. Another hundred privileged people and all their staff that we need to pay the bills for... why are we still doing that?

    Like (95)
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  • Lionman
    Voted Maybe
    12/06/2018
    ···

    Public funding of elections may be worth exploring.

    Like (52)
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  • Charles
    Voted No
    12/06/2018
    ···

    The Senate gives an equal voice of each state in the federal government. The house gives an equal voice of the people (based on population) in the federal government. Getting rid of one removes the fine balance.

    Like (49)
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  • Leslie
    12/06/2018
    ···

    Our founding fathers created the senate for a reason. I'm tired of both sides trying to change things when the balance of power isn't in their favor!

    Like (32)
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  • Tim
    Voted Yes
    12/06/2018
    ···

    Lets get the big $$$ out of our elections

    Like (55)
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  • Leon
    Voted No
    12/06/2018
    ···

    I’m embarrassed by a representative from Michigan that swore to defend the Constitution but then recommended to abolish part of our government (who the other party controls) and to remove the only fail safe to protect everyone from a few mega cities. What an idiot.

    Like (30)
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  • Nancy
    Voted Maybe
    12/06/2018
    ···

    I support public financing of elections.

    Like (24)
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  • Donna
    12/06/2018
    ···

    This is OBVIOUSLY a RUSSIAN BOT Propsal AS this TOTALLY VIOLATES the ENTIRE CONSTITUTIONAL FOUNDATION of the UNITED STATES!!! HOW could you put such a RIDICULOUS and REPREHENSIBLE idea on YOUR SITE!! ! Public Funding if and only if ITIS the ONLY FUNDING ALLOWED.

    Like (8)
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  • Barry
    Voted Yes
    12/06/2018
    ···

    Abolishing the Senate is probably not in the cards - too big a constitutional change - but the underlying idea of addressing the effects of population changes. A thought might be to set the number of senators at 100 and then distribute them according to population. Thus the Dakotas plus Wyoming and Montana might get two senators and California five. (Totally arbitrary numbers here.) Ultimately it may not matter as climate change may move the population to what is now empty space, of course.

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  • Sterling
    Voted No
    12/06/2018
    ···

    The Senate is how the legislature is balanced in our country, so that either house doesn’t have too much power. It was also originally intended to be the voice of the states in the federal government. The Seventeenth amendment removed this voice, which is partially why our federal government is so big. Removing it would take power away from us, the electorate. Indeed instead of removing it, it should be returned to its original intended state, so that the states have the voice that was taken away from them.

    Like (15)
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  • Lisa
    Voted No
    12/06/2018
    ···

    No don’t abolish the Senate. Reform the Senate and publicly fund all Elections. Citizens should be automatically registered to vote on their 18th birthday or if Naturalized upon gaining US Citizenship!

    Like (14)
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  • John
    Voted No
    12/06/2018
    ···

    Absolute yes for publicly funding campaigns. The Supreme Court is wrong in calling money speech. As Dylan said, “Money doesn’t speak, it swears.” No to doing away with the Senate. Make it proportional. We are now under the tyranny of the few. End it!

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  • singinghawk926
    Voted No
    last Friday
    ···

    Destroying the balance of power built into our government and established by the Constitution will effectively end our democratic republic. Based upon my knowledge and the experience I have gained over the past 50 years of citizen participation in my government at the local, state and federal levels, I have formed my own opinions of what has happened during that time to bring us to the brink of destruction. Since the early 70’s, the forces of right-wing radicalism have united the most stringent opposition forces of white nationalism, religious conservatism, and corporate neo-liberalism behind an agenda dedicated to both dividing the nation’s citizens into tribal camps and to distracting them with consumerism, hyper-religiosity, and artificially hyper-inflated, inflammatory rhetoric, in order to create a complete disregard for the institutions of government, most particularly the federal government. I am not talking about some sort of conspiracy, rather I refer to the distortion of the natural political forces by groups intending to reshape our government to achieve their own agendas. The current dysfunction in our legislative, executive and judicial branches is the result of this activity, and of the failure of the political forces that should have provided opposition to it. I am not sure what Congressman Dingell was thinking when he decided to submit this idea, but the solutions to the dysfunction we are experiencing should not include actions that will destroy the foundations of our democracy. The Senate was intended to slow the process of legislation and allow time for cooler heads to prevail. There may be unanticipated shifts in the population that will affect the balance of power within Congress, and changes may have to be made to ensure fair representation for states affected by these shifts. These changes may require the adaptation of the prevailing election laws and regulations, and Congressman Dingell’s Bill opens a complex and extensive conversation we need to have as a nation about how to respond to the impending demographic changes. I personally happen to agree with automatic enrollment of 18 year olds into the voter registration rolls. Accompanying that should also be a standard Civics curriculum at the high school level to prepare students for exercising the franchise as informed citizens, just as driver’s ed prepares them to obtain a driver’s license and drive safely on our highways. Federally mandated publicly funded elections would be the ideal to eliminate the massive destabilizing effects of money in politics, and the graft and influence peddling that is the current norm in all levels of government. I doubt very much that such a law would be supported by a majority of the American people. What we must do is empower candidates to reject the influence of big money donors, by becoming a unified, independent force of citizens who direct their support of their candidates by individual contributions and candidates who organize their campaigns around these individual contributions as the primary source of support. A system of individual, citizen supported contributions could empower both We the People and our candidates.🇺🇸

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  • Page
    Voted Yes
    12/06/2018
    ···

    The Senate should be population based like the House, and all elections should be publicly funded. With guaranteed funds, and equally allotted funds, our representatives wouldn’t be beholden to their corporate sponsors. They could actually listen to and properly represent their constituents.

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  • SneakyPete
    Voted No
    last Friday
    ···

    🙀👿The SAD Democratic Dream Continues On Folks 😱👿 Former Representative John Dingell (D-MI) – the longest-serving member of Congress in U.S. history proposed the following reforms to our system of government: * Full electoral participation – All citizens are automatically registered to vote on their 18th birthday. What’s to prevent non-citizens to be registered 🙀? * Publicly funded campaigns – No private money from any source can be used to finance campaigns. Who then will * Elimination of the Senate – This suggestion seeks to address the disproportionate representation that the allocation of two Senators per state creates. This is nothing more than the old time honored Democratic “Pipe-Dream” in the elimination of the Founding Fathers time honored “Electoral College” with their desired “Popular Vote” methodology to the selection of President and members of Congress which would BIASE election to the heavily dominant Democratic States, for example, California, New York, Illinois and Ohio. * On this point, Dingell quotes Norm Ornstein, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, who predicts that “in 2050, 70 percent of Americans will be living in just 15 states. * 😔 Sadly for them its that 70 percent the Democratic “Powers-To-Be” are objecting as having only 30 senators, and the remaining 30 percent of the people, mainly those living in the smallest and poorest states, will have 70 senators.” * “If It Walks Like A Duck, Quacks Like A Duck, And Then By Gosh, It Is A DUCK, Folks.” The Democratic Dream continues on and on and on Sadly 👿Folks......... SneakyPete..... 🤔🙀👿🙀. 12*6*18......

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  • Jacob
    Voted No
    12/06/2018
    ···

    Unconstitutional, also, that is giving more power to the federal government. Because it takes the equal representation of the states out of the equation, essentially meaning the states of Alaska or Wyoming would have much less representation in the federal government while giving states like California and New York a lot more representation. Which then becomes unfair when each state has their own separate issues that need to be addressed by the federal government. Essentially stripping those states of any power they yield and they lose their independence as a state.

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  • Jake
    Voted No
    12/06/2018
    ···

    The Senate is an important function of a federal republic, and should remain in integral part of our legislature

    Like (9)
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  • Robert
    Voted Yes
    last Friday
    ···

    I don’t think America should do away with the senate. I do believe we should do away with the electoral college

    Like (8)
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  • Chris-Breseman
    Voted No
    12/06/2018
    ···

    This is absurd and insane. Just because we don’t like the current occupants of the senate doesn’t mean it needs to be abolished. Good grief.

    Like (7)
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  • Lesia
    Voted Yes
    12/06/2018
    ···

    Still not sure about abolishing the senate even if most of them are leeches in the hind end of America, but automatic voter registration and public ally funded elections might get help end this current age of corruption.

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