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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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