Fixing the Senate: Toward a more Democratically Responsive body
March 19, 2019
By Ariela Weinberger
NEW YORK, NY– Today, the Roosevelt Institute, a New York-based think tank that promotes progressive economic and political policy reforms, released Fixing the Senate: Equitable and Full Representation for the 21st Century, which outlines how the current US Senate is profoundly undemocratic and must be restructured to represent all Americans. Written by Roosevelt Institute fellow and political scientist Dr. Todd N. Tucker, the paper comes at a time when solving pressing national issues—such as inequality and climate change—require bold policy proposals that represent the nation’s shared interests.
Using new population projections, the Senate does not reflect the people it is supposed to serve: prioritizing sparsely populated white states, and its non-representation of the five million mostly non-white Americans that live in DC and the US’ overseas territories. The paper estimates that the senatorial advantage of the least populous states over the most populous (which Dr. Tucker calls the “senatorial inequality ratio”) will double in the coming decades unless fundamental reform is undertaken. Without such reform, an increasingly narrow slice of the population will have outsized influence in how our biggest problems are tackled.
“Many Americans do not realize the inherent inequalities in the US Senate, but they are real and they are greatly impacting our ability to have an inclusive economy and democracy,” said Tucker. “To fix this bias, we need imaginative solutions to boost the Senate’s diversity. Putting fundamental reform of the Senate on the table is a way to realign the body with the functions it was meant to serve.”
Using historical precedents, the paper analyzes five ways that policymakers could realign the body with the functions it was meant to serve.
- Abolish (or fundamentally weaken) the Senate;
- Undertake filibuster reform;
- Split California up into seven states;
- Enact statehood for DC and Puerto Rico; and
- Provide representation to the nonstates.
Dr. Tucker focuses specifically on the last option, a proposal he developed and calls Full Representation. This constitutional amendment would add eight senators to the Senate, representing the federal district, overseas territories, and Native American tribes. This proposal would also help the US live up to its treaty commitments and catch up to the best practices of other advanced democracies.
This latest paper builds on a number of Roosevelt Institute publications that argue for structural interventions to US politics, in order to achieve federal policies and an overall economy that are more democratically responsive to the American people.
About the Roosevelt Institute
The Roosevelt Institute, a New York-based think tank, promotes progressive policy reforms that would redefine the American economy and our democracy. With a focus on curbing corporate power and reclaiming public power, Roosevelt is helping people understand that the economy is shaped by choices—via institutions and the rules that structure markets—while also exploring the economics of race and gender and the changing 21st century economy. Roosevelt is armed with a bold vision for the future, working to move the country toward a new economic and political system: one built by many for the good of all.
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