Morning Consult put out a very interesting bit of polling data, and found, Bernie Sanders Is the Most Popular Senator in America. They did polling of the people in all the states to come up with this. It’s a massive poll. Martin Longman noted that there are some real problems in the numbers for Republicans, “The most troubling result for the Republicans is that several of their Senators who are up for reelection next year are near the bottom in the approval ratings.” These include Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, Mark Kirk of Illinois, and Rob Portman of Ohio. And rightly so!
You might consider Ohio a swing state, but I think it is now fundamentally blue. And Wisconsin and Illinois are clearly blue states. Why do they have Republican Senators anyway? The same goes for Colorado, New Hampshire, and Pennsylvania. It goes the other way too, of course. The following red states have one Democratic Senator: Indiana, Missouri (fluke), Montana, North Dakota, West Virginia. But even if you throw out Ohio, that’s five red states that have a Democratic Senator and five blue states that have a Republican Senator. Seems about right. But the misrepresented red states account for only 16 million people whereas the misrepresented blue states account for 38 million. That’s 134% more!
The same thing is going on when you look at the “pure” states. This is where a blue state like California has two Democratic Senators or a red state like Texas has two Republican Senators. But looking at all those states, the numbers are still disturbing. There are 20 pure red states and only 15 pure blue states. What’s more, 103 million people are in these 20 red states whereas 116 million people are in these 15 blue states. If you look at all the data together, you see that blue states represent 154 million people and the red states represent 120 million.
So the blue states represent more than 56% of the nation. Yet they get only 46% of the representation in the Senate. Now in the old days, that wouldn’t have been such a bad thing. If a blue state sent a Republican Senator to Washington, she would be a moderate. But that’s just not true anymore. Ron Johnson is representing Wisconsin! At the same time, the Democrats representing red states are moderate — because the Democrats are still a regular political party and not a revolutionary power.
A lot of this is just the whining of a partisan whose party is losing. But there are also two important issues. The first is that we live in an oligarchy. The power elite have gotten great not just at manipulating voters, but making voting difficult — both directly (eg, not funding local polling places, voter ID laws) and indirectly (making poor people have to work too much). When was the last time you heard a Republican say (as Ronald Reagan did) that they wanted as many people to vote as possible? The truth is that the Republican Party has become very comfortable with the notion that their best chance of winning an election is to have as few voters as possible.
The other issue is that we have a terrible system of representation. It was perhaps the best that we could hope for two and a quart centuries ago. But it isn’t the best we could have now. And that’s not even to mention gerrymandering and the ridiculous Senate compromise where a conservative in Wyoming has roughly 66 times as many votes as a liberal does here in California. None of this is moral. But none of it will change, because it is great for the power elite. They know that if the Republicans are in control, they will money thrown at the rich. And if the Democrats are in control, they will throw slightly less money at the rich. (They will still end up doing better under the Democrats, because the economy will do better, because Democrats are not incompetent like Republicans are.)
This isn’t just a question of voting. It is a question of organizing. It is a question of all of us talking to other people and allowing them to see that we’ve lost our democracy and that we are going to have to fight to take it back. It’s not just going to be a difficult fight — it’s going to be a really long fight.