Talking Points

The Senate's not stifling a sweeping progressive majority. There is no sweeping progressive majority.

Sen. Joe Manchin's (D-W.Va.) defection from the Democrats' big spending bill has produced a lot of talk about whether states like West Virginia should have this much power in our constitutional structure in the first place. Complaints about the influence accorded to smaller states are no longer limited to progressive academics. They've gone mainstream.

But the argument that institutions like the Senate (balanced by the House), the Electoral College, and federalism among states with populations of vastly different size are anachronistic is wrong. Our polarized country needs more space for team red and blue to get away from each other, not less. Allowing one to impose its will on the other by the smallest margins will only make our divisions more bitter.

To be sure, much has changed since the Constitution was originally ratified. But the value in how the House and Senate were structured has not. Wyoming and West Virginia residents would no more consent to be in a political union where everything was decided by California and New York than New Englanders and Southerners would strike the same deal at the founding.

"One person, one vote" is an important principle. But so is the ability to escape the tyrannies of majority rule, something our system has always tried to balance, however imperfectly. If the issue was gay marriage circa 2004, liberals would see this fact as clearly as conservatives do now. The contempt members of each political tribe feel for the residents of states dominated by the other is evident.

And for all the talk by big-d Democrats about small-d democracy, everything liberals have ever accomplished, from the New Deal to ObamaCare, they have achieved through the existing constitutional system. They are failing to achieve more now because they have less popular support than they did when those programs passed. Yes, President Biden won 81 million votes — and the barest 51 percent majority, not the landslides of Presidents FDR or LBJ, much less Ronald Reagan or Richard Nixon. Even Senate rules like the filibuster require consensus, which our existing political moment surely lacks.

Greater ability to retreat to red and blue enclaves, voting with one's feet, could do more to lower the temperature on our country's politics than letting 51-50 Senates pass "transformational" legislation, then lose the next election. The Founding Fathers, for all their faults, understood this better than Bette Midler does.