Wednesday, December 18, 2019

How to Solve the Democrats' Senate Problem

There's really no arguing with the idea that the Senate, as currently structured, disadvantages the Democrats. Wyoming has as many Senators as California, not fair to begin with, and the partisan skew between small-population and large-population states is just getting worse, as noncollege and rural whites are increasingly likely to vote Republican. Result: a thumb on the scales for the GOP in terms of snagging Senate seats.
Panic? Make DC and Puerto Rico states? Abolish the Senate? Bemoan, as Data for Progress do in a recent memo, that the Senate is a "racist" and "irredeemable" institution or, as Matt Yglesias does in a related article, that the Democrats' chances of ever taking back the Senate are slim and getting slimmer?
Kevin Drum is as annoyed by this kind of garment-rending as I am.
"A mere four years ago, we were bombarded with articles about how the House was almost permanently out of the grasp of Democrats. Thanks to gerrymandering and other issues, Dems would have to win a vast share of the national vote to have any chance of winning even a slim House majority. Then, two years later, Democrats won the House in a landslide.
Now it’s the Senate. But as recently as five years ago Democrats held the Senate, and as recently as ten years ago they held a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate. I know life comes at you fast these days, but nothing has changed all that much in the past ten years. Democrats are still fully able to win control of the Senate."
And, as Drum reminds us, there is a very clear and straightforward solution to the Democrats' current Senate problem, which is indisputably bound up with the movement of noncollege whites toward the GOP. And it does not involve adding states to the country or changing the Constitution.
"I know this will sound ridiculous, but hear me out: Democrats could figure out how to appeal to working-class whites.
I know that many progressives would rather move to Canada than even consider such a thing. After all, working-class whites are racist! They hate gays! They love guns! They go to church! They oppose liberal immigration laws! They want to ban abortion! They drive pickup trucks! They like low taxes! They don’t understand intersectionality!
Well, yeah. That’s true of many of them, though certainly not all. And “not all” is a key point here. It’s not as if Democrats have to appeal to stone racists or lunatic gun nuts to win in rural states. They just have to ease up on some of the things that rural voters think are important. Doing this doesn’t automatically mean that you want immigrants in cages or black men to be the targets of mass incarceration. Nor does it mean you want to force women to give birth against their will or fry the planet via climate change. It just means you accept the reality that sometimes society moves more slowly than you’d like.
In 2008, Democrats won Senate seats in Montana, South Dakota, Iowa, Arkansas, Louisiana, West Virgina, and North Carolina. Places like that seem like nothing more than dreams these days. But they aren’t. If working-class whites can move into the Republican camp over the course of only a few years, they can move out in just a few years too. But progressives have to actually care about them and be willing to compromise here and there to win their votes. This is what politics is all about, and always has been."
Words of wisdom. So quit the crying about structure and start worrying about voters.

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