The Left’s Growing Assault on the U.S. Senate

Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV), as he leaves a caucus meeting with the Senate Democrats at the U.S. Capitol on Dec. 17. | Anna Moneymaker, Getty Images

December 21, 2021

John Fugelsang, a member of Twitter’s blue checkmark elite and comedian, took to Twitter to do what all unfunny comedians usually do: make a civically inept comment about America, or how her constitutional orientation is detrimental to “democracy” (a word much abused in our time). The institution of choice among politicians and celebrities recently has been the U.S. Senate.

“Welcome to America,” Fugelsang wrote, “where ‘Democracy’ means 51 senators beats 81 million voters.”

It would appear that Bernie Sanders started this trend when he tweeted that “2 senators cannot be allowed to defeat what 48 senators and 210 House members want.”

This was in objection to Senators Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) and Joe Manchin (D-WV), the moderates among the Senate Democrats, who aren’t completely sold on Joe Biden’s agenda, which appears to be specifically tailored to appease the progressive wing of the Democratic Party.

According to both Senator Sanders and Fugelsang, and many others on the left, all Democrat Senators must be required to swear a blood oath to Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, as well as the progressive thought leaders in the Democratic Party, in order to be allowed to serve their terms.

It’s this type of malformed outrage—as a result of a desirable political outcome for the left not manifesting the way they wanted it to—that demonstrates their profound civic ineptitude as it relates to the understanding of the American Constitution and the principles that drive its current orientation.

UC Berkeley professor Robert Reich, in exemplifying what is now his practically trademarked cognitive dissonance, also wrote on Twitter stating: “What if — and hear me out here — we stopped letting two corporate Democrats singlehandedly block every single progressive policy we elected Democrats to pass?”

Because, Professor, the Senate requires 50 votes to pass a bill through reconciliation, and the Democrats needed 50 votes in order to succeed. The bottom line is that Manchin and Sinema weren’t on board.

The left’s outrage toward the Senate seems to be rooted in a conceptual misunderstanding of how the legislative branch works (or at least, how it is supposed to work). The erroneous assumption that Sanders, Fugelsang, and Reich predicate their positions on is best articulated by Charles Cooke, as he writes in National Review criticizing Reich and Congresswoman Corey Bush:

“Underneath the complaints that Reich and Bush have leveled sits the erroneous implication that, come election time, American voters are obliged to press a button marked “Republican” or “Democrat,” and that, having done so, they are shipped a drone-like representative of the winning team from a central repository in Washington, D.C. Reich complains that “we elected Democrats.” But this is correct only in the aggregate. In fact, 50 different “we”s elected one hundred senators and 435 Representatives, who between them make up our majority and minority parties. There is nothing in this deal that obliges those emissaries to agree with one another.” [Emphasis added]

Senate majorities don’t work simply because everyone is a Democrat or Republican on paper. In fact, the Republicans were only able to retain their Senate majority from 2015 to 2021 because Republicans like Mitt Romney and Ted Cruz, both of whom are governed by different ideological variations of conservatism, were able to set aside their differences and caucus with one another.

A Republican from Maine (Susan Collins) might very well vary greatly from a Republican from Texas (Ted Cruz)—and that’s okay. Senators are allowed to disagree with each other, and the upper house should reflect the varying political, social, and cultural wavelengths of the 50 states in order to represent the Senate’s purpose in the first place: to represent the states as the sovereign political entities that they are.

Joe Manchin is no exception to this reality. West Virginia is one of the most conservative states in the Union, with Donald Trump winning every county in the state in the 2020 presidential election. Manchin remains the most conservative Democrat in the Senate because his constituents are conservative.

There is nothing in this process that requires our elected representatives to agree with each other simply because “the party agenda demands it.”

Though I suppose we shouldn’t be surprised. It would appear that whenever the left doesn’t get what it wants, it decides that changing the rules of the game is preferable to making the effort to persuade voters under the current system. The current bid to get rid of the Electoral College is certainly an example, and the current ill-informed dissent against the core functions of the Senate is but the latest.

The United States, as implied by the name, is a commonwealth of states, who, in their perpetual union with one another, nevertheless retain political autonomy under the federal constitution. This autonomy is similar to that of whole nations in many respects. The citizens of these states are allowed to elect their own governments, determine the time and place of their elections, and their representatives can pass laws on their behalf, based on what is deemed necessary and expedient for the general welfare of that state.

Those on the left frequently scoff and turn their noses up at the common statement that the United States isn’t a democracy, but a republic; arguing that “democracy” is an umbrella term. “We understand America is a republic,” they say, “but that can also be referred to as a representative democracy, and we need more democracy.” But it would appear that what the left wants is growing increasingly antithetical to the republican model.

It would appear that what the left is wanting is a wholly democratized federal establishment with increased authority over the states. The effort to root out “undemocratic” mechanisms in the federal government, in reality, seems to be an effort to get rid of the constitutional protections that allow the states, and their respective constituents, to decide the pressing issues of the day for themselves. As a result, the increasingly democratized federal establishment that many on the left have been advocating for is paradoxically undemocratic, as the rights of the states are diminished in favor of an increasingly centralized federal conglomerate.

In other words, it is a quiet dissent against American Federalism: where the presidential system that provides three distinct layers of government (local, state, and federal), as well as three distinct branches that perform certain duties and check and balance each other, is gradually blended together to form a sort of pseudo-parliamentary system that the left intends to use to rule over those ‘racist, uneducated rubes’ that live in the middle of the country.

It is a coastal elite, cosmopolitan snub of the highest order, cloaked under the seemingly harmless notion of “saving American democracy.” It’s patronizing, civically and historically inept, but most of all, it is tyrannical.

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