Tyranny of the Red State Minority

When I first heard that expanded background checks for gun sales failed to pass the Senate on a 54-46 vote in favor of the checks, my first thought was to wonder exactly how undemocratic this vote was. First of all, there is the virtual requirement that a bill have 60 votes to pass if the Republicans desire to stop it. This allowed 46 Senators to block the bill. I also wondered about these 46 Senators who voted against expanded background checks. I figured that many would be from small population states. As each state has two votes in the Senate, voters in the small states (which are more likely to be red states) have far more influence.

Writers at New Republic and  Think Progress were thinking along the same lines and did the math:

If you assume, for sake of argument, each senator represents half of his or her state’s population, then senators voting for the bill represented about 194 million people, while the senators voting against the bill represented about 118 million people. That’s getting close to a two-thirds majority in favor of the measure.

This looks even worse when considering that polls show that 90 percent of voters support stronger background checks.

It has become a common occurrence for Senators representing well under half the population to be able to block popular legislation. The Founding Fathers did intentionally establish such a system in  a different era, when representation based upon state made far more sense than it does today. I doubt that they would be happy with how undemocratic the system has turned out to be.

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