Both sides are filled with screeching babies who can’t bear to believe it when their ideology is rejected by voters but the left always seems quicker to look for structural explanations for its failures. A few days ago they were whining about the “House popular vote,” i.e. the prospect that that they might — unfairly? — lose the House narrowly despite being far ahead on the generic ballot in poll after poll. The “House popular vote” is Not A Thing™, needless to say. You’d almost expect Democrats to lead it since they’re stronger in urban districts, where they can run up margins of thousands of votes in one race that it would take many Republican victories in rural districts to match.
That is, Dems are grumpy that representation in Washington remains to some extent a function of geography, just as it always has, rather than a raw poll of the national population with House seats doled out to each side proportionally. The idea of a “House popular vote” is goofy, but insofar as House seats are subject to redistricting there’s at least a germ of legitimate grievance in it. By tinkering with the geographical boundaries for each congressional district, a state legislature can heavily dilute the other party’s electoral power. “House popular vote” can be (but isn’t always) just a byword for the idea that if district lines were drawn more equitably the party that got the most votes statewide and/or nationally would have more representatives in Congress.
Obviously, though, that idea breaks down into complete stuttering idiocy when it’s applied to the Senate, where the boundaries of each “district” are the state’s boundaries. They don’t change. And yet.
Democracy’s a funny thing. pic.twitter.com/t6fRM8jMDD
— Mike Pesca (@pescami) November 7, 2018
There are people online today who’ve taken this stupidity to its illogical conclusion, complaining about “gerrymandering” in … the Senate. And not just online:
Here’s the clip of Joy Behar thinking Dems lost Senate seats because of gerrymandering pic.twitter.com/JlwPWMJER0
— Tom Elliott (@tomselliott) November 7, 2018
Complaining about the “Senate popular vote” is one of those things that seems so deeply stupid that it makes me suspicious that there’s a nuance to the argument that I’m missing. People can’t possibly be whining that the a legislative body that’s designed to control for population differences between the states isn’t … accurately reflecting population differences between the states. Can they? The House is the chamber that reflects population differences by apportioning more seats to more populous states. The Senate’s the chamber that places all 50 states on an equal footing. Different structures for different functions. By design. Since the beginning. Signed and endorsed by the Founders themselves. What am I missing?
It gets stupider. One of the less interesting Senate races last night for Republicans was Kevin de Leon’s challenge to Dianne Feinstein in California. Feinstein is a Democrat, of course. De Leon … is also a Democrat. California has a “jungle primary” system in which all candidates compete in the same race and then the top two finishers advance to the general election, regardless of party. California is so blue that both of those finishers this year were Dems. Feinstein got 3.4 million votes last night while de Leon raked in 2.8 million — more than six million between them, thanks to the fact that the country’s most populous state is dominated by liberals. The “Senate popular vote” scolds are either ignoring California’s outsized effect on the overall “popular vote” margins or they’re suggesting without really stating that California simply deserves more senators. Never mind that — say it one more time — the entire point of the Senate is to give big states and small ones equal power. If you’re a Californian who doesn’t like that, move.
Want it to get stupider? It can, you know.
The “House popular vote” at least involves a chamber where all seats are on the ballot. Not so with the Senate. Only a third of seats are on the line every two years, although it often feels like less since election-watchers pay close attention only to battlegrounds. Most of the states up for grabs yesterday were solidly red or blue (mostly blue) and their outcomes were a foregone conclusion. Bernie Sanders won, for instance, as did Elizabeth Warren. Which means that the “Senate popular vote” is a metric of just a third of the chamber, and not even a third equally divided between the parties. As Markay notes, with Democrats fighting on what was mostly their own turf, it was all but a foregone conclusion that they’d win the “popular vote,” particularly with California in the mix — and that did translate to winning a majority of the contests. Just not the ones that made any difference to control of the chamber, which is why these infants are shrieking about unfairness.
The “Senate popular vote” is such a dumb, clearly flawed talking point that it’s already being cycled out for whinier yet more coherent complaints about America’s white women letting the sisterhood down by not voting uniformly for Democrats. In lieu of an exit question, follow this thread from Ricochet contributor Bridget Phetasy, rounding up the latest idiocy. Congrats on being “footsoldiers of the patriarchy,” ladies.