We are increasingly a nation of urbanites and suburbanites. Almost 60 percent of us live in metropolitan areas with more than 1 million people, more than 70 percent in areas with more than 500,000 residents. Conservative politicians may extol the virtues of a “real America” of rural areas and small towns, but the real real America in which we live, while it contains small towns, is mostly metropolitan.
But here’s the thing: The Senate, which gives each state the same number of seats regardless of population — which gives fewer than 600,000 people in Wyoming the same representation as almost 40 million in California — drastically overweights those rural areas and underweights the places where most Americans live.
I find it helpful to contrast the real America, the place we actually live, with what I think of as “Senate America,” the hypothetical nation implied by a simple average across states, which is what the Senate in effect represents.
We’re all Americans, and we all deserve an equal voice in shaping our national destiny.
Not to put too fine a point on it: What Donald Trump and his party are selling increasingly boils down to white nationalism — hatred and fear of darker people, with a hefty dose of anti-intellectualism plus anti-Semitism, which is always part of that cocktail. This message repels a majority of Americans. That’s why Tuesday’s election in the House — which despite gerrymandering and other factors is far more representative of the country as a whole than the Senate — produced a major Democratic wave.
So what happened Tuesday, with Republicans getting shellacked in the House but gaining in the Senate, wasn’t just an accident of this year’s map or specific campaign issues. It reflected a deep division in culture, indeed values, between the American citizenry at large and the people who get to choose much of the Senate.
We may, then, be looking at a growing crisis of legitimacy for the U.S. political system — even if we get through the constitutional crisis that seems to be looming over the next few months.