Category Archives: Senate

The Worst Senators in American History

America’s Worst Senators

The American Senate has long be recognized and heralded as one of the world’s greatest legislative chamber.  Its emphasis on debate – on cooling the passions of a tempestuous public – created a chamber that, at its best, embraced dispassionate discourse aimed at educating the public and passing enlightened legislation.

Of course, the Senate has not always lived up to its glorious conception.  At many points throughout its history, the Senate ignored its founding principles and allowed the president to dominate the chamber; at far too many points, senators used the chamber’s rules and dilatory design to slow movement towards racial equality.

A legislature is only as good as its legislators.  Who are the worst senators in American history, the ones whose actions and statements stained one of America’s greatest creations?  In no particular order, here are America’s worst senators.

Theodore Bilbo (D-MS, 1935-1947)

theodore bilbo racist

The Mississippi demagogue and likely KKK member committed his public service tenure to preserving segregation and uses all power at his disposal to prevent African Americans from attaining equal civil and political rights.  Bilbo, along with other Southern senators, embarked on one of the Senate’s longest fillibusters to prevent passage of an anti-lynching bill, saying (on the Senate floor!) “If you succeed in the passage of this bill, you will open the floodgates of hell in the South. Raping, mobbing, lynching, race riots, and crime will be increased a thousandfold; and upon your garments and the garments of those who are responsible for the passage of the measure will be the blood of the raped and outraged daughters of Dixie, as well as the blood of the perpetrators of these crimes that the red-blooded AngloSaxon white Southern men will not tolerate.”

In that same speech, Bilbo first dabbled with an idea to return all 12 million blacks to Africa.  He introduced legislation to achieve that goal in 1938 and continued pushing for this “repatriation” during the Second World War.  Upon the war’s completion, he added a new target for his vitriol: Jews.  Defeating Nazism apparently didn’t defeat anti-Semitism at home.

Writing to Leonard Golditch, executive secretary of the National Committee to Combat Anti-Semitism, Bilbo ranted that “there are five million Jews in the United States and the majority of them are fine public citizens, but if Jews of your type don’t quit sponsoring and fraternizing with the Negro race you are going to arouse so much opposition that they will get a very strong invitation to pack up and resettle in Palestine, the homeland of the Jews, just as we propose to provide for the voluntary resettlement of the American Negro in West Africa their fatherland. Now do not pop-off and say I am in favor of sending the Jews to Palestine. What I am trying to say to you is that there are just a few of you New York ‘kikes’ that are fraternizing and socializing with the Negroes for selfish and political and if you keep it up you will arouse the opposition of the better class of your race.”

Perhaps most shocking and stomach-churning, Bilbo published a book in 1946 entitled “Take Your Choice: Separation or Mongrelization.”  The racist manifesto furthered his efforts to popularize deporting all blacks to Africa, preying on racial anxieties and pointing to the “scientific” inferiority of blacks to argue that commingling of the races – which would lead to interracial marriages – would destroy white civilization.  His own words best exemplify the true depths of his hatred and ignorance: “The experiences and history of thousands of years prove that whenever and wherever the white and black man have tried to live side by side the result has been mongrelization which has destroyed both races and left a brown mongrel people.”



James Eastland (D-MS, 1943-1978)

james eastland racistJames Eastland, another Mississippi race-baiter, spent 35 years using his august position as a United States Senator to further segregationist causes.  His reaction to Brown v. Board of Education, which ended the separate but equal regime, showed he believed in the Constitution and the Supreme Court only when the two furthered his racist intentioned.  Eastland argued that “the Constitution of the United States was destroyed because of the Supreme Court’s decision” and went on to tell states – wrongly – that “you are not obliged to obey the decisions of any court which are plainly fraudulent sociological considerations.”  States obviously cannot pick and choose which Supreme Court decisions and federals to follow.  The Civil War ended that phony debate once and for all.

According to Eastland, man did not create segregation.  From nature arose the separation of races and only through the tyrannical and forceful actions of men would races ever live together; such an event would never happen spontaneously.  “The Southern institution of racial segregation or racial separation was the correct,” Eastland contended, a “self-evident truth which arose from the chaos and confusion of the Reconstruction period. Separation promotes racial harmony. It permits each race to follow its own pursuits, and its own civilization. Segregation is not discrimination… it is the law of nature, it is the law of God, that every race has both the right and the duty to perpetuate itself. All free men have the right to associate exclusively with members of their own race, free from governmental interference, if they so desire.”

His rhetoric and staunch opposition to civil rights will always stand as an embarrassment to the Senate and country.



Joseph McCarthy (R-WI, 1947-1957)

joseph mccarthy

Joseph McCarthy’s brief reign of terror saw ruined hundreds of lives by relying on naked demagoguery to parlay obvious lies into a seemingly unstoppable political force.  McCarthy quickly earned national prominence after the “Wheeling Speech,” in which he claimed to have a list of 205 (or 257) suspected members of the Communist Party who had infiltrated the State Department.  During various speeches and testimonies, the list’s size varied and its contents remained a secret; McCarthy’s claims later grew to encompass the Truman Administration and the US Army.

His slander cultivated fear among public servants and even elected officials.  Few dared stand up to the demagogue because of his ruthlessness in slaying naysayers.  As such, McCarthy managed to bluff his way to success – he of course had no proof and no reason to accuse hundreds of communist sympathies, but whenever challenged for evidence, McCarthy snarled his way to maintaining the house of cards.  Only when McCarthy directly challenged the Army and a month’s worth of televised “Army-McCarthy” hearings let the public see the extent of his recklessness, deceit, and slander did he fall from grace, culminating in a formal Senate censure and his eventual death in office.



Strom Thurmond (D/R-SC, 1956-2003)

strom thurmondThe 1948 State’s Rights Party presidential nominee used his authority to thwart progress on civil rights, a dedication proved by running for president against Harry S Trump (his party’s nominee) because the Democratic National Convention endorsed a pro-civil rights plank.  Thurmond wrote the first version of the Southern Manifesto, a piece which asserted that the Supreme Court no longer had the ability to review laws (a principle since the country’s founding) and that (southern) states should therefore resist the ruling.  Many feared that the Southern Manifesto might be turned into another secessionist movement, coming, as it did, amidst heightened racial tensions because of desegregation.

In case his views on civil rights weren’t yet clear, Thurmond filibustered the Civil Rights Act of 1957 for 24 hours and 18 minutes, the longest filibuster in American history.  He labelled Martin Luther King, Jr a “communist” and claimed “King demeans his race and retards the advancement of his people.”  His militancy towards desegregation efforts came to light after Truman desegregated the army and Thurmond pronounced “there’s not enough troops in the Army to force the Southern people to break down segregation and admit the Nigra [sic] race into our theaters, into our swimming pools, into our homes, and into our churches.”



Huey Long (D-LA, 1932-1935)

huey long

Huey “Kingfish” Long, a radical demagogue, earned the title “America’s first dictator” by The Nation.  President Franklin Roosevelt considered him one of the most dangerous men in America (General Douglas MacArther being the other).  He came to prominence in 1928 following his election as governor of Louisiana.  There, Long “turned the state  into his duchy, had made vassals of the state’s legislators,” and continued his corrupt regime by installing a puppet governor in 1932, at which point he ascended to the Senate.

H. L. Mencken referred to Long as a backwoods Mussolini — “impudent, blackguardly and infinitely prehensile.”  Others called him “Der Kingfish,” tying him, none-too-subtly, to Adolf Hitler, then gaining power in Germany.  He fit the bill, controlling Louisiana affairs while serving the Senate.  The Kingfish often returned to Louisiana to push for desired legislation, venturing into the state capitol and forcefully arguing with present legislators.  Long had the state government use patronage as a weapon and did the same with taxation, threatening exorbitant rates and promising kickbacks to businesses that played ball.

His Senate tenure saw Long posture for a bolder goal: The presidency.  Deriding Roosevelt as a puppet of special interests, Long introduced the “Share Our Wealth” program which sought to dramatically redistribute money through maximum incomes and limits on personal wealth (his numbers did not add up).  That morphed into the “Share Our Wealth Society,” a political organization ginning up popular support for a potential 1936 presidential candidacy.  Such goals never came to fruition as a disgruntled doctor murdered Huey Long in 1935.  Sic semper tyrannis.

William Borah (R-ID, 1907-1940)

william borah

Borah served in the Senate for 33 years as a populist Republican and a leading isolationist voice.  He led the so-called Irreconcilables – the senators staunchly opposed to the Treaty of Versailles, which ended World War I.  Together with the Henry Cabot Lodge of Massachusetts and other Republicans, Borah resisted the Fourteen Points and toured the country lambasting America’s involvement in an international organization that hoped to bring the world closer together and truly make World War I the “war to end all wars.”  Ultimately, Borah and his isolationist cohort succeeded in defeating Wilson’s grand liberal goals.

Despite rightfully predicting that the Treaty of Versailles harsh treatment of Germany might hurt the nascent Weimer Republic, when Adolf Hitler rose to power and threatened the new democratic order, Borah, though supposedly horrified by the Nazi’s treatment of Jews, refused to speak out against the regime.  He similarly opposed immigration of Jew from Germany.  Bizarrely, after Germany invaded Czechoslovakia, Borah lambasted Britain and France, not Germany.  In his delusions of grandeur, Borah also believed that had he met with Hitler personally, Hitler would not have invaded Poland and World War II’s onset might have been avoided.

Borah also opposed federal anti-lynching legislation.



Robert Taft (R-OH, 1939-1953)

robert taft

The son of President Howard Taft, Robert Taft made his name as a staunch conservative and opponent to the New Deal, which he labelled “socialist.”  Taft’s opposition to Roosevelt and Democratic initiatives included arguing against American involvement in World War II prior to the Japanese attack on pearl Harbor.  A staunch non-interventionist, Taft fought against all efforts to aid countries at war with Nazi Germany – his leadership in the cause pushed Roosevelt into acting without Congress, finding ways around the legislative branch to help victims of German aggression.  After the war, Taft remained suspicious of, and hoped to demolish, NATO.  He also condemned the Nuremberg Trials that sought to prosecute leading Nazis for crimes against humanity during the Holocaust.



But the absolute worst senators in American history have to be those who joined the Confederacy.

The Confederate senators committed treason by seceding from the Union and supporting a failed nation-state that rose in arms against the federal government.  They abandoned the Constitution and tried to forever divide the country in order to hold humans in bondage and continue an atrocious system of violent white supremacy.  These senators, who will always live in infamy, are:

  • Clement Clay, Jr (AL)
  • Benjamin Fitzpatrick (AL)
  • William Sebastian (AR)
  • Charles Mitchel (AR)
  • David Yulee (FL)
  • Stephen Mallory (FL)
  • Robert Toombs (GA)
  • Alfred Iverson, Sr (GA)
  • Jesse Bright (IN)
  • John Breckinridge (KY)
  • Judah Benjamin (LA)
  • John Slidell (LA)
  • Jefferson Davis (MS)
  • Albert Brown (MS)
  • Waldo Johnson (MO)
  • Trusten Polk (MO)
  • Thomas Bragg (NC)
  • Thomas Clingman (NC)
  • James Chesnut, (SC)
  • James Hammond (SC)
  • Alfred Nicholson (TN)
  • Louis Wigfall (TX)
  • John Hemphill (TX)
  • James Mason (VA)
  • Robert Hunter (VA)

 





theodore bilbo

Theodore Bilbo, a Mississippi Disgrace

Theodore Bilbo (D-MS, 1935-1947)

theodore bilbo racist

Theodore Bilbo, the Mississippi demagogue and likely KKK member, committed his public service tenure to preserving segregation and used all power at his disposal to prevent African Americans from attaining equal civil and political rights.  Bilbo, along with other Southern senators, embarked on one of the Senate’s longest filibusters to prevent passage of an anti-lynching bill, saying (on the Senate floor!) “If you succeed in the passage of this bill, you will open the floodgates of hell in the South. Raping, mobbing, lynching, race riots, and crime will be increased a thousandfold; and upon your garments and the garments of those who are responsible for the passage of the measure will be the blood of the raped and outraged daughters of Dixie, as well as the blood of the perpetrators of these crimes that the red-blooded AngloSaxon white Southern men will not tolerate.”

In that same speech, Bilbo first dabbled with an idea to return all 12 million blacks to Africa.  He introduced legislation to achieve that goal in 1938 and continued pushing for this “repatriation” during the Second World War.  Upon the war’s completion, he added a new target for his vitriol: Jews.  Defeating Nazism apparently didn’t defeat anti-Semitism at home.



Writing to Leonard Golditch, executive secretary of the National Committee to Combat Anti-Semitism, Bilbo ranted that “there are five million Jews in the United States and the majority of them are fine public citizens, but if Jews of your type don’t quit sponsoring and fraternizing with the Negro race you are going to arouse so much opposition that they will get a very strong invitation to pack up and resettle in Palestine, the homeland of the Jews, just as we propose to provide for the voluntary resettlement of the American Negro in West Africa their fatherland. Now do not pop-off and say I am in favor of sending the Jews to Palestine. What I am trying to say to you is that there are just a few of you New York ‘kikes’ that are fraternizing and socializing with the Negroes for selfish and political and if you keep it up you will arouse the opposition of the better class of your race.”

Perhaps most shocking and stomach-churning, Theodore Bilbo published a book in 1946 entitled “Take Your Choice: Separation or Mongrelization.”  The racist manifesto furthered his efforts to popularize deporting all blacks to Africa, preying on racial anxieties and pointing to the “scientific” inferiority of blacks to argue that commingling of the races – which would lead to interracial marriages – would destroy white civilization.  His own words best exemplify the true depths of his hatred and ignorance: “The experiences and history of thousands of years prove that whenever and wherever the white and black man have tried to live side by side the result has been mongrelization which has destroyed both races and left a brown mongrel people.”





roy moore for senate

Roy Moore for Senate? I Think Not.

Voting Roy Moore for Senate Insults the Rule of Law

Perpetual bigot and shocking ignoramus Roy Moore has again dipped his toes into Alabama politics after again being forced off the state’s supreme court.  Unfortunately for the people of Alabama and those of the nation writ large, the Roy Moore for Senate campaign may be on its way to victory over establishment (and President Trump favored) candidate Luther Strange.  But let’s be clear: Supporting Roy Moore for Senate means ignoring his history of ignoring law and acting as if being a justice somehow means he’s immune from following the laws he interpreted.

In 2000, Roy Moore, then a controversial circuit court justice, made his first bid for the Alabama supreme court.  He ran on an avowedly theological platform, arguing the state needed “God [in] our public life [to] restore the moral foundation of our law.”  As any legal scholar should be able to tell you, the Founding Fathers sought a strict separation of church and state, wholly and purposefully keeping God out of public life to maintain a truly secular Republic with moral foundations premised on the rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of property.  His legal and historical shortcomings also transcended to social ignorance as Moore argued that Christianity’s declining influence “corresponded directly with school violence, homosexuality, and crime.”

Moore, despite his contempt for America’s legal foundation and bizarrely incorrect views of religion and its role in society, somehow won his race and proceeded to legislate from the bench, an affront the judiciary’s role in government and a malady conservatives have long claimed to despise.  In D.H. vs. H.H., Moore wrote that the state should use a parent’s sexual orientation to be a deciding factor in refusing custody.  Such a demand did not have precedent in state law, but when it came to potential rights for homosexual individuals, Moore abandoned conservative legal principles and instead, in this case and others, let his moral beliefs define his rulings, acting without regard to state law when it didn’t align with his religious teachings.

God First, Constitution Second

roy moore for senate ten commandmentsHis allegiance stood only to religion, though a judge should value the law and the Constitution above all else.  Shortly after his election, Moore made plans for a large Ten Commandments monument for the Alabama supreme court building, again pointedly ignoring the secular basis of our law and society.  The 5,280 pound behemoth, once constructed, led Moore to declare “today a cry has gone out across our land for the acknowledgment of that God upon whom this nation and our laws were founded. … May this day mark the restoration of the moral foundation of law to our people and the return to the knowledge of God in our land.”  Rather than idolize the state’s constitution, the federal Constitution, or the laws created by man with no divine influence or interference, Moore spent public dollars to erect a testament to his religion and his beliefs, not necessarily those of his peers, state lawmakers, or the entirety of Alabama.

Unsurprisingly — self-evidently, really — his waste of public funds to install a religious monument on state property prompted a lawsuit claiming that the monument “sends a message to all who enter the State Judicial Building that the government encourages and endorses the practice of religion in general and Judeo-Christianity in particular.”  The case, Glassroth v. Moore, presenting damning evidence about how the monument created an environment in which the government had endorsed a religion (a First Amendment violation).  Lawyers of different religious beliefs notably changed their work practices to avoid the religious atmosphere and public prayer the government sanctioned via the monument.

Fealty to a Higher Power

Moore’s defense used not the Constitution, but some supported higher power to which Moore supposed we must all pledge fealty.  He argued that the monument “serves to remind the Appellate Courts and judges of the Circuit and District Court of this State and members of the bar who appear before them, as well as the people of Alabama who visit the Alabama Judicial Building…that in order to establish justice we must invoke ‘the favor and guidance of almighty God.'”  For, Moore claimed, the Ten Commanders are the “moral foundation” of our law and that the monument marked “the beginning of the restoration of the moral foundation of law to our people” by “recogniz[ing] the sovereignty of God
and “acknowledging God’s overruling power over the affairs of men.”  

roy moore removed from office

Of course, the Constitution does not claim divine guidance.  It does not say that only through the grace of a higher being did the document originate.  Our Constitution — the supreme law of the land — came not from a higher power but from the hearts, souls, and brains of the men present at the constitutional convention.  The Constitution is of man and for man, with no loyalty or subservience to a supposed higher power.  We are the sovereigns.

Removal from Office

US District Court Judge Myron Thompson declared the monument violated the Establishment Clause and the First Amendment, making it unconstitutional.  Thompson found that Moore “installed a two-and-a-half ton monument in the most prominent place in a government building, managed with dollars from all state taxpayers, with the specific purpose and effect of establishing a permanent recognition of the ‘sovereignty of God,’ the Judeo-Christian God, over all citizens in this country, regardless of each taxpaying citizen’s individual personal beliefs or lack thereof. To this, the Establishment Clause says no.”  He thus ordered Moore to remove the statue from public grounds (a circuit court agreed with Thompson’s findings).

roy moore for senate 2017Moore ignored the ruling, saying he would not remove the statue even though doing so would cost the citizens of Alabama $5,000 a day (the other state supreme court justices overruled Moore’s decision and moved the statue to a private location).  Refusing to obey the court order from a US judge clearly shows Moore’s contempt for the rule of law.  Because the monument so closely aligned with Moore’s religious beliefs and because the First Amendment prevented him from thrusting his beliefs on Alabama taxpayers, Moore decided that ultimate fealty should be paid to his deity, not to the Constitution he swore to uphold.  Furthermore, Moore revealed that if his personal beliefs told him a superior judge’s ruling fell short, Moore could simply ignore the orders and act as if the law did not apply to him.  He acted lawlessly and with clear disdain for court orders, our judicial system, and the US Constitution.

These actions prompted ethical complaints that culminated in Moore’s forced removal from office as his actions “undercut the entire workings of the judicial system…. What message does that send to the public, to other litigants? The message it sends is: If you don’t like a court order, you don’t have to follow it.”  (He appealed the decision up the state supreme court, but his former peers ruled against him.)

State Supreme Court Justice, Part Two

A decade after his removal, Moore decided to again run for Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court and, despite his earlier removal for lawless actions and clear contempt for the law when it means curtails his efforts to imperialize his beliefs, Alabamans once again elected him to the post.

roy moore for senate

Moore quickly showed that nothing had changed.  He had learned nothing from his first removal from office.  He hadn’t learned about American history or realized that in American law, we follow the Constitution, not an individual judge’s religion.

Roy Moore: Tyrant of the Bench

After a federal court legalized same-sex marriage across a handful of states, Moore refused to enforce the ruling despite falling below the federal court in the judicial hierarchy and illegally demanded state officials and judges to do the same.  A year later, Moore continued his dereliction of duty by ordering Alabama court judges to ignore the Supreme Court’s ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges (which legalized same-sex marriage across the country)

The Alabama state supreme court could not overrule the federal court, let alone the US Supreme Court.  Doing so ever so clearly violates the supremacy clause of the Constitution: “This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding.”  McCulloch v. Maryland further solidified the supremacy clause and underpins the entire American judicial setup.

A rogue justice cannot stand in the way of court orders regardless of his religious convictions.  Doing so ignores and violates the Constitution and describes a tyrant of the bench.

Second Exit from Office

Later that year, the Alabama Judicial Inquiry Commission submitted a list of six charges of ethical violations by Moore to the Alabama Court of the Judiciary.  With Moore suspended, the case proceeded and culminated in recommended removal from office for:

  1. Violation of the Alabama Canon of Judicial Ethics, for disregarding a federal injunction.
  2. Violation of the Alabama Canon of Judicial Ethics, for demonstrated unwillingness to follow clear law.
  3. Violation of the Alabama Canon of Judicial Ethics, for abuse of administrative authority.
  4. Violation of the Alabama Canon of Judicial Ethics, for substituting his judgement for the judgement of the entire Alabama Supreme Court, including failure to abstain from public comment about a pending proceeding in his own court.
  5. Violation of the Alabama Canon of Judicial Ethics, for interference with legal process and remedies in the United States District Court and/or Alabama Supreme Court related to proceedings in which Alabama probate judges were involved.
  6. Violation of the Alabama Canon of Judicial Ethics, for failure to recuse himself from pending proceedings in the Alabama Supreme Court after making public comment and placing his impartiality into question.

Various appeals again provided Moore not hope.  The Alabama supreme court again upheld his term suspension.  Rather than face a second forced removal from office, Roy Moore resigned from his position to run for Senate.

Roy Moore for Senate

Now, Moore easily won first place in the GOP Senate primary’s first round and has a strong chance to win the runoff and likely become Alabama’s next senator.  Somehow, a number of Alabamans think it’s a good idea to vote Roy Moore for Senate despite his decidedly un-American attitudes.  This is a disgrace to the state, the nation, and the rule of law.

Vote Roy Moore for Senate to elect a man whose experiences show such incredible contempt for the law and the Constitution.  Moore, or an individual like him, shouldn’t ever be taken seriously or supported by a single soul.  The Roy Moore for Senate campaign is not one based on American values.  It’s based on Roy Moore’s values.

Moore doesn’t care about the Constitution.  He doesn’t respect the rule of law.  His one loyalty is to religion and, like the colonizers of old, Moore has an imperial attitude wherein his religious theories and beliefs must, at all costs, be thrust upon citizens either through judicial activism or, should the Roy Moore for Senate campaign be successful, intrusively moralistic laws that clearly do not align or follow the Constitution, as Moore should have learned in his two short stints as a justice.

Don’t support Roy Moore for Senate.  Stand for the Constitution and our laws, not the religious delusions of a man inclined towards enforced religious tyranny.







kid rock for senate

The Insanity of Supporting Kid Rock for Senate

Our History Demands Better than Kid Rock for Senate

Believing that the Kid Rock for Senate shadow campaign should be successful – believing that Kid Rock has a place in the Senate – shows nothing but contempt for the Founding Fathers.  Those who created the Senate envisioned a prestigious chamber dominated by political and social elites – those versed in policy, eloquent in speech, and able to create a deliberative chamber removed from the tempests of public will.  The Senate would inspire awe; the country’s finest would fill its ranks and act as true patricians debating on behalf of the states and the country, controlling foreign policy, checking the easily-swayed House of Representatives, and preventing the president from acquiring undue power.

For a while, the senators fulfilled that vision.  Foreign observers such as Alexis de Tocqueville idolized and heralded the American Senate.  Citizens, too, had the utmost admiration for the body.  Visitors often filled the galleys for speeches by renowned oratorsschoolchildren later memorized these very speeches.  Ideas and compromises flowed as great statesmen rose from their desks and embraced the dreams of the Founders.

The Senate has since fallen from its glory.  Corrupt actors have mangled the Senate’s image through demagoguery, process destruction, and using the Senate as a post-Reconstruction and Civil Rights Era tool to maintain systemic white supremacy, especially in the South.  These disgraces, though largely a thing of the past, tarnished the chamber’s image, and rightfully so.



Today’s senators have done little to restore the body to its former glory.  Senators act as puppets of their president.  Voters, too, bear a lion’s share of the blame: They fail to treat the Senate with the seriousness it deserves, which leads to the election of eggheads and process destruction (Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has abused the Senate’s long-standing process during his tenure and has faced no backlash from those charged with holding him accountable).

Voters fail to understand the purpose of the Senate (and, for that matter, the presidency).  Political incursions by know-nothing hobbyists have devalued elected offices and encouraged voters to treat elections as sports and games, not serious matters with long-lasting repercussions (see: Donald Trump’s election).  Such hobbyism among those seeking prestige, power, and profit should be restrained by voters, but instead voters, not taking the Senate seriously, flirt with ludicrous candidates.

Michigan voters exemplify just that.  Kid Rock, profane and ungifted musician who knows nothing about politics, let alone public policy – a hobbyist looking for money whose political ramblings should never be taken seriously – has teased a possible Senate run and already voters have rallied behind the blowhard.  A Trafalgar Group poll found him leading a hypothetical matchup with incumbent Debbie Stabeow by 3 points (49-46).  Kid Rock has no campaign, no discernible policies, and no reason to run for office.  He’s the antithesis of our Founders’ vision for the Senate.



So why do people lust for the idea of Senator Rock?  Because in their delusions of populist supremacy – in the grips of the death of expertise – voters think perceived elites should be scorned while ignorant fools (that is, people who sound like the average voter) supported and touted as the American political ideal.  But that’s idiotic.  We have elites for a reason.  Politics is not easy – nor should it be.  Our country needs public servants committed to the Constitution, to fighting for their constituents and the country as a whole, and to serving selflessly.  We need senators that fit the elitist chamber purposefully created by the Founding Fathers.

Republican officeholders and party leaders must also be ravaged for their role in promoting pathetic political hobbyism and degrading our once-valued and estimable institutions.  Worthless Vichy Republicans fell in line behind Donald Trump, a true demagogue, bigot, and obvious threat to liberal democracy and our existing democratic institutions.  That didn’t stop them.  Rick Perry, who called Trump a “cancer on conservatism,” now serves in Trump’s cabinet.



This trend continues with Kid Rock.  Texas governor and human abomination Greg Abbott loves the idea of “shaking up Washington” by electing Kid Rock.  Former New York governor and brief presidential afterthought George E. Pataki also endorsed Kid Rock for Senate.  Pataki’s support makes no sense considering he has no future in electoral politics.  In other words, he has nothing to gain by supporting Rock; without ulterior motive, it may simply be concluded that Pataki, too, has failed to study our founding.

Anyone who’s studied our history and cares about our institutions would be embarrassed to support Kid Rock for Senate.  And yet here we are, awaiting the decision of a fool, one that could see a further tragic American political development and a new low point in the Senate’s fall from grace.

donald trump russia sanctions

Donald Trump Hates the Constitutional Separation of Powers

He Wants Congress to be Impotent

Donald Trump has proved time and time again that he’s no fan of the separation of powers.  He sees the presidency as an authoritarian figure, one who wields all of the nation’s power and who through unilateral action can shape policy and make decisions with immediate impact.  These delusional visions have of course met with reality.  Our Constitution divides power among three branches, with the legislative first of the equal.  Trump’s found himself and his goals blocked or slowed by Congress.  And he’s no fan of that.

At various points in his presidency, Trump has sought to rebalance governing power by exerting his authority over members of Congress.  This stems from his campaign rhetoric, a central of theme of which held that he alone could fix the nation’s problems.  Those words had no room for Congress to act; in fact, Trump seemed to entirely forget the institution, figuring that, if elected, he would be the one true sovereign.  Now, as the executive, he’s tried to subvert a coequal branch by continually threatening lawmakers who dare oppose his agenda or stand up to him.

Most recently, after signing into law sanctions against Russia stemming from the country’s interference in our election – a fact which Trump continues to deny – Trump continued his frightening assault on the separation of powers, writing “I built a truly great company worth many billions of dollars. That is a big part of the reason I was elected.  As President, I can make far better deals with foreign countries than Congress.”

First of all, Trump greatly overstates his deal making ability.  His riches, contrary to what he says, stem from inheritance.  In fact, Trump is multiple billions of dollars poorer than he would be had he passively invested his inheritance rather than trying to play businessman.  Trump’s declared bankruptcy numerous times and nearly ran a casino into the ground (his father bailed him out by illegally infusing the casino with $3,000,000 in chips to circumvent lending regulations).  Not to mention other failed ventures, such as Trump Steak, Trump Airlines, Trump Magazine, Trump Water, and Trump Vodka.  Or the times he’s been sued for stiffing contractors.  No, Trump is not a great dealmaker.



Trump’s continued fabrication about his deal making prowess, however, is not the worrying part of his statement.  The second sentence, in which he touts his unilateral ability to make better deals than all of Congress, fundamentally attacks the separation of powers and seeks to delegitimize Congress, its ability, and its lawmaking authority.

The Founding Fathers gave Congress, especially the Senate, broad authority over legislative affairs, including foreign policy (there’s a reason the president must seek senatorial ratification for treaties).  Congress has an explicit prerogative to regulate foreign commerce, a central component of foreign policy.  Yet Trump’s words undermine the separation of powers by implying that he alone should be charged with foreign affairs and Congress should either cede to him all authority in that front or simply rubber-stamp all of his decisions.  The words reek of contempt for Congress.  He yearns for unilateral authority unchecked and unquestioned by another governing branch.  In other words, he wants – and feels entitled to – a fundamental overhaul of the separation of powers simply because of his self-assumed greatness.

Trump’s statement also seeks to delegitimize Congress by implying the body is incompetent when it comes to foreign affairs – and its incompetence means America is worse off than had Congress simply sat back and allowed Trump to work his magic.  This implication serves only to undermine any actions taken by Congress by leading people to immediately doubt any congressional creation, especially when it comes to foreign relations.  Why should I trust Congress when the president himself has said the body is ineffectual when it comes to making deals?  Why not just let Trump make deals and pass legislation?  Why bother with Congress at all?



Lastly, Congress worked in a bipartisan and nearly unanimous fashion to craft these Russian sanctions, yet Trump nonetheless attacked the reason, ability, and effect of Congress’s work.  Rarely do all members of Congress come together for something as important as the Russia sanctions – if the president claims that 99 percent of Congress can’t work together to do something as well as he could alone, how bad must be the laws passed by a bare majority?  It implies that the bipartisan work of Congress cannot ever match the abilities of the president himself, a rather dictatorial sentiment.  Trump’s saying that Congress, working in near unanimity to fulfill its explicit constitution duties, should not be making laws because the deals struck are subpar, especially when compared to what he could do.  And that’s dangerous because it no longer assumes Congress should proactively perform its fundamental duties; rather, Congress should wait for the president to act and only follow the whims of the enlightened, dear leader.

This rhetoric should not be tolerated by any lawmaker who loves the Constitution.  Attacks on Congress’s legitimacy and authority to carry out its constitution prerogatives should never be made by the president and never accepted by members of Congress.  Representatives and senators should band together to unanimously pass a joint resolution stating the legislative branch’s authority to pass laws pertaining to foreign relations and issue a stern warning to the president: Undermine Congress at your own peril; your support is fleeting, the Constitution is forever.

lindsey graham donald trump

What’s Wrong with Lindsey Graham?

The warmongerer somehow applauds the Commander-in-Chief for his uncertainty, volatility, and utter ignorance.

Senator Lindsey Graham prided himself in being an outspoken Donald Trump critic throughout the 2016 election, primary and general. He routinely slammed Trump for his position on immigration, proposed Muslim ban, and general attitude towards the military, partisan competitors, and democratic norms. But then Trump became president and Graham changed his tune.

Graham prides himself in extensive foreign policy knowledge. His outlook, though hawkish, often has sense: A strong – and constitutional – response to Bashar al-Assad’s war crimes and increased manpower in the fight against ISIS would be go for the world. Effective foreign policy, however, cannot be carried out when the administration has no clear message or outlook.

The Madman Theory

The madman theory of foreign policy does not work. Trump has stumbled onto this practice likely without realizing it; his gross incompetency and lack of foreign policy understanding – a fact he demonstrated time and again during the campaign – leads to his administration often issuing conflicting remarks about crises or other happenings and operating without a clear vision for the role and America’s place in it.

This uncertainty and volatility driven by Trump’s frightening ability to change his mind within hours, given that he sees a picture or two, hurts America’s image and creates a less stable world. Adversaries, fearing spontaneous reaction from Trump, have every reason to stockpile arms so they can retaliate to the unexpected. It’s a form of insurance – you never know when Trump may launch a strike against your country, so it’s best to have the weapons ready to retaliate in a meaningful way. North Korea’s already following this strategy.



kim jong un madman
Do we want out president to adopt the same foreign policy theory as this dictator?

Resultant Arms Races

Basic game theory teaches us that a military buildup in one country leads to similar actions in neighboring and adversarial states; research and history tells us that arms races make violent conflict more likely. In other words, Trump’s instability and unpredictability ignites a logical chain reaction that risks global conflict.

Why, then does, Lindsey Graham support such uncertainty and applaud the conflicting foreign policy lines offered by different members of the Trump administration?

Party Before Country

Perhaps Graham hopes that Trump’s instability will lead to war and through that war, despotic regimes in Syria, Iran, and North Korea will be overthrown. Perhaps Graham doesn’t understand the potential ramifications of pushing North Korea into further developing its weaponry (a true worry as South Korea and Japan could easily be his with even rudimentary nuclear weapons). Or perhaps Graham hopes that by praising Trump’s foreign policy decisions – even those announced on Twitter or which actively undermine the maneuverings of his Secretary of State or Ambassador of the United Nations – might help Graham join the cabinet if ever there’s a staff shakeup.

Understanding motives, of course, proves no easy task. Graham’s actions, though, undermine his campaign posturing as a continuing thorn in Trump’s side, a voice of reason emerging from the cacophony of a party kowtowing to its adopted leader. He’s rewarding and encouraging behavior that makes America less safe. If he cared about good foreign policy, Graham would be a close ally of Rex Tillerson or Nikki Haley and would constantly pressure the administration to better coordinate with its foreign policy speakers – those who at least understand the value of a discernible American position and who don’t recklessly bumble about on Twitter deriding happenings they don’t understand.



In short, Graham’s praising a madman who doesn’t understand foreign policy and whose actions undermine our interests abroad. He’s returning the respect, credibility, and admirability he earned on the campaign trail when he bothered to call out Trump’s actions. Graham has now receded into the typical and destructive Vichy Republican position: Bow to Trump and challenge him on nothing. Reward recklessness and pray for the best.

us senate apportionment

Why U.S. Senate Apportionment Matters

This question has its foundation in legal history. During the constitutional convention, James Madison proposed Senate apportionment based on population rather than equality among the several states.  Alexander Hamilton joined Madison in calling for proportional representation, claiming that equal representation despite population inequality “shocks too much the ideas of justice and every human feeling” (The Avalon Project 2008).  This issue incited the most debate in the convention and threatened the creation of the Constitution.  Delegates were deeply divided on the issue and many small states let it be known that they would leave the convention should Madison’s plan be adopted.  That said, Madison and Hamilton had early success – state delegations originally voted 6-5 to implement proportional representation for the Senate. However, small states later reopened the issue and, with the votes of a few medium and large states, successfully adopted equal representation of states in the Senate.  In return, the House would be apportioned based on population.  This, along with other concessions between the two sides, resulted in the Great Compromise that held the convention together.

It is unlikely that the Founding Fathers anticipated the population disparity we see today.  After the convention, the smallest state – Delaware – had a little more than 8 percent of the largest state’s population.  Today Wyoming, the nation’s smallest state, has around 1.5 percent of California’s population.  Figure 1 plots the smallest state’s percentage of the largest state’s population as well as those states’ populations over time (note that the population of the smallest state barely registers on the graph).  The left-hand y-axis denotes state population while the right-hand y-axis shows the total population percentage of the largest and smallest states; the gray line represents the smallest-largest state population percentage, attained simply by dividing the smallest state’s population by that of the largest.

senate apportionment

Figure 1: The blue line denote the largest state’s population (left-hand axis) and the orange lines – barely noticeable – show the population of the smallest state.  The grey line depicts the smallest-largest state ratio.  Numbers derived from the U.S. Census and InfoPlease.com.



Relative Senate representation is inversely related to state population.  As the smallest-largest population percentage decreases, representational inequality increases.  Over time, small states gained power over their larger counterparts as they maintained an equal voice in the Senate as their share of total population and largest-state population percentage shrank.  This can also be seen by examining whether state population percentage equates to its share of Senate seats.  Based on a one person, one vote principle, a state’s share of legislative seats will equal its share of the population.  Clearly, based on Figure 2, the Senate fails to meet such standards.

us senate apportionment one person one vote

Figure 2: Blue lines show the nation’s population share of the largest state and the orange lines, again hardly noticeable, show the population share the nation’s smallest state.  The grey lines picture each state’s Senate seat share.  Numbers again derived from Census data

The blue lines denote the population percentage of the largest state, the orange line the population percentage of the smallest state, and the grey line shows each state’s share of Senate seats.  Under perfect one person, one vote representation, the three lines should be equal.  Obviously, that is not the case.



Population inequality isn’t limited to the two extreme states – the unequal distribution of people across the country results in numerous low population states capable of controlling the Senate.  The smallest possible coalition that could sit 51[1] Senators consists of 26 states[2] comprising 55 million people, or about 17 percent of the total population.  By comparison, California and Texas – the two most populous states – have 64 million people but only four Senators.  A 60 seat supermajority can be attained through the votes of 72 million people, or 22 percent of the population.  While such coalitions are currently unlikely to happen – the likelihood that liberal Vermont elects senators from the same party (and with the same ideology) as deep-red Wyoming in the current political environment approaches zero – this examples demonstrates the extent to which the American senate can subjected to minority rule.  Considering the collapse of the two major parties onto the left-right ideological spectrum (McCarty, Poole, and Rosenthal 2006; Noel 2013), a small percentage of the population can impose their ideological tendencies onto the majority of Americans, either by electing a majority of Senators or enough to sustain procedural roadblocks (i.e., a filibuster).  Though political scientists have studied the impact of institutional design on the distribution of federal funds and representation of parties, they have not fully delved into how the Senate’s apportionment scheme impacts absolute party numbers and ideological composition of the chamber, and ultimately, how this affects policymaking.

Literature

In Reynolds v. Sims, Chief Justice Earl Warren found that the principle of one person, one vote serves as a basic democratic tenet.  It implies the inherent equality of all voices in a polity – regardless of class, gender, race, creed, religion, or geographic location, everyone has one equally weighted vote used as the ultimate show of support for a candidate or idea.  Chief Justice Earl Warren described the Court’s foray into the “political thicket” from which it decided that it had jurisdiction over redistricting cases despite their political nature (Baker v. Carr 1964), paving the way for the “one person, one vote” doctrine (Reynolds v. Sims 1964), as his tenure’s most influential decision (Ansolabehere and Snyder 2008).[3]  Yet despite the theoretic and legal justifications for one person, one vote, the American Senate does not – and cannot, per Article V of the Constitution – subscribe to the standard.  Given the vast state population disparities, there is sizable representational (and thus electoral) inequality in the Senate (Lee and Oppenheimer 1999; Griffin 2006).  On a one person, one vote basis, the Senate is the most malapportioned legislative chamber in the world (Lijphart 1984).

This representational inequality has the potential to generate undemocratic policy outcomes.  Overrepresentation of the least-populous states skews distributive outcomes by ensuring that small states receive larger amounts of federal dollars per capita than do large states (Lee 1999, 2000).  Senate apportionment also effects coalition building.  Those seeking to form a minimal winning coalition will seek to “buy” small state support rather than large state support because it is cheaper to earn small state backing.  For instance, a Senator seeking to pass a transportation appropriation will likely turn to small state Senators for support, wooing them with promises of money that, given the state’s small size, amount to little of the bill’s proposed budget.  Large states, having more roads than small states, would require a larger appropriation share, lowering the amount the sponsor could bring to his or her home state, thus making large state Senators unattractive coalition partners (Lee 1999, 2000).  Coalition strategies owing to Senate apportionment benefit small states and hurt large states (Lee 2000).



Following the Baker v. Carr and Reynolds v. Sims Supreme Court decisions ( 369 U.S. 186 (1962) and  377 U.S. 533 (1964), respectively), state legislatures adopted apportionment based on population, generating a natural case study to assess whether equal geographic representation noticeably and significantly impacts public policy.  Prior to the Supreme Court’s decisions, most state legislatures found themselves malapportioned – through deliberate efforts to thwart redistricting, rural counties often held disproportionate seat shares and thus had undue power and influence on state fund transfers.  Many rural counties thus received state funds per person than did urban counties.  When state legislatures moved to representation by population after Baker and Reynolds, state fund transfers largely matched population percentages (Ansolabehere and Snyder 2008).  Urban counties did not dominate the state purse, a fear many state legislators expressed during a House committee hearing regarding a constitutional amendment to allow states to choose how to apportion legislative chambers (Apportionment of State Legislatures: Hearing before the Committee on the Judiciary 1964).  While this does not speak directly to the Senate or Senate vote outcomes, it demonstrates that changing the apportionment scheme has substantial effects on public policy that would likely be borne out in the Senate.

Existing literature pens a persuasive analysis of the normative importance of one person, one vote and the distributional results of the Senate’s failure to adhere to the principle.  However, there has yet to be an extensive study into how Senate apportionment impacts Senate vote outcome and legislation ideology (i.e., content).  Existing research suggests that Senate apportionment does tend to overrepresent minority parties (Lee and Oppenheimer 1999, Griffin 2006), but may not have an effect on ideological representation (Griffin 2006).  The latter point likely needs to be revisited: since Griffin’s study the South and the Northeast have increasingly moved to single-party dominance.[4]  Furthermore, the continued collapse of party lines onto left-right ideology[5] (McCarty, Poole, and Rosenthal 2006; Noel 2013) furthers the likelihood that the over or underrepresentation of a party corresponds to the over/underrepresentation of an ideology.  The degree to which such representational disparities will hopefully be exposed in my research, which seeks to expand on existing studies by delving into Senate design and determining how it impacts vote and policy outcomes.



Analyzing senatorial outcomes and comparing them to the hypothetical Senate with proportional representation allows us to see the impact of rural overrepresentation in votes and legislation ideology. Recognizing the impact of equal representation in the upper chamber of Congress is crucial in assessing whether the Founding Fathers, in their strides to bolster equality in preference, perversely created a system in which the residents of the least-populous states can exert undue impact on national affairs. After all, can America truly be considered democratic if the will of the many is subverted by that of the few?

[1] Well, 52 given that each state elects two Senators

[2] Obviously

[3] To put this in perspective: Chief Justice Warren wrote the majority opinion in Brown v. Board of Education, which found school segregation to be unconstitutional

[4] In the 107th Senate, the last included in Griffin’s analysis, there were nine southern Democrats and six New England Republicans.  Today, those numbers are one and two, respectively.

[5] Across many political areas, including economics, race, and culture.