THE BLOG

Abolish the Senate, Starting With Some Whittling

09/19/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011
  • Rob Kall Host, Bottom-up Radio Show WNJC 1360, publisher, OpEdNews.com positivepsychology.net and Storycon.org

Image adapted from Wikipedia

Seeing the way a handful of senators are serving their health industry contributors better than they are their constituents, or the health of the nation, it is clear the US Senate itself needs some major surgery.

The United States has the world's oldest living democracy. It is a problem. We are stuck with a House of Congress that utterly fails to fairly represent the people, giving disgracefully disproportionate power to a handful of people.

I realize it is nearly impossible to get rid of the Senate but someone should be talking about what a worthless body, or worse, the negative impact it has on democracy, freedom and justice.

We need some kind of replacement that is more representative, more responsive to changes -- where the people elected are replaced far more often. At the recent Netroots Nation conference a number of activists basically said they'd given up on influencing the Senate because they couldn't see a way to reach these granite icons, installed for six long years, massively protected with incumbency and the backing of their parties.

Elected officials should never be allowed to become such monolithic entities, unaccountable to their constituents.

It's time to eliminate the Senate, to update the constitution. This will not ride well in the smaller states. They will fight it. Perhaps it is totally impossible. One way to address it is to make it an issue, so every member of the senate has to take a stand on it. Another way to address it is to change the term length for Senators. Make it the same as for members of the House. At least that will make the Senators more accountable.

Another way to increase Senator accountability is to remove all private campaign financing. We need to do this asap. If we can't eliminate an archaic, undemocratic institution we can at least make it more democratic. Unfortunately, we have almost 100 self-interested officials who will do all they can to protect their power. I'd love to hear from any Senator or his staffer with any inclinations towards correcting the problems I address.

After all, what I'm doing is suggesting that 100 jobs be eliminated, probably replaced with a more parliamentary approach which would create even more jobs, but with a bit less job security. And my fallback position absolutely calls for an intentional decrease in job security. Matter of fact, there should be mandatory Senate term limits. Cut the terms in half and allow a maximum of three terms of three years each.

America needs representatives who are responsive to their constituents. We don't have that any more in the Senate and we need to get it back. Firedoglake is polling legislators, on video, to see where they stand on the public option. We should do the same on the future of the senate. Which Senators would be willing to let go of some of their security for the good of all American constituents?

We can't dismantle the senate any time soon. But we can start whittling away the worst aspects of the Senate by calling for shorter terms and term limits. We can pull corporate and party funding out of the equation and require races to be run strictly using public funding. America deserves a lot better than the out of date, doddering, unrepresentative system we currently have and, while it is probably impossible to replace it, we can do some clear things to make it better than it currently is. America deserves better.