Ask Americans what they think about the state of our nation presently, and a good handful, if not most, will tell you what they’d like to see fixed. One former lawmaker, a man who served in Congress longer than any other person in its history, is offering his opinions on what should change to make the business of government more well-respected.
John Dingell, who served for 59 years as a Democrat representing his House district in Michigan, penned an op-ed for the Atlantic in which he laid out a series of ideas — ideas that he hopes will make people less cynical about how laws are made in our nation’s capital.
“I am an old man. My age bears with it a responsibility to share what I’ve witnessed so that future generations avoid making the same mistakes,” Dingell stated in his opinion piece.
Dingell said one of his biggest disappointments over the years was witnessing how Americans have lowered their opinion of the federal government since he first took office. In 1958, one poll showed, as he said, that 73 percent of citizens had confidence that lawmakers would “do the right thing always or most of the time.” A similar poll in 2017, however, showed that number had been reduced to 18 percent.
What can be done to change the trend? Dingell laid out a series of reforms that he said would benefit the country at large. Among them, he wants to see automatic voter registration happen — without an ID requirement — for every American who turns 18. He also cited the need to get rid of money in politics, providing candidates with a publicly-funded means to get their messages to voters. And he also said that it was important to stop decrying the press as “fake news,” as the current president frequently does.
“We cannot restore respect to our institutions of government until we put an end to the systematic attacks on journalism that have become prevalent,” Dingell wrote.
Likely the most radical of his notions in his opinion piece, however, was his call to put an end to a long-established institution: ending the Senate itself, ensuring that the House of Representatives would be the only chamber in Congress.
Dingell explained that the Senate was put in place to ensure small states like Rhode Island would be able to stand up to bigger states when the republic was first established. But that was back when there were only 4 million citizens in the nation — now, with more than 325 million Americans, the Senate made little to no sense in his mind.
He cited an unfair disadvantage in the Senate for states like California as an example:
“California has almost 40 million people, while the 20 smallest states have a combined population totaling less than that. Yet because of an 18th-century political deal, those 20 states have 40 senators, while California has just two.”
Dingell was realistic in his op-ed, recognizing that many, if not most, wouldn’t support his calls to abolish the Senate. But he also recognized it was a movement that could gain popular, grassroots support.
“[I]t has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it? ‘Abolish the Senate,'” Dingell wrote. “I’m having blue caps printed up with that slogan right now,” he added, referencing the red “Make America Great Again” hats that were popular during President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign.