Of all the threats facing the republic, few seem so great as the lawmaker who lacks even a third grader's understanding of U.S. civics.
Democratic New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez falsely claimed this week that she represents more people than Democratic West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin. Worse, she suggested there’s something wrong with Congress because the wants of her congressional district don’t carry equal weight in the Senate.
Manchin announced this weekend he is a "no" on President Joe Biden’s multitrillion-dollar social spending and climate change bill.
Incensed, Ocasio-Cortez, who works in a separate chamber of Congress, attacked the senator later on MSNBC, decrying his failure to serve the people of New York’s 14th Congressional District.
"The idea that Joe Manchin says he can't explain this back home to his people is a farce," the congresswoman said.
It’s a “farce," she continued, because insofar as pure democracy is concerned, “I represent more or ... just as many or more people than Joe Manchin does. Perhaps more."
Again, Manchin represents the state of West Virginia, which has a population of roughly 1,793,716, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Ocasio-Cortez, on the other hand, represents a single congressional district, which has a population of roughly 696,664.
But Ocasio-Cortez’s remarks aren’t a failure of basic math (or research). They’re a failure of basic civics.
The congresswoman works in the House, which represents the electorate by population. Manchin works in the Senate, which represents the interests of the state. This is by design, as, again, most third graders can tell you. The entire point of the Senate is to protect the states from the tyranny of the majority.
Even if the population of Ocasio-Cortez’s district was greater than the state of West Virginia, which it isn't, the purpose of the Senate is to ensure West Virginia has as much say in Congress as New York. The Senate is the mechanism by which every state is protected from being steamrolled by states with denser populations. The Senate protects West Virginia from New York as much as it protects Rhode Island from Texas.
While we’re at it, it’s worth noting a recent YouGov survey found 53% of West Virginians support scrapping Biden’s social spending and climate change bill. A mere 32% said they support Congress passing the bill.
Meanwhile, at MSNBC, Ocasio-Cortez continued to rail against Manchin, claiming the Senate must be reformed because it doesn’t operate as a pure democracy. (This is the point!)
“It is unconscionable,” she said, “the way that the Senate operates. It's fundamentally undemocratic.”
Ocasio-Cortez continued, adding there needs to be a “crackdown on the Senate" and that someone needs to "implement some institutional discipline."
"We cannot allow ... the climate crisis to become a catastrophe,” she said, “which is what is represented right now with this bill going by the wayside or being trimmed down any further. Because, as I've said in the House Democratic caucus, some of us are actually going to have to live on this planet in 50 years, and ... what happens right now determines how bad it's going to be.”
Personally, I think the more immediately pressing matter is that an increasing number of federal officeholders apparently have no idea how the federal government works. Power and ignorance are a dangerous combination.