The structure of the Senate has not always favored Republicans. But in recent decades, heavily white and rural communities have moved to the political right. Because these communities dominate many small states, and because small states enjoy a lot of power in the Senate, it now has a large pro-Republican bias.
So how have Democrats nonetheless won control of the Senate, allowing them to pass an ambitious bill last week that will reduce poverty, lift middle-class incomes, cut the cost of health insurance and more? There are two main answers.
First, the Democratic Party has been the more popular political party nationwide for most of the past three decades, and this national edge sometimes allows it to overcome the Senate’s built-in bias. Last year, Joe Biden won the popular vote by 4.4 percentage points. That was enough for him to win exactly half of the country’s 50 states and for Democratic Senate candidates to flip seats in Arizona and Georgia.
The second answer is more succinct: Joe Manchin and Jon Tester.
Manchin, a Democratic senator from West Virginia, and Tester, a Democratic senator from Montana, have managed a remarkable feat in today’s polarized political atmosphere. They have won elections in states that usually vote by wide margins for the other party. The only other current politician with a similar track record is Susan Collins, a Republican senator from Maine.
defeated and how successful the president would be at putting federal judges on the bench.
Manchin, who is 73, is a frequent subject of criticism from the political left. A recent example involved his insistence that the relief bill increase unemployment benefits by less than most Democrats favored — a stance that will hurt some of Manchin’s own constituents, as critics noted. Another example, as Bloomberg’s Joshua Green recently recalled: “His 2010 Senate victory was powered by a memorable television ad in which the NRA-endorsed Manchin pulled out a rifle and shot Barack Obama’s climate bill, vowing, ‘I’ll always defend West Virginia.’”
occasional, high-profile breaks with the Democratic Party allow him to overcome the party’s terrible image there and win elections. He often does not even demand large policy changes: The final virus relief bill was nearly identical in size to Biden’s initial proposal.