John Oliver on the Need to Reform America's Undemocratic Institutions - Rolling Stone
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John Oliver Sounds the Alarm on the Need to Overhaul Senate, Electoral College

“We’re at the end of a generational battle and the heartbreaking thing is, we lost,” Last Week Tonight host says, as Supreme Court faces a rightward lurch

With the Supreme Court primed to take a rightward lurch, John Oliver highlighted the dire need for a drastic overhaul of several increasingly undemocratic American institutions on Last Week Tonight.

The segment was prompted by the death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and the nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett. Republicans are eager to confirm Barrett before the November 3rd elections, and Oliver played clips of several top Senators — including Ted Cruz, Josh Hawley and Tom Cotton — arguing that they are simply acting on the “mandate” they were given when Republicans won the White House and retained control of the Senate in 2016 and 2018.

But Oliver argued that neither the Senate nor the presidency are “nearly as reflective of the will of the American people” as Republicans suggest. The electoral college and the nature of the Senate ultimately allow less-populated, more white, rural and conservative states to wield significant power. Oliver cited a study that said the Senate gives the average black American only 75% as much representation as the average white American, while Hispanic American has only 55% as much.

“And it’s clearly not great when the best thing you can say about your representative democracy is, ‘Hey, at least black people got about three-fifths this time,’” Oliver spat. “‘At this rate, they can count as 100% of a white person as early as 2408. Onwards and upwards, black people, you truly are an inspiration to Hispanic half-people everywhere.’”

Oliver discussed a handful of potential reforms that start with Democrats winning back both the White House and Senate, but rely on them having the political courage to actually enact them. Among the various solutions being floated are statehood for Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico to make the Senate more representative; dropping the electoral college for a national popular vote; and enacting term limits for Supreme Court Justices and potentially packing the Court with more judges.

Oliver acknowledged that each of these reforms comes with risks and that there would be significant pushback from the right. But he was was adamant about the need to start fighting now.

“We’re at the end of a generational battle and the heartbreaking thing is, we lost,” Oliver said. “And that hurts. It’s gonna hurt for a long time, for a lot of people, in ways that could take a while to fully comprehend. But the next battle has to start right now — and it will be long. We didn’t get here overnight and we won’t get out of here overnight. But we must be willing to fight tirelessly and with every tool and tactic at our disposal.”

 

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