Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), whose party is at one of the weakest positions it has been in more than a century, grasped at straws this week in trying to argue the Republicans lack a mandate to govern.
The liberal firebrand’s speech on the Senate floor on Monday night got a fair amount of attention for its attacks on a Republican-backed medical research bill that she lambasted as a giveaway to big pharmaceutical companies.
“The majority of voters supported Democratic Senate candidates over Republican ones.”
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Less noticed was Warren’s argument that a party that won the White House and maintained control of the Senate and House of Representatives this month lacks majority support. She noted Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton’s win in the national popular vote, a largely meaningless distinction considering that the U.S. system determines the presidency through the Electoral College.
Then Warren made an even goofier argument to bolster her claim — Democratic Senate candidates won more votes nationwide than Republicans.
“Republicans are taking over Congress,” she said. “They are taking over the White House, but Republicans do not have majority support in this country. The majority of voters supported Democratic Senate candidates over Republican ones.”
The claim is technically true, but even more meaningless than Clinton’s popular vote victory. Democratic Senate candidates did, indeed, win about 9 million more votes than Republican Senate hopefuls. But what significance is that considering only a third of the upper chamber is up for election in any election year?
It just so happened that large, Democratic-leaning states had races this year. New York and California, for instance, both had races while large, Republican-leaning Texas did not.
What’s more, California accounted for the entire margin, and due to the quirky election system used in that state, there were no Republicans on the ballot. The relatively new system features a free-for-all primary open to all candidates. The top two finishers then square off in the general election. As it happened, the top two vote-getters in the first round were Democrats, so both of the candidates on Nov. 8 added to the Democratic total nationwide.
Millions of Californians likely would have voted for the GOP Senate candidate, had there been one.
But that didn’t stop Warren from trying to argue that the results of this month’s election, that left her party in the minority, actually indicates that the American people are with her.
“The American people didn’t give Democrats majority support so we can come back to Washington and play dead,” she said. “They didn’t send here to whimper, whine, or grovel. They sent us here to say ‘no’ to efforts to sell Congress to the highest bidder.”