The Popular Vote Thing

The spreading of the popular vote notion from presidential politics to senatorial, here on Anchor Rising, has brought out the shadow of a key principle that is in danger of being forgotten in our coastal parochialism.
The U.S. Senate is constructed as it is partly to capitalize on the diversity of a (small-r) republican nation. The states aren’t merely political units; they are somewhat independent cultures unto themselves.
In other words, for the Senate and the President both, folks from different regions will have different perspectives, not just different political and economic motives, and that true diversity is crucial to the strength and progress of the United States.

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mrh
mrh
13 years ago

Independent cultures is fine… that’s what state government for. I just don’t, personally, believe that the interest of a person from Rhode Island, or Wyoming, or North Dakota is worth more than that of a person from California or New York.

Mike
Mike
13 years ago

Independent cultures is fine… that’s what state government for. I just don’t, personally, believe that the interest of a person from Rhode Island, or Wyoming, or North Dakota is worth more than that of a person from California or New York.
XXX
Your beef, as so often with Leftists, is with the Founders.
All the debate is academic. There is no way the small-state Senators will ever vote themselves out of jobs.

Thomas
Thomas
13 years ago

Justin,
Your point about diversity is well-taken. For a view that this has a dangerous flip-side, I recommend reading James Madison’s “Vices of the Political System of the United States”. It is in part about the dangers of a multiplicity of states. In particular, it’s about how those state cultures can become insular and corrupt and dangerous to the liberty of their citizens. It’s a good companion to Federalist #10.
Also, it has something to say about why we might expect smaller states to be more corrupt.

Thomas
Thomas
13 years ago

Mike,
Which founders? James Madison, for instance did not support the Senate. His Congress would have represented all states proportionately. Many delegates to the Constitutional Convention agreed with him. Small state delegates would have preferred equal state representation. In the end, neither won completely, and instead we got the Connecticut Compromise.
Abolishing the Senate would requre a constitutional amendment, and the framers laid out a procedure for that. There’s nothing anti-framer about amending the constitution to abolish the Senate or anything else, except Article V itself.
But, I agree totally with you that the way the ART V amending process works means that this amendment will never pass.

Andrew
13 years ago

Thomas,
But Madison was from Virginia, which was a big state at the time.
The small states wouldn’t have joined the Union, if the Connecticut compromise hadn’t been implemented. Now it seems as if the big states want to renege on the deal.

Thomas
Thomas
13 years ago

I agree, Andrew, that our senate was born of a political compromise, a “deal” as you say. But ART V says that that deal can be re-written any time 3/4 of the states agree! There is nothing immoral or illegal about it.
That’s not to say it would be a good idea, just that we can debate the policy without worrying about the framers, other than that they may have made good arguments that we should think about.
Being from VA may have made madison more favorable to proprtional representation, but he made some very good arguments for it, which are worth reading.

Andrew
13 years ago

Thomas,
But part of the problem with the current NPV movement is that they want to re-write the deal without amending the Constitution (which will eventually present problems because of the 14th amendment, which prohibits states from using quirky schemes to override the choices made by voters within a state).
On the other hand, there would be no Constitutional questions if the country chose to either increase the size of the House of Representatives, or if some of the bigger states decided to sub-divide into smaller ones (ala Massachusetts and Maine).

mrh
mrh
13 years ago

Your beef, as so often with Leftists, is with the Founders.

Not sure why you have to be a jerk about it, with the crack at “Leftists,” but of course my beef is with the Founders. So? The Founders weren’t infallible.

Justin Katz
13 years ago

Clearly there’s a compromise to be made; it oversimplifies things to calculate election results and declare it unfair that “a person from Rhode Island, or Wyoming, or North Dakota” counts more heavily than a New Yorker. It’s also true that there are ideological and practical regional averages that differ across the country, so large states have an inherent advantage. (One wouldn’t want the coastal states to be able to declare Mississippi as the country’s landfill.)
So, we’ve got the more proportional house, the state-based senate, and an Electoral College system that seeks to balance the other representative branch (i.e., executive) in a similar manner.

Thomas
Thomas
13 years ago

Andrew,
Ah. Didn’t realize you were talking about the current NPV movement. Hmm..
The Constitution leaves the allocation of electoral votes up to the state legislature, does it not?. That’s why Maine and Nebraska use a district system rather than “winner takes all”.
On the other hand, I can see the 14th Amendment problem under the Court’s “one-person-one-vote” rulings.
Interesting….I will have to read more. Thanks.

Thomas
Thomas
13 years ago

I have to confess that a mental block made me forget an important clause in ART V when I said the Senate could be amended out of the Constitution.
ART V has two “no amendment shall” provisions, one relating to the slave trade and the other to the Senate:
“provided that no amendment which may be made prior to the year one thousand eight hundred and eight shall in any manner affect the first and fourth clauses in the ninth section of the first article; and that no state, without its consent, shall be deprived of its equal suffrage in the Senate.”
Thus, the Senate seems to have been made non-amendable. I think there’s an interesting question whether this is actualy binding. What if we first amend ART V to eliminate this clause, and then amend the Senate?
However, as pointed out earlier, there is no way that the 13 smaller states won’t block an effort to eliminate the senate or change it’s basis to proportional representation, so it’s pretty much a theoretical question only..

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