Imbalance of Power


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154 Responses

  1. Drew says:

    Thoughts: that is how the Senate works. The House is the body that is representative of population. (Of course, it’s not, because of Republican gerrymandering.)Report

    • superdestroyer in reply to Drew says:

      I find it odd that progressives and Democrats want to blame the Republicans for the existence of the majority-minority districts are draw to elect very liberal black or Hispanic Democrat.

      If the Democrats were willing to break up the CBC and CHC districts, the Democrats would win more states and minorities would benefit in the long run. Without the CBC and CHC districts, black and Hispanic Democrats would be more moderate and have a chance to win Senate and Governor seats in the future.Report

  2. Dan Miller says:

    This is a grotesque violation of human rights.Report

  3. Tod Kelly says:

    This reminds me of local talk radio after ever Oregon elections, where people call in to bitch that more counties had majorities for the R candidate for Governor, so it was a travesty of justice that the D won even though he got 60% of the votes.Report

  4. George Turner says:

    And Obama is just one guy but supposed to outweigh all those people?Report

  5. BlaiseP says:

    And then there’s California. Population 37,253,956

    Wyoming: 576,412Report

    • Aidian in reply to BlaiseP says:

      I’m not sure what possible moral justification there can be for making my vote count 1/76th as much as someone from Wyoming. I’m always open to hearing one.

      I don’t care what the framers intent was, because I don’t think anyone making a deal 200 years before I’m born should be able to trade away my rights.

      I would suggest that it’s unlikely to ever change via ordinary constitutional means. Until it does, the U.S. government has no democratic legitimacy.Report

      • James Hanley in reply to Aidian says:


        Does it matter to you that in fact the Framers weren’t trying to make your vote count less? That the idea behind the Senate was not to represent the citizens of the states, but actually to represent the state governments? Note that under the Articles of Confederation it was in fact the state governments that were represented in the Congress, and today it is national governments that are represented in the UN (imagine representation by population–China and India would both have nearly 3 times as much representation as the U.S., England’s representation (or would it be the UK?) would fall dramatically, etc.).

        I’m not trying to persuade you to change your position, but just providing some perspective that in fact representation of people wasn’t in fact what the Framers were even trying to do with the Senate, and that what they were trying to do is not unknown or strikingly unusual.Report

        • Mike Schilling in reply to James Hanley says:

          Does it matter to you that in fact the Framers weren’t trying to make your vote count less?

          Unless Aidan is female or black, of course.Report

          • Brandon Berg in reply to Mike Schilling says:

            In point of fact, there has never been anything in the Constitution prohibiting blacks or women from voting.Report

            • Mike Schilling in reply to Brandon Berg says:

              Roughly half of the framers represented states that prevented blacks from voting, and all represented states that prevented women from doing so. If any were unhappy about voting for federal offices having the same restrictions, they kept silent about it.Report

          • James Hanley in reply to Mike Schilling says:

            In reference to the Senate, no. The point is that they didn’t plan for real live civilian people, white, black, male, female, free, slave, to vote for senators. They intended for legislators to vote for senators (and states could set their own rules on who could be a legislator).

            The point I’m trying, apparently not very clearly, to make is the distinction between senators representing the citizens of the state and representing the government of the state, as, for example, Susan Rice represents the government of the U.S. to the UN, not you and me.Report

            • Mike Schilling in reply to James Hanley says:

              I know. I was just bring snarky about the sainted Framers.Report

            • There were substantive problems with having state legislatures doing the apportioning, since very few of them were actually districted on the basis of one man, one vote for the better part of the 19th century.

              The thing is within each state, the direct election of senators made it certain that the representation of the state was in fact proportional within the state.

              I do think absent the 17th amendment, there’d have been more calls to curtail the power of the Senate.Report

      • trumwill mobile in reply to Aidian says:

        The justification is that we are not just a nation of 300 million people, but also a nation comprised of 50 states. The people represented equally (Or within a certain margin) and the states represented (as units, regardless of population) equally in the other. Also, a prevention measure of large parts of the country being governed by a relatively small number of states and large cities even if the latter does have lots and lots of people.Report

      • Brandon Berg in reply to Aidian says:

        The purpose of the Senate, as far as I can tell, was to spread veto power around. Neither the representatives of a majority of the population nor the representatives of a majority of the states can pass a law without the approval of the other.

        Given that the average new law is idiotic, spreading veto power far and wide is a good thing.Report

  6. Tod Kelly says:

    I was just looking on Wikipedia, and it turns out it’s even worse! The states that surround CA, NY and TX have US Reps fewer congressional reps to share power with! It’s the total opposite of the NY TImes picture!

    If only there was a way we could set up a system where we combined those two irregularities and formed one legislative body….Report

    • Kazzy in reply to Tod Kelly says:

      I’d have less issues with the Senate’s current setup if the House wasn’t also disproportionately in favor of the small states.Report

      • Patrick Cahalan in reply to Kazzy says:


      • Michael Drew in reply to Kazzy says:

        Stringent proportionality in the House would look… striking.Report

      • Pinky in reply to Kazzy says:

        That’s an argument in favor of greatly increasing the number of House members.Report

        • zic in reply to Pinky says:

          This. One rep per a group of people that the rep could actually know. And too many in the house for corporate world to buy ’em off.

          I think this might also lead to a multi-party system based on coalitions.Report

      • Pinky in reply to Kazzy says:

        Or, if you want to reduce the say that some congressman or senator you didn’t vote for has over your life, you could support greater states’ rights.Report

        • ThatPirateGuy in reply to Pinky says:

          Based on my state government I would rather have only the Feds.

          Seriously tn state governement is shamefully bad.

          We are the home of the ‘don’t say gay’ bill that keeps getting reintroduced.

          State’s rights can hang; Human rights are much better.Report

      • Will Truman in reply to Kazzy says:

        The “House advantage” for small states is overstated. Which is to say, Wyoming is overrepresented in the House, but Montana is underrepresented. The top and bottom of people-to-representatives are filled with small states.Report

        • Kazzy in reply to Will Truman says:

          I’d be curious (but am too lazy/busy to do it myself) to see how these different groups of states compare for House Reps.Report

          • Will Truman in reply to Kazzy says:

            Most over-represented states in the House (in order):
            Rhode Island (526k), Wyoming, Nebraska, Iowa, West Virginia, Vermont, Ohio, Louisiana, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Michigan (659k)

            Most under-represented states in the House (in order):
            Montana (999k), Utah, Delaware, Nevada, South Dakota, Arizona, Texas, Idaho, South Carolina, Oregon (766k)Report

            • Kazzy in reply to Will Truman says:

              But what is the net effect of that in terms of actual reps? Montana being shorted one rep isn’t as big an issue, at least to me, as Texas being shorted several.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Kazzy says:

                From which states would you take reps in order to address Texas’s problem?

                (Watch out! This is a trick question!)Report

              • Kazzy in reply to Jaybird says:

                I would make that 435 number more flexible.

                Call me principled, but I’d rather states that tend to vote in ways I disagree with be more fairly represented than the inverse. Because, who knows, maybe one days those states will vote the way I do (or vice versa).Report

              • Will Truman in reply to Kazzy says:

                I don’t think Texas is short “several reps.” They are mildly underrepresented compared to the average. Add one, though, and they become overrepresented. New York is overrepresented in the House. California is too, but very slightly.Report

              • Nob Akimoto in reply to Will Truman says:

                In Texas the issue isn’t being underrepresented, it’s how grossly misapportioned those seats are to favor white, rural populations over minority populations.

                Fortunately it seems SCOTUS will make sure that blacks and latinos won’t get to whine about unfair district drawing and keep from ‘perpetuating racial privilege.’Report

              • dand124 in reply to Nob Akimoto says:

                am i missing something i thought all districts within a state had to have the same population.Report

              • dand124 in reply to Nob Akimoto says:

                that’s a different issueReport

              • Kazzy in reply to Will Truman says:

                I stand corrected. I was thinking of electoral college representation, not House of Reps. Thanks, Will.Report

              • Will Truman in reply to Kazzy says:

                The EC over-representation I consider to be something of a false prize. Yes, we are overrepresented, but the candidates don’t really care about small states. They care about swing states. Smallpop states disproportionately lean heavy in one direction or the other (even Montana and New Hampshire, which are sometimes competitive, weren’t in 2012).

                All of which is to say… take the Electoral College. It won’t really hurt us too much (as states). It would detrimentally affect rural interests, to a degree (candidates wouldn’t spend time in rural Ohio, like they do now), but rural interests are covered for the most part.Report

              • Patrick Cahalan in reply to Will Truman says:

                New York is overrepresented in the House. California is too, but very slightly.

                Er, I disagree with this way of looking at it.

                Yes, in the matter of proportionality, given the cap on the number of House reps, the populations per state v. reps per cap is one analysis.

                But that’s not the right one, really. Because the cap also effectively seats more power in each individual, and power balances with large numbers of agents are substantively different from power balances with small numbers of agents.

                Put another way, remove the cap on the House and you’d see California represented entirely *differently* from how it is, now. Other states as well.

                You’d also pretty much destroy existing methods of gerrymandering for national politics (local politics gerrymandering would still apply in some cases, but frankly, I *don’t* care how illiberal or unconservative some other states are on a lot of issues). Which is a side (but important) benefit.

                I think you’d see a lot more moderates in the House.Report

              • I’m all in favor of raising the number of congressmen. They can go in our new capital building in Nebraska!

                But whether the states elect the kind of congresspeople we want, or enough of them, is a different question to me than how much they are represented numerically. Which, to me, is what this discussion comes down to. (Accepting the premise of the original post. I support a senate with some degree of disproportionate representation to smallpop states. I think 1-2-3 may be a better way of going about it than 2-and-only-2, but I sort of dig my heels in the ground because a lot of people I discuss these things with think it should be done away entirely or should become very proportional.)Report

              • Kazzy in reply to Will Truman says:


                Do you think we reach a point where the numbers are too skewed? Suppose that first group represented just 10% of the nation… or 1%? My hunch is that this disparity has grown over the life of our nation, though I understand current trends might show a slight shift the other way. At what point is the Senate TOO disproportionate?Report

              • I could agree that they are too skewed now. Which is why I could go with a 1-2-3 plan. I just dig in my heels a bit because people I talk about this with think that virtually any disproportionality is a problem. And if my options are the status quo and opening up this Pandora’s Box, I’ll take the status quo.

                I also think that the current arrangement with the filibuster very much is a problem. I would deal with that through dealing with the filibuster.

                Ultimately, though, I think this is overwrought. It really didn’t take me very long in a lowpop state to realize that, two senators aside, these folks are really quite separated from power and influence. The Senate is about all we have.Report

              • Kazzy in reply to Will Truman says:

                And I presume folks like myself tend to think you don’t even deserve that. Unfairly so, I might add.Report

              • Pub Editor in reply to Will Truman says:

                Re: 1-2-3, I like it. FWIW, Ireland does 3-4-5, at least in the lower house of their legislature. (They also redraw the boundaries of the constituencies after every census, which makes all the difference, of course.)Report

              • zic in reply to Will Truman says:

                To build on this, I think the notion behind the house was that you could actually know the person representing you in the House; have a real personal connection with them, and have them care about your concerns. The numerical cap prevents that from being likely to happen; and our relationships with our Representatives are basically the same as with our Senators.Report

              • Kazzy in reply to Will Truman says:


                Do you mind if I shoot you an email at the address associated with this handle?Report

          • Will Truman in reply to Kazzy says:

            A little more info, CA-NY-TX share 26.7% of the US House with 26.5% of the (50-state) population. I don’t care to isolate the numbers for all of the other sixteen, but the bottom sixteen have 6.9% of the house, representing 6.6% of the population.Report

      • Michael Cain in reply to Kazzy says:

        I live in a state where 40% of the area is public lands, held by the federal government. Federal management has been very much a mixed bag, right up to the present day. Offer me some mechanism other than the disproportionate representation in the Senate that at least gives our representation in Congress more control over that land than someone from a state a thousand miles away, who has no experience with the problems that large public land holdings can cause, and the vast majority of whose constituents will never set foot in my state. Then we’ll talk.Report

        • Kazzy in reply to Michael Cain says:

          A fair counter. Perhaps we allow more local management of those lands, if not outright ownership.Report

          • Michael Cain in reply to Kazzy says:

            If ownership, who pays for the current damage? Here in Colorado, we’re sitting on more than two million acres of horribly overgrown beetle-killed forest. Federal total-fire-suppression policy allowed the forests to get this badly overgrown, which contributed substantially to the amount of beetle-kill. Those acres are going to burn catastrophically over the next however-many years, and the run-off afterwards is going to fish up watersheds and water supplies for decades.Report

      • Nob Akimoto in reply to Kazzy says:

        The Senate’s current setup is terrible for one very specific reason: The filibuster.

        If they’d just get rid of the stupid cloture rule and go back to majority rule, the institution wouldn’t be nearly as bad as it is now.Report

        • BlaiseP in reply to Nob Akimoto says:

          The filibuster isn’t quite as terrible as it seems. Sure, it’s being abused just now, but that could be easily fixed by forcing an out-loud, on-the-floor filibuster. In my opinion, though yours is as valid as mine, it’s the secret holds which are gumming up the works. Now it’s a tag-team hold, to avoid the rule against secret holds.Report

        • Aidian in reply to Nob Akimoto says:

          I don’t think, in theory at least, I’d have much of a problem with the filibuster if it wasn’t for the malapportionment of the Senate. Again, in theory, and especially if we were approaching things with a blank slate, I would suggest that the idea that if you can’t get 60% of the vote you shouldn’t have a law might not be such a bad one.Report

        • Brandon Berg in reply to Nob Akimoto says:

          The filibuster is one of the Senate’s better features, though I wish they’d just drop the pretense and formalize it as a requirement of 60 votes to pass any new legislation.Report

      • James Hanley in reply to Kazzy says:

        Just as an FYI on the House size issue. The number 435 was reached in, iirc, 1911. The U.S. population at the time was ~100 million.Report

        • Nob Akimoto in reply to James Hanley says:

          Which is silly. The UK’s House of Commons has 650 seats (and the Lords technically has 760 seats) while the lower house of the National Diet of Japan has 480 seats, the Bundestag has 622 seats all with a combined population less than the US.

          The US House should be substantially larger than it is, I don’t know why it isn’t.Report

            • Burt Likko in reply to Jaybird says:

              After all, we do lots of things today the same way that we did them in 1929.

              Like prohibiting alcohol, and leaving a long lame duck period, and charging poll taxes, and letting the people elect whoever they wanted to be President for as long as he was willing to serve.Report

              • BlaiseP in reply to Burt Likko says:

                The first real outbreak of violence between Muslims and Jews in the Middle East was in 1929. Nothing really changes, folks.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Burt Likko says:

                Well, if sunsetting laws automatically isn’t on the table (“what? do you think the laws against murder should go away too???”), then why not just have Congress hold a vote that would result in each and every single Congressperson losing power?

                If the Republicans won’t do it, maybe the Democrats will.Report

              • BlaiseP in reply to Jaybird says:

                I’ve often wondered if we shouldn’t periodically revisit statute law from time to time. This would be particularly effective with the tax code. It’s become a Hoarder’s Paradise, a filthy jungle. There’s substantially more of it, by volume, than criminal law, I’ve been told.Report

              • Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Jaybird says:

                We’d need a constitutional amendment requiring sunsets.Report

              • Glyph in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist says:

                I just don’t see that on the horizon.Report

          • James Hanley in reply to Nob Akimoto says:

            I can’t really think of a reason other than historical inertia, and the fact that equality of representation hasn’t really become an issue until recent years. Ten years ago almost nobody was talking about this, now I see the issue popping up frequently, so it seems that the growing inequality is starting to draw attention. My tentative guess is that as it gets worse the demand for change will continue to grow, we’ll have a long agonizing national debate (as though changing the size of the House were some kind of grave constitutional change), and probably we’ll eventually do it. I wouldn’t begin to pin a timeline on it, though. Perhaps it will be a slow decades-long process, or perhaps it will start slow and suddenly accelerate much faster than I would anticipate.Report

            • Nob Akimoto in reply to James Hanley says:

              Based on population numbers the House should at least be 1000 members, if not more.

              Obviously Nate Silver would have to find a new name for his site, which is a grave consideration.Report

            • trumwill mobile in reply to James Hanley says:

              Logistically speaking, how many can we add before space becomes an issue?

              How big of an issue is inequality of representation in the House an issue? I usually hear it about the Senate, which is never going to change.Report

              • James Hanley in reply to trumwill mobile says:

                Space would be an issue pretty quickly, I assume. The State of the Union occurs in the House chamber because it’s much bigger than the Senate chamber, but I think the addition of those 100 senators pretty much packs it out, perhaps beyond the level of daily functionality (although I don’t know for sure). So we’d probably have to expand, but that’s just a cost issue.

                The more fundamental issue is functionality of larger vs. smaller legislatures. As I understand it (not an expert, though), they decided 100 years ago to freeze it at 435 because they thought that a bigger body would become too unwieldy. But of course we now know of other national legislatures that are bigger, including UK, Germany and India.

                But I would argue that representational inequality in the House is a very big deal. The Senate was set up to represent states as states, not for equal population representation (although we fished that logic quite a bit by going to direct vote–then senators no longer did represent the states as governing units, but actual people). The Constitution not only allows, but requires inequality (by population) in the Senate. But the House was set up for the express purpose of equal representation by population, so when we shift too far away from that it is, I would argue, an actual constitutional violation.Report

              • trumwill mobile in reply to James Hanley says:

                I’m in favor of expanding the House so no need for me to press the point. I’ll just say that I rarely hear conplaints about the House and when I do they are usually wrong (suggesting that they uniformly favor states like Wyoming at the expense of largepops). No one cries for Montana. But again, I’m in favor of a larger House if only for reasons of responsiveness.

                I don’t know how big a deal expansion would be. How much can you build up? I don’t think you can really build out.

                Or… Nebraska!Report

              • James Hanley in reply to trumwill mobile says:

                Building out would be possible–we’d just have to sacrifice one of the legislative office buildings, then condemn some property further down the street to replace that. But it would ruin the symmetry of the Capital building, that’s for sure.

                Or conceivably (and expensively), they could build down? It’s on a hill (sort of) after all.Report

              • James Hanley in reply to James Hanley says:

                Or, Nebraska, yes. But what about Des Moines? It’s a nice town.Report

              • trumwill mobile in reply to James Hanley says:

                You would do that to Des Moines? What did Des Moines do to you?Report

              • James Hanley in reply to James Hanley says:

                Well, I just figured it was the only city that was really white enough to be a comfortable place for our federal legislators.Report

              • MikeSchilling in reply to James Hanley says:

                The ones that are currently in Washington DC?Report

              • Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to James Hanley says:

                Yes, down, so they are closer to hellReport

              • Kazzy in reply to James Hanley says:

                “Space would be an issue pretty quickly, I assume.”

                Easy… bunk beds.Report

              • James Hanley in reply to Kazzy says:

                Politics does make strange bedfellows, they say.Report

              • So, in percentage terms, what was the range of under/over representation when Congress first met? How does that compare to today?Report

              • James Hanley in reply to Michael Cain says:


                The Constitution specifies a first pass distribution of representatives (Article I, section 2) for when Congress first started meeting because they didn’t have precise knowledge of how many people there were in each state. The first census was in 1790, and the first post-census apportionment was in 1793, and used a ratio of 1 per 33,000 residents (source, and thanks to Wiki for that obscure link), adhering to the Constitutional rule of not more than 1 for every 30,000 (a rule that if adhered to today would mean a 10,000 seat House!).

                I’m not sure just how close to equal it all was because there’s lots of uncertainty. First, the census data separated out Maine and Tennessee, which weren’t states yet, and while I assume their numbers were added to Mass. and Virginia, respectively, for apportionment purposes, I don’t find a specific statement to that effect. Second, there was some doubt about the accuracy of the count (some apparently thought it showed fewer people in the U.S. than they thought were really there). And then there’s the question of the 3/5 compromise, and whether we’d want to count it as they did for looking at how equal representation was, or whether we’d want to apply a current, post 3/5 compromise, standard of counting each slave as a whole person. (And even most of the northern states had some slaves, ranging, according to the census, from 948 in Rhode Island to 21,324 in NY, with only Massachusetts and Vermont having none).Report

              • I’ll settle for how unequal were things, in percentage terms, after the 1880 census. That gets passed all the funky counting problems, yes? Is House representation, in percentage terms, more or less unequal today than it was 130 years ago?Report

              • James Hanley in reply to James Hanley says:

                Michael, that sounds like a good approach. I will not have a moment of free time for the rest of today, but I can probably put that together tomorrow morning (God willing and the creeks don’t rise). It is an interesting question, and certainly relevant to the discussion.

                My guess is there’ll be less inequality back then because instead of just shifting representatives around they would add more as population grew, which makes it easier to keep things pretty equal. But we’ll have to let the evidence determine whether my hypothesis is correct or not.Report

              • So much that “just depends” (a plea to show your work in some fashion). If the measure is maximum deviation from the fraction of “ideal” representatives, there’s no a priori reason to think it’s ever been anything but roughly a uniform distribution from -0.5 to 0.5. In that case, whether today is worse than 1880 is a crap shoot. If expressed as deviation from the fraction of “ideal” voters representatives, no question that it’s worse today — that’s why I asked for percentages. And it may vary depending on exactly which historical year is chosen — IIRC when some of the western states were admitted, the ratio of most populous state to new state were worse than today’s California to Wyoming ratio.

                When I look at the actual apportionment algorithm (eg, here — PDF), it’s not immediately clear to my inner mathematician that there’s a guaranteed solution.Report

              • Let’s try that again, without fumble-fingers.

                So much that “just depends” (a plea to show your work in some fashion). If the measure is maximum deviation from the fraction of “ideal” representatives, there’s no a priori reason to think it’s ever been anything but roughly a uniform distribution from -0.5 to 0.5. In that case, whether today is worse than 1880 is a crap shoot. If expressed as deviation from the fraction of “ideal” voters representatives, no question that it’s worse today — that’s why I asked for percentages. And it may vary depending on exactly which historical year is chosen — IIRC when some of the western states were admitted, the ratio of most populous state to new state were worse than today’s California to Wyoming ratio.

                When I look at the actual apportionment algorithm (eg, here — PDF), it’s not immediately clear to my inner mathematician that there’s a guaranteed solution.Report

              • Lyle in reply to James Hanley says:

                Actually if you watch on C-SPAN you see that the house chamber is rarely full, mainly on the first day of the session, and presidential and other major addresses. Votes are conducted over a 15 min period, where a rep walks in sticks his card in votes and leaves. Debates currently are staged for the public, and rarely change minds. One could invent a dedicated blackberry type device so a rep never even has to go to the chamber to vote, using a thumbprint as a key.Report

      • Dennis Sanders in reply to Kazzy says:

        I’ve always thought the House was based on population, so I don’t see how the House also favors small states.Report

        • Kazzy in reply to Dennis Sanders says:

          It is. It’s not perfect, but Will points out that the discrepancy is not what I thought it was, largely because I was conflating over-representation in the Electoral College with over-representation in the House, with the latter being almost solely a function of the existence of the Senate. So, yea, I was off in that regard.Report

        • If nothing else, the current apportionment algorithm as defined in statute slightly favors smaller states. For example, for a state small enough that the “ideal” number of representatives falls between 1 and 2, the number is rounded up if it is greater than 1.414. For a larger state whose “ideal” number falls between 21 and 22, the number is rounded up if it is greater than 21.494. Under certain circumstances, the “ideal” number may require dividing by 434 or 436 rather than 435. It is not clear to my inner mathematician that the algorithm as defined in statute actually guarantees that there will be a solution, or that the solution is unique. The Census Bureau uses a different algorithm that guarantees a solution, has a vanishingly small probability of multiple solutions, and with high probability will match the statutory solution if such a solution exists.Report

    • Nob Akimoto in reply to Tod Kelly says:

      The argument isn’t whether states are sharing reps, but what the population to representative numbers look like…

      And in that, the Senate is grossly disproportionate, far beyond that which was in place when the system was created.

      Should probably look into redrawing state lines.Report

      • BlaiseP in reply to Nob Akimoto says:

        Jefferson permanently rigged the Senate in favour of rural constituencies. That really was part of his plan.Report

        • James Hanley in reply to BlaiseP says:

          Jefferson? He did that all the way from France?

          And Madison proposed proportional representation in both chambers of Congress.

          The folks to blame are the small state delegates who wanted to ensure they weren’t dominated by the likes of VA, PA, and NY.Report

          • Nob Akimoto in reply to James Hanley says:

            Basically Rhode Island.Report

            • James Hanley in reply to Nob Akimoto says:

              Nope, Rhode Island boycotted. They knew what Virginia was up to and wanted nothing to do with it. In fact they didn’t even ratify the Constitution and join the union until a year after the new government had come into being.

              I kind of wish they had continued to stay independent. I like entertaining the notion of Rhode Island as the U.S.’s Monaco.Report

              • Nob Akimoto in reply to James Hanley says:

                They’d probably have wound up more like Puerto Rico than Monaco.Report

              • James Hanley in reply to Nob Akimoto says:

                Possible, but I doubt it. A very different colonial heritage. Of course much would have depended on whether they’d promoted gambling and Formula 1 racing.Report

              • Nob Akimoto in reply to James Hanley says:

                Maybe Atlantic City would try to secede and join Rhode Monaco.Report

              • MikeSchilling in reply to Nob Akimoto says:

                With Miss America being the pool for Rhode Island’s First Ladies.Report

              • BlaiseP in reply to James Hanley says:

                Rhode Island want assurances on the subject of a Bill of Rights. Their ratification of the Constitution comes with a list of caveats about as long as the Constitution itself, including a demand for the end of slavery.Report

              • James Hanley in reply to BlaiseP says:

                Yes, they demanded assurances, as did many other states.

                Unlike other states, though, they did not participate in the Convention, and they waited a full year after the government began, more than two full years after Delaware ratified. Rhode Island is an outlier from the 12 other original states (as is Vermont, as the 14th state, although in a very different way).Report

              • Lyle in reply to James Hanley says:

                After Washington threated to put tarrifs on trade with Rhode Island if they did not ratify, so the act was somewhat coerced.Report

              • James Hanley in reply to Lyle says:

                Is that so? I guess I wouldn’t be surprised, but I admit to not knowing the actual circumstances leading to RI ratification. I had assumed they’d just decided it was better to join than try to go alone, but your comment puts that in a different light.Report

          • BlaiseP in reply to James Hanley says:

            Erm, yes he did, Hanley

            I am captivated by the compromise of the opposite claims of the great & little states, of the latter to equal, and the former to proportional influence. I am much pleased too with the substitution of the method of voting by persons, instead of that of voting by states: and I like the negative given to the Executive with a third of either house, though I should have liked it better had the Judiciary been associated for that purpose, or invested with a similar and separate power. Report

            • James Hanley in reply to BlaiseP says:

              In that letter Jefferson was commenting on the completed draft of the Constitution that had been written by the Federal Convention and promulgated for ratification. The Convention concluded its business on September 17, 1787, while Jefferson’s letter to Madison is dated December 20, 1787. Notice that Jefferson is saying he is “captivated by the compromise” between big states and little states–he is referring to a compromise that was made in Philadelphia months earlier, on July 16.

              Jefferson played no role in the drafting of the Constitution, beyond his general influence on Madison as his mentor, and all the books on government that he sent from Europe at Madison’s request. And Madison proposed a bicameral legislature in which states were represented in each branch either by population or by financial contribution of the state (see point 2), both of which would have favored larger and more urban states.Report

              • BlaiseP in reply to James Hanley says:

                Jefferson’s preference for the farmer was well-understood. He was constantly a-praising the yeoman farmer and a-damning the corrupting influence of the Big City. Unless you don’t find that in his writings, but then again, I’m not sure you know your Jefferson any better than you do your Montesquieu.

                The whole point of “Jeffersonian Democracy” was to put power in the hands of the farmers. Care to disagree with that assertion?Report

              • James Hanley in reply to BlaiseP says:

                That’s a nice shifting of the goalposts, sir. Jefferson favoring farmers is a very different issue than Jefferson “rigg[ing] the Senate in favour of rural constituencies.” That he favored farmers is true; that he had any hand in shaping the structure of the Senate is false.Report

              • BlaiseP in reply to James Hanley says:

                Have it your way. Jefferson’s opinions in Virginia notwithstanding, all the letters from Paris notwithstanding, Jefferson had nothing to do with the ideas behind the Constitution or the makeup of the Senate.

                I hereby award you the Internet. You won it, fair and square.Report

              • James Hanley in reply to BlaiseP says:

                Jefferson wrote to Madison, Madison proposed both chambers be based on population or financial contribution (Virginia Plan). Small state delegates countered Madison’s proposal with equal representation in both chambers (New Jersey Plan). Connecticut delegates proposed a compromise to split the difference (Connecticut or Great Compromise).

                All this while Jefferson was the U.S. ambassador (technically Minister Plenipotentiary) to France, and was sitting in Paris. Yet somehow, you insist, equal representation in the Senate was his plan?

                This isn’t having it “my” way. It’s getting history right. If there is actual evidence that Jefferson promoted the idea of equal representation in the Senate to members of the Federal Convention before it was proposed or approved there, I’d be delighted to see it.

                But, please, let’s not pretend this is just about letting someone have their way.Report

              • BlaiseP in reply to BlaiseP says:

                I do, James. Jefferson’s work on Virginia’s constitution was used as a basis. As with the US Constitution, Jefferson wasn’t there for the drafting of Virginia’s 1776 Constitution but his work was used in the US Constitution, Madison used it.

                My ancestors came from Holland to Williamsburg in 1649. The Tarpley Bell in the Bruton Parish church was put there by them. It’s there that I learned about Jefferson’s immense impact on the Constitution.

                As I said, have it your way. I was taught what you’re preaching now. Thump that tub elsewhere. Jefferson’s influence on Mason and Madison was as I said it was:

                The similarities between Jefferson’s draft constitution and the federal Constitution can sometimes be striking. Like the delegates at the Constitutional Convention, Jefferson argued, “Legislation shall be exercised by two separate houses, to wit a house of Representatives, and a house of Senators.” Like them he wrote, “The sd house of Representatives shall be composed of persons chosen by the people.” He said the senators should “be appointed by the house of Representatives,” and this, too, is similar to the United States Constitution, which originally provided that “the Senate of the United States shall be composed of two Senators from each State, chosen by the Legislature thereof”

                That’s from August 1776. Will you just take a hint here? You’re dead wrong. Jefferson was for a two-man system in the Senate from the very beginning.Report

              • James Hanley in reply to BlaiseP says:

                Once again you’ve moved the goalposts. I already said Jefferson influenced Madison. The question here is specifically about equal representation of states in the Senate, because you said Jefferson made that happen. So will you please keep the focus on that issue, since that’s what’s in dispute, rather than trying to shift the question to a broader one about whether Jefferson influenced other Virginians, which is not something I dispute.

                So, focusing on state equality in the Senate, to win your point that Jefferson is responsible for that, you have to explain why the folks Jefferson influence, particularly his protege Madison did not propose that, but instead proposed a different system of representation for both chambers, and why it instead frell to someone from New Jersey to propose what Jefferson allegedly is responsible for.

                You also need to explain why Jefferson’s own draft of the Virginia Constitution (text here) didn’t include anything like the Senate’s equal representation by geographic/political district.

                The text is there for anyone to read. I encourage any interested party to do so for themselves and determine who here is in fact “dead wrong,” the guy who insists Jefferson was responsible for an institutional structure–equal representation by geographic/political district–that he didn’t propose in his own draft (state) constitution, that wasn’t proposed by his protege but by an opponent of his protege’s proposal, and that he is only known to have praised after the fact, or the guy who says these factors mean Jefferson wasn’t responsible for that structure.Report

              • James Hanley in reply to BlaiseP says:

                I’m also amused at the source you cite, thinking that senatorial appointment “by the house of Representatives” (a lower house) is a “striking” similarity to senators being “chosen by the Legislature” of their state.

                In fact Madison did propose that Senators be selected by the House, but that was changed to selection by state legislatures. “Striking” similarity indeed; the same thing only different.Report

            • Pinky in reply to BlaiseP says:

              I don’t understand. I would assume that Rhode Island was less rural than Virginia, but this quote (at least, interpreted the way Blaise is intepreting it) would favor Rhode Island over Virginia in the Senate. Also seems to argue against the Virginian Jefferson standing by his own state.Report

  7. Jaybird says:

    Those people need to drink less soda.Report

  8. John Howard Griffin says:

    Forgive me, but my first thought (in answer to your question) was: that’s all the people in charge, and, other than a couple of brothers, they’re all white.Report

    • Kazzy in reply to John Howard Griffin says:

      One of my many thoughts was, “Wow, look how white the small pop states are.”

      Then I looked at the large pop states and thought, “Shit.”Report

      • Nob Akimoto in reply to Kazzy says:

        The large state people on that picture at least are:
        Ted Cruz
        John Cornyn
        Dianne Feinstein
        Barbara Boxer
        Chuck Schumer
        Kirsten Gillibrand

        Of which…
        Cruz is latino (even if he was born in Canada)
        Feinstein, Boxer and Schumer are Jewish.

        So that leaves Cornyn and Gillibrand as the white christian folks.

        Which honestly isn’t a horrible ratio.Report

        • Kazzy in reply to Nob Akimoto says:

          I think JHG’s broader point still stands… the group is seriously melanin challenged.Report

          • Brandon Berg in reply to Kazzy says:

            To be fair, some of them probably have liver spots.

            And no, I think it’s John’s narrower point, not his broader point, that still stands. No, there aren’t many black people. But there are quite a few representatives of groups which have historically been discriminated against. Jews in particular are pretty significantly overrepresented. This calls into question the explanatory power of historical discrimination.Report

            • Kazzy in reply to Brandon Berg says:

              Which groups besides Jews buck historical discrimination enough to be overrepresented?Report

              • Brandon Berg in reply to Kazzy says:

                In politics? None that I know of, though I don’t actually know the numbers for Irish, Germans, Catholics, or Italians. In retrospect, my phrasing did kind of imply that there were others. I meant that others were represented, and that Jews were particularly well-represented, to the point of significant overrepresentation.

                Asians, of course, are highly overrepresented in many high-status and high-income professions. Politics is a bit of a special case, because even a small number of racists can swing the vote against the minority candidate.Report

              • Kazzy in reply to Brandon Berg says:

                Got it.

                As is my answer with so many questions, when asked, “Are the various disparities we see between the races a function of racism aimed at those groups or a function of cultural issues within those groups?” I tend to say, “Can’t it be both/and?”

                And, as I’ve also said elsewhere, I tend to focus solely on the former because that is what I, as a straight/white/male/Christian/middle-class/etc. can most directly and powerfully influence. I think the “culture conversation” should be largely if not exclusively in-group.Report

            • Brandon Berg in reply to Brandon Berg says:

              I should note, by the way, that I do think that bigotry plays a much more significant role in politics, and in the public sector generally, than it does in the private sector. Voters can indulge their bigotry costlessly at the ballot box, and personal preferences tend to play a larger role when unconstrained by market discipline. I think that racism probably does play some role in the shortage of black senators.Report

    • Mine was, “Damn, are they old!”Report

    • James Hanley in reply to John Howard Griffin says:

      I don’t think that thought needs any forgiveness. It’s a damned fair point.Report

  9. Brandon Berg says:

    I think that people are missing an important asymmetry here. Neither house of Congress can pass a law without the consent of the other, so the makeup of the Senate does not actually allow a large number of low-population states to impose their will on the rest of the country. What it does is give a large coalition of low-population states the ability to stop the rest of the country from imposing its will on them.Report

    • Aren’t both government action and inaction an imposition of will? Exercise of a veto by representatives of 15% to 25% of the population (with the filibuster 15%, without the filibuster 25% by my back of the envelope calculation) is a great deal of power to hand to a small segment of the country.Report

      • Brandon Berg in reply to Creon Critic says:

        Aren’t both government action and inaction an imposition of will?

        I suppose. In the sense that punching someone in the nose and ducking a punch are both an imposition of will. They’re still very different.Report

      • James Hanley in reply to Creon Critic says:

        a great deal of power to hand to a small segment of the country.

        Perhaps, but more so if that segment is homogenous and less so if it is heterogeneous. Vermont isn’t like Wyoming, etc. So I think the real question is what is the critical level of heterogeneity, and do the relevant small U.S. states achieve that level or not.Report

        • Well that’s a legitimate axis to consider, but in terms of raw power to block, or alternatively power to demand concessions to proceed with other business, small states are punching well above their weight. Also the raw numbers understate the influence wielded by this group. Each individual Senator has power disproportionate to being 1 of 100 due to the Senate’s deferential norms. Also, the pathways and structure of crafting legislation give outsize influence to small states, the committee system’s attention to length of service and inattention to population related questions (big state senators don’t get to sit on more committees) further amplifies small state senator power.Report

      • dand in reply to Creon Critic says:

        with a few exceptions they can still implement their policies on the state level. for example if residents California want a single payer healthcare system and small states block it in the seante they can still set one up on thestate level.Report

        • Michael Cain in reply to dand says:

          Whether than can afford to do so is at least problematic. Presumably they don’t get to use Medicare, federal Medicaid, VA, Tri-care or the federal taxes foregone by letting employer-provided health insurance be tax-free. The Governor of Montana, for one, has proposed having a state-level single-payer system modeled after those of the Canadian provinces to his north — but he wants all of the federal dollars spent on health care in his state as the basis for the funding.Report

          • Brandon Berg in reply to Michael Cain says:

            State taxes paid are also deductible, at least at the individual level. Google says this is true for corporate taxes as well. So what the state’s taxpayers lose in deductions for employer-provided health care, they get back from the deductibility of their higher state taxes. They can’t use the Medicare, Medicaid, and VA funds, but they don’t have to because those people are already covered. Technically it would be dual-payer rather than single-payer, but I don’t think that the precise number of payers is the primary concern of “single-payer” advocates.Report

  10. Damon says:

    Two groups of elitest, power hungry, self righteous, presumptous, narcissistics?Report

  11. ian351c says:

    Given the discussion on this topic about raising the number of representatives in the House, does anyone have an opinion on the ideas presented here: ?Report