It Would Take Two

There are several reforms I am in favor of. I’m somewhat undecided on the one I will review today. The Senate is by design an undemocratic institution. Truth be told it was one of the compromises the Founders made in order to get a constitution that could be adopted. History has proven not all of them to be wise. Is this among them? I’ll leave that discussion for another day.

Currently each state gets two Senators (more on that below). In a democracy the goal is one person; one vote. Today, both California and Wyoming have two votes in the Senate. California has a population of 4,162,685 while only 586,485 people live in Wyoming. That means that Wyoming has over seven times the influence in the Senate. Hardly one person, one vote!

Now I think eliminating or severely modifying the filibuster/cloture rule in the Senate would be a more important reform and eliminating the Electoral College as outdated and no longer necessary would be a better constitutional reform but addressing the undemocratic voter representation in the Senate is a legitimate discussion. Believe it or not it would actually be much more difficult to achieve than either of the other two reforms I mentioned. You ask why. Read on.

The filibuster/cloture rule is not enshrined in the Constitution and can simply be changed by a majority vote in the Senate. In fact, I predict it will in the not that distant future, possibly as early as in 2025.

Eliminating the Electoral College would simply take a single Constitutional Amendment. Not an easy task and, mainly for partisan reasons, I don’t see it happening any time soon.

Not even taking into account political considerations, bringing Senate power more in line with population would actually require two amendments or a “two pronged” one aimed at two different provisions in the Constitution. I’ll explain.

Section three of Article one begins, “The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two Senators from each state…”. Article five concludes, “…no state, without its consent, shall be deprived of equal suffrage in the Senate.”

My suggestion, if such reform were to be seriously undertaken, is a type of classes of the number of Senators granted to a state by population ranges. One of the good things about the Senate is that at 100 there is a relatively small number of members who, at least theoretically, know each other and can be brought together in a compromise much more easily than in a numerically larger body. Therefore, step one in a restructuring would be to bring several smaller states down to one Senator. Zero would mean no representation which I just find un-American. We would then have a few other classifications awarding two or more Senators.

That would not be perfect but it would be much more equitable while still preserving a numerically small body which, coupled with the staggered six year terms, would be capable of producing familiarity, dialog and compromise.

As my regular readers know I have an inexplicable facilitation with the Senate. Part of me hates to see this change but I have to admit it is much more democratic. I guess I won’t worry about it because I don’t see it happening in the foreseeable future but one  of the advantages of being my own boss in this endeavor is that I can write about whatever I want whenever I choose to.

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