Monday, January 25, 2010

One person, one vote fantasy

This map shows what dividing the country into 50 states based on roughly equal populations of about 5-6 million people while retaining some respect for existing boundaries could look like. Click on the map for a larger view. Such an arrangement would give us a Senate -- still with the two representatives for each state -- in which every Senator represented roughly the same number of people. If we are serious about the idea that each citizen's vote should give that citizen equal representation, we'd need to move to something like this. The map is the work of Fake is the new real; by way of James Fallows.

Alternatively, we could simply decide as a country that retaining the Senate is so grossly undemocratic (small "d") that it should be done away with altogether. Think how much less we could spend on elections -- and how much fairer our democracy would be to all its citizens. Californians should be especially attracted to such a solution. As Harold Meyerson wrote recently in the Los Angeles Times,

When the Constitution was adopted in 1787, the representational disparities inherent in a system that accords all states the same number of senators had yet to reach absurd proportions. In the 1790 census, there were 11 Virginians (residents of the largest state) for every one Rhode Islander (residents of the smallest). Today, there are 68 Californians for every resident of Wyoming. Constitutionally, Californians are the most underrepresented Americans in the Senate by a large margin.

Obviously neither redrawing the states nor abolishing the Senate are likely reforms. But the Constitution mandates an anti-democratic legislative body that turns itself into a further impediment to democratic governance by adhering to voluntarily adopted rules that render it a useless logjam.

Something is going to have to give. Getting the Senate to work -- or getting rid of it -- has become a necessity if the U.S. government wants to continue to claim to be democratic. Do we have the political creativity and the gumption to solve this democratic impasse?

1 comment:

Kay Dennison said...

I doubt it. Do you honestly think those in power would do something that could result in their loss of power?

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