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« Chinese dictator Hu Jintao talks about democracy and human rights | Main | In 1993, Ruben Cantu was put to death for a murder he didn’t commit »

November 21, 2005


jj mollo

I'm for this in principle. PA is one of the bigger states though. DE should merge with MD or lose one Senator. Alaska should definitely lose one senator, and I know which one.

However, it does serve as a positive example for aspiring republics that a constitution represents compromise and can bring together people of very different interests. Federalism held the free and slave states together for four-score and seven years. It could certainly hold together the Shiia and Sunnis.

Frank Warner

Four score and five years.

I do see the point of temporary federalism - in this case, federalism meaning the bringing together of disparate lands into one nation, and allowing slight imbalances in one house of the legislature to recognize the different states.

Of course, your allusion to four score and seven years ain't exactly encouraging. It makes my point: 85 or 87 years, then arbitrary state boundaries should change to reflect real populations.

Had they pushed "one man, one vote" all at once in 1787, I admit, there might have been no United States. But after a while -- after a Civil War and other things -- the nation did fairly homogenize on the big ideas.

We probably would keep our state boundaries for reasons of sentimentality (and of course, the legislators would never vote themselves out of jobs). But we could fix that unfair U.S. Senate representation.

But Delaware should be part of Pennsylvania. Most of D.C. could go back to Maryland.


If by "one man, one vote" you mean that each Senator is voted on by an equal percentage of the population, then you are not thinking it through.

If this happened, most Senators would have districts in cities, as the House members do. Most or possibly ALL federal money would be sent to the most populous towns in America, since that is where the majority of Senators would get their votes from.

The only reason this doesn't happen now is that the rural areas have an equal number of Senators to protect them. Changing the Senate to "one man, one vote" would destroy rural America. This would not homogenize America, but instead would turn us into a nation of city-states.

Frank Warner

Senators already do represent areas that include populous cities. And senators already have every incentive to send most, if not all, federal grants to the most populous areas. That's where the votes are.

Rural areas don't have an equal number of senators to protect them. They have an arbitrary number of senators to protect them. And the point of democracy isn't to protect rural areas or cities or suburbs, it is to represent the people.

In any case, no, I'm not suggesting that senators be given districts so small that they represent just cities or farms, and certainly not cows.

I'm suggesting that either the states be redrawn every 20 years or so to have populations relatively equal to one another, or that, at a minimum, the little fake states that we maintain for no democratic reason be limited to one senator each and that some of the bigger states get three or four senators.

Otherwise, an American who resides in Delaware has more power in his vote than an American who resides in neighboring Pennsylvania, New Jersey or Maryland.

jj mollo


Are you saying that you don't believe in "one man, one vote"? All the time, or in some particular cases?

An awful lot of federal money is going for farm subsidies right now, which basically supports corporate farming and undercuts the competitiveness of third world countries, making them even poorer.

jj mollo

The power of the small states exists only in the Senate. (Supposedly, the Senate does not have the power to allocate funds. Am I wrong about that?) In the presidential elections the small states get swamped by the practice of bloc voting.

Frank Warner

The Senate has lots of power over funding. It's technically not supposed to originate spending bills, but because it's an equal branch of Congress, it's influence over spending is equal to the House.


I certainly believe one man should get one vote. I am against removing the value of states. The United States is not homogenous. there are areas that will always be more prosperous, for environmental reasons (such as access to ports). As this is an irreconcilable problem, reverse discrimination is required to even the playing field. 2 Senators/state helps in that regard. That said, a man's vote should be equal to any other man in his state when it comes to deciding who to send to Washington.

Yes, many of the Senators depend upon votes from the largest metropolitan areas in the US, but only from states that have large cities. And cities do in fact receive a large share of federal monies, but that is as it should be. Cities need help too.

It's not as bad as it would be if Senators each had ~3 million constituents, instead of 1 stateful of constituents.

Heck, NYC alone would have 2.5 Senators, and the metroplex would get 8. Those 8 Senators would not be trying to make NY, NJ and CT better. They would only be interested in the metroplex. The rest of the state would suffer. Indeed the House members in that area only worry about federal spending in that area, not the state. Why would Senators be any different?

And what would happen to the sparsely populated part of the US? When it came time to build roads in Montana, how much pressure could the one Senator shared by Montana, Idaho, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming and Alaska apply to get any funding?

The roads up there are currently excellent. They would not be without federal money. There would be no federal money if we devalued states rights. And roads are merely the tip of the iceberg.

I know it sounds like I'm more worried about land than people. Of course that is not true. I'm just saying that people who live in these rural areas would not be able to anymore. They'd have to move to cities at an ever increasing rate; much worse than now. As I suggested earlier, we would be a nation of (maybe 11?) city-states with nothing but blight in between, or maybe a big corporate farm.

There is no way that this would be good for the people.

Frank Warner

Kevin, it does sound as if you want senators for no one, highways through nowhere.

Getting back to the original point:

A. Delaware has two senators.

And B. Pennsylvania, which has 15 times the population of Delaware, also has two senators.

What is democratic or fair, or even helpful, about that?

Yes, that lets Delaware's Senators Joe Biden and Tom Carper use their influence for Wilmington and Dewey Beach. But how is that fair to the Poconos or the Pennsylvania Grand Canyon when Pennsylvania Senators Specter and Santorum care mostly about the Pittsburgh and Philadelphia areas?

Under your argument, shouldn't the Poconos get their own two senators? Shouldn't Penn State's Happy Valley get two?

Lancaster and Chester counties, just two of Pennsylvania's 67 counties, have more people than Delaware. Why don't they get two senators?

As the United States was formed, each state was given two senators principally as a bribe to the state leaders to approve the Constitution. That principle had a bad air to begin with. It smells worse with time.

Kevin, it does sound as if you want senators for no one, highways through nowhere.
I do. Except I would categorize it as 'roads through nowhere', and 'Senators for areas of future growth'.
Delaware has two senators... Pennsylvania, which has 15 times the population of Delaware, also has two senators.What is democratic or fair, or even helpful, about that?
Delaware has one state, and two Senators. Pennsylvania has one state and two Senators. What is fair about that? Not much. What is helpful about that? Quite a bit. It is the main reason Wilmington still exists as a city. With your plan, DuPont would have no doubt moved to Philly long ago to get the workers needed for it's gunpowder processing, and Wilmington would be a backwater. It almost is now, with the current setup!
Under your argument, shouldn't the Poconos get their own two senators? Shouldn't Penn State's Happy Valley get two?
Not imo. Although I would say that the Poconos would suffer the same fate under your plan as MO,WY,ID,SD, and ND would. When was the last time you heard of a federal spending proposal for the Poconos? I'll save you some Google time... you haven't. The only reason the Poconos get any federal money at all is because federal money is given to the state, and the state spends money on itself. Luckily for the Poconos, they are part of PA. If you removed states from the picture, or redesigned them to be a certain percentage of the population, the Poconos would be screwed.

A Philadelphian would no longer feel any more allegiance to the Poconos than any other section of the US. Nor would their 3(?) Senators. As an avid skier who cut my teeth on the mini ski resort Camelback, I consider that a shame.

I am against affirmative action. It should only be applied in cases where there can never be equality. With blacks, whites, and hispanics, there is real no barrier to true equality. With geographic areas on the US map, there is no question... bariers exist. Parts of the US stand no chance to prosper. There can never be equality between the towns of say NYC and Fargo, for logistical, economical, and environmental reasons, to name a few. Giving both equal Senatorial representation goes a small way towards equalizing the difference. It also prepares us for tomorrow; something that the USA is pretty good at.

What is truly democratic about it is this: If you don't think your vote matters enough, you are able to move yourself into a place where it will be.

Frankly, I find it hard to understand your being against helping out the little guy. That's usually the mantra of the left, although in this case it doesn't apply to minorities, but instead the center of the USA (Delaware included)... To be fair, you are not the left that I dislike. You are part of the left who I can understand. This is one post I cannot understand :(

ps. Are you considering my request for you to do a piece on campaign finance reform (via email)? I hope so. Your insight is extremely appreciated.

Frank Warner


I'm thinking about campaign finance reform, as you suggested, and I'm sure I'll post something on it. Let's just say I'm where a lot of people are on it right now, frustrated to near surrender. When you think you have a solution, freedom of speech almost necessarily creates a loophole.

Back to U.S. senators and the fake states: I am looking out for the little guy. The little guy is the Pennsylvanian, who, when voting for the Senate, has only one-fifteenth the power of a resident of Delaware.

There should be no need for extra senatorial influence in states like Delaware, Wyoming or North Dakota. If people want to move there, fine. If they don't, fine. But they don't deserve a more powerful vote for going off to live with the cows.

jj mollo


Why is Wilmington any more important than Altoona or Johnstown. I know its not a zero-sum game, but sometimes it does seem as if the low population states get more than their share. DuPont was able to turn around Wilmington, but Campbell's, a company of comparable size and clout, eventually had to leave Camden, NJ, originally a comparable town. A little more federal interest may have changed that story.

Notwithstanding, I do agree that it is important to represent variety, and believe it or not, I agree that places themselves, land, need some sort of voice. It does seem to me that the differential between the most populous state and the least, though, is extreme.

For Frank I have a question though. If this is such an injustice, why do the large states not voluntarily split up into smaller states? Doesn't that say that they see their self-interest in remaining large rather than grabbing a couple extra senators?

Frank Warner

There are at least three big reasons the big states don't break up.

First, sentimentality. People are accustomed to looking at a map of the United States with certain lines, as if God drew them. People get alarmed when they see maps changed.

Second, no legislature wants to give up power. I'm not talking about power for the people, which would increase significantly with another senator or two, but personal power for those legislators. Break up a state, and each new state would have to write a new constitution, which might accidentally reduce the number of legislators or cut their pay. On top of that, the legislators of, let's say Pittsburgh, would suddenly lose all their influential friends in Philadelphia.

Third, states can't just break up on their own. The U.S. Congress would have to approve any splits (or mergers), and (except to snap up West Virginia from Virginia during the Civil War) the Congress has never done it. That's why the Supreme Court has to do it. Baker v. Carr just didn't go far enough.

Empty wildernesses have enough representation in Congress. Look at ANWR, which the populated states are more willing to protect than Alaska is. Give the people their democratic representation in the Senate, and rocks and ice will still have their advocates.

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