Sunday, May 01, 2005

Setting the Record Straight
There has been a lot of talk recently (mostly revolving around the filibuster debate) about the fact that Senate Democrats actually represent more constituents than Senate Republicans do. Prompted by this Political Wire piece, I feel that something needs to be cleared up. The piece says, among other things:

The forty-four-person Senate Democratic minority, therefore, represents a two-million-plus popular majority—a circumstance that, unless acres trump people, is at variance with common-sense notions of democracy.
So here it is, much as we may not like to hear it: the United States is not a democracy! Certainly, while the Senate itself operates on democratic notions (with the exception of arcane rules like filibusters and anonymous holds), its make-up was never intended to be democratic.

The Founders were concerned with many different things, but near the top of the list was inequal distribution of power between the states. The entire reason behind having two houses instead of one was to split the balance of power between large states and small.

At the writing of the Constitution, there was a serious fight between these two groups. States like Virginia and New York wanted a popularly apportioned legislative body, states like Rhode Island and Delaware wanted equal power between states, lest they sacrifice the autonomy they'd had under the Articles of Confederation. The result? A House, appportioned according to population, and a Senate with its power divided evenly among the states.

So the entire idea behind the Senate is, in fact, not that acres trump people, but that states trump people. The Republicans have won more state-wide elections, even if the Dems have won more votes. Sadly for them, that isn't the measure by which the Senate's power is divided, and it was never intended to be.

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