Thursday, September 9, 2010

Ezra Klein, Sounding like a Real Dick

Here's Ezra Klein on the senate's configuration of 2 per state:

But now that we've been the United States of America for a while and none of the states seem likely to secede, the fact that California has 69 times more people than Wyoming but the same representation in the Senate is an offensive anachronism, at least to Californians.

What a dick. If California doesn't like it, all they need is to get 2/3 of the states and then the voters of those states to agree with them. Or something like that. Until then, tough shit.

An anachronism is something that belongs to an earlier time. "2 senators per state" belongs in this time, by definition, unless the constitution is amended. That's how it works. Period.


  1. Hey Ezra,
    I am a Californian, and I am not offended. We have more Representatives than anyone. This is all by design. Just think how Nebraskans, Iowans, Mainers (???) and Alaskans would feel about a country that is run by New York and California.

    CC - You know - there does appear to be a real animosity in some segments of the punditocracy to our Constitutional form of government. They would clearly prefer a parliamentary system.

  2. I don't even think most of the animosity is principled enough to be for or against any particular format. There are very few popular political critics who are truly committed to any particular approach, be it constitutional or parliamentary or something else. There's very little consistent bottom-up reasoning.

    Instead, some critiv simply sees somrthing they don't like, and go no further than saying it should be changed, without consideration to the problems the change might bring.

    It could not be more clear that most folks, be they conservative, liberal, or somewhere in between, support the constitution as they see fit.

    The constitution was the founding compromise that allowed the nation to form. We don't get to be cafeteria supporters. We're stuck with the whole thing unless we can get enough support to amend it.

    So, for example, undoing the current way of determining the numbers of congressfolk each state gets is in my opinion reasonable ground for secession. The states all agreed to join the union on the condition that each state would get equal representation in the senate. Fortunately, I don't see any way for that compromise to be undone no matter how much California doesn't like it.

    At the same time, I wouldn't be especially troubled if California or Texas or Florida decided they wanted to break up into 2 or 3 states. Of course, such a move would be subject to approval by the rest of us.

  3. What, no mention of the elephant in the refrigerator? Namely, the Electoral College, where states get a number of votes equal to their combined House/Senate members? :-)

    One suspects that the "interstate compact" movement would fall apart if the folks calling for proportional Senate seats got their way ... in fact, one would give odds.

    The two-Senators-per-state thing is, of course, by design. It was NEVER meant to be "democratic" in terms of national popular vote, it was meant to protect little states from big states, a principal that IMHO is even more important now than when it was designed.

  4. I totally agree that the "two per state design" is more important than ever, especially when one considers that our country is in fact a union of a series of states. Like I said, founding compromise.

    I am still mulling what the probable outcome of the interstate compact will be if it gets enough states on board to trigger.

    On the one hand, I think it's a bit of a bad faith end around of the constitution, which intended for the President to be chosen based on the independent decisions of each of the 50 states, via each state's slate of electors.

    But on the other hand, I think it's a pretty brilliant end around because instead of trying to dismantle or nullify the electoral college, it allows it to stay in place but makes its function moot. [Presuming of course that electors act faithfully on the direction dictated by the compact.]

    So it doesn't really seem technically unconstitutional even though it seems to flout the spirit.

    Are you saying there is really any sort of existing movement to try and get more senators for bigger states? This sounds like a total non-starter to me.

  5. There is such a movement, but it's largely centered around the EC motivation. People pissed off about Bush/Gore 2000 form the nucleus.

    The "interstate compact" appears to be unconstitutional on the face of it, IMHO, under Article 1 Sec 10. Though Article 2 permits states to choose electors as they see fit, doing so by compact conflicts mightily not just with the intended design of our republic but also with the very notion of democracy, despite the rantings of compact supporters about "more democratic." Why hold elections for electors at all, if the results are to be tossed aside when inconvenient? Not to mention the practical difficulties -- imagine the Coleman/Franken election or the Florida 2000 furball writ large, and nationwide. And imagine the reaction of, say, Californians when they find that their votes don't count because other states conspired to game the system and the California popular vote is effectively nullified, and their EC votes given to the Cali loser.

    The same players who fought the two-seats-per-state system are the modern players in the interstate compact scheme, namely, states with high population and high urban desnity. Smaller and more rural states would be the likely losers. Which takes us back to the reasons there is a two-seat structure in the first place. Also note that those states that have already passed the measure are VERY heavily Democrat.

    The basic reason for NOT having a popular vote for Prez also remains, that a popular-vote Prez could undermine the other branches through a claimed mandate, despite the separation of powers doctrine. The Founders were a cople of centuries ahead of us on that reasoning both in Senate elections and in the EC design, and that's why we have the structure we do.

    It would also greatly increase the odds of "faithless electors," a rather perverse label given that electors voting against the popular winner but for their state winner would be the ones actually keeping faith with the voters of their state, while those going against that and casting EC votes for the pop winner rather than the state winner would be breaking faith with same. Ironically, supportes of the IC scheme say it would be more "democratic." I think they forgot to capitalize the D there.

  6. I don't get the bit about claiming a mandate. What system prevents a President from "claiming" a mandate?

    I don't know much of anything anything about article 1-10. The interstate compact is clearly a treaty or alliance, which 1-10 precludes states from entering. BUt I can't believe that states haven't entered into treaties and alliances of some sort or anther with some state or another regardless of 1-10.

    So I wonder what this article refers to. My novice reading is that the whole article is about denying states the right to usurp the sorts of authority reserved for the federal government, like foreign policy and printing money and so on.

    The interstate compact doesn't seem to involve that. I might change my mind if I has some examples where states where swatted down for entering into particular alliances or treaties. The interstate compact doesn't seem to involve that at all.

    I am of course open to correction from someone who is, you know, knowledgeable in the history of article 10 stopping state agreements with other parties.

    And as I've said, I am sympathetic to the notion of protecting the founding compromises whereby smaller less populous states are shielded from the undue influence of more populous states.

    Since the electors are supposed to do what the state's government orders, I don't think any action by an elector which does this could reasonably be viewed as faithless. After all, electors where originally under orders to act in good faith with the state's government, not its voters.

  7. A few points: You should be looking at Art 1 Sec 10 Clause 3, not Clause 1. ("No State shall, without the Consent of Congress...enter into any Agreement or Compact with another State...") An interstate compact between states is explicitly barred in Clause 3, the only question is whether SCOTUS will enforce. In some cases they do, in others they don't, there aren't all that many cases on point, and SCOTUS is not known for consistency over the decades. Their reasoning appears to involve interference with federal and constitutional functions. In this case they might well find it repugnant. Many have tried to alter the EC or convert to a direct popular vote over the years -- over seven hundred attempts -- and all attempts have failed. This current attempt appears designed to subvert the Constitutional purposes by evading Congressional review.

    If you think there are no very real political (rather than legal) repercussions associated with overturning state results by fiat based on the results of other states' elections, please feel free to defend that to the mobs, er, voters when and if it happens. (Chain mail won't be enough. I recommend seriously armored and fireproofed vehicles with appropriate armament.) All in the name of "democracy," of course.

    Actually, the only electors under the IC proposal would be those chosen after the election. If some want to abolish the Electoral College, why not do it directly? The answer, of course, is that they can't, so they're going to try the Constitutionally questionable end run.

    And lastly, of course, presidents are elected by the states not the people for specific reasons, and while any idiot can claim a "mandate from the people" (witness history) one of the specific reasons that the President is elected by the States is as a partial backstop against such claims. Your argument there is with the Founders. They feared despots and massive, centralized government. With good reason. The IC would further undermine the erosion of a federalist system. Something Democrats are all in favor of.

    At what point do state governments becomes redundant, mere extra leechage on the body politic? In any case I suspect the IC is more aimed at the erosion of federalism more than at actually affecting elections.