« Thoughts on Korea and "Progress" in Afghanistan | Main | Expansion of Metrorail, a sensible idea »

11 March 2013


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.


My lord, you do have an issue with those states that hold the largest population of American citizens.

I've no particular problem with the Senate as is - although I'd prefer having senators-at-large for the largest cities/counties. But, I do have a problem when those smaller states receive a disproportionate amount from the federal treasury than those states whose citizens have paid the most into it. The politics of granting relief funds for Hurricane Sandy victims is a case in point.

If those states you repeatedly mock were to secede, how well do you think the other states will perform in today's world of globalization without the money from California, Illinois, New York, and the New England states? How well will the interests of the smaller states - their citizens - be served?

steve g

The "Balkanization" of the US is forged
in the original concept of the country.
How many micrcosms of humanity will it
take to either push us asunder or unite
the many?


I can only imagine what corporate America would do with such a proposal. Imagine what would happen to the fine land of Biden, Delaware, if their two senator's couldn't stop (or gerrymander) some banking regulations.

Last time I was in upstate California I met plenty of folks who wanted to secede (from California). Seems like the revulsion of wanting urbanites to mind their own business isn't restricted to fly-over country. Even the 'other' New Yorkers can't stand Bloombergians:



They're really upset that the rest of the nation doesn't get with the "progressive" idiocy happening in California and NY, aren't they?



"you do have an issue with those states that hold the largest population of American citizens."

No, I don't care about them at all. I simply do not want to be dictated to by them. pl


What are they dictating? The question is sincere; I really don't know what you mean.

John Minnerath

As a resident of one of the fly over states, the square one where nobody lives; we like to think equal suffrage in the Senate helps level the playing field.
The Federal Government owns about 43% of Wyoming right off the top that we have no say in.

We started out supplying beef to the nation, on ranches owned by the moneyed interests in the east.
Now our natural resources help you all drive your cars and heat your homes, it's nearly all exported to the big population centers while we locals pay high rates for what's left.

It doesn't bother me one damn bit that we have a little more vote per capita in one part of government.


We could do like the Germans and give bigger states more Senators than smaller states, but only two votes as required by the Constitution. lol


Its rather humorous in a way since Reagan was from California and Giuliani from NYC. Liberals couldn't stand either one.



Could you manage to have a name that is not such a nuisance? You are merely provoking me. The NY Times thing I cited is your answer. pl


I didn't hear much complaint from progressive large population states when hurricanes Fran and Floyd did $10 billion in damage to North Caroline, which didn't get much reconstruction assistance out of President Clinton.


Have you not noticed where the majority of the sound and fury for gun grabbing is coming from?

Will Reks

I suppose it really just boils down to the urban/rural divide. My home state Wisconsin is no different. The rural types love to look down on those from Madison and Milwaukee who they believe look down on them. That's probably true.

We're all stuck with each other though...

Mark Kolmar

Representation in the Senate is a bigger concern lately for a few reasons.

The Electoral College may be the main reason the U.S. has a two-party system. It is not hard to imagine other ways to choose the president that also would give some extra weight to the smaller states. Some of those methods might have resulted in a multi-party system based on regional interests, narrower platforms, and different coalitions to choose the president and to organize the House and Senate.

Republicans in the Senate currently are disproportionately from smaller states. And currently they vote more as a bloc than as individual members who represent their states in the federal system. So the anti-majoritarian design of the Senate has been emphasized lately, not just per-issue, but more by party interest and even due to the way the parties' candidates are selected. Lately, the filibuster is used routinely as a partisan tool, rather than a way to register special intensity or to extend debate. Reform of the filibuster rules, or the way the filibuster is used in practice, could ease some of the tension.

If not for the two dominant parties at the federal level, state politics might have evolved in quite different ways too, that might not reflect the urban vs. suburban/rural split we have today. For example, Wisconsin has a history of a coalition among farmers and workers that does not necessarily mean they need to belong to the same party to have an operating majority.



You may have noticed that the constitution says that the states run presidential elections. Want to have a constitutional convention? pl


The part where the article says minorities are under represented because they tend to live in the larger states on the coasts is supposed to make us feel guilty, I guess. Each state has its own interests and identity, which they would lose if proportional representation allowed the urbanites to dominate elections. Anyway, we are not a democracy and I hope we never devolve into one. Even though I live in the city, I'm glad the farmers and ranchers have enough power on the state level to put the brakes on some of the hairbrained ideas the liberals would like to legislate. And I'm fairly liberal but have in the past lived close enough to Berkely to see how they can ruin a city through micro-management.

The Twisted Genius

The constitution says that the states run presidential elections, but the process is increasingly being taken over by the national parties. I'd rather see stronger state/regional political organization. The national parties both act too much like vanguard parties loyal only to themselves and their ideologies.


The Great Compromise, whatever its flaws, is one of those institutional achievements that deserves our respect for its sheer durability: anything that has lasted that long is unlikely to be without significant redeeming features.

And federalism in general is one of the two least well-understood manifestations of the principle of the separation of powers (organized labor is the other). As with the three branches of government, power is checked, without repression, by means of a counterveiling power.

For all these reasons and more, we liberal/progressive types should really get over the idea that diminishing the influence of the smaller or more rural states is the royal road to achieving more of the national policies we favor. FDR didn't need to 'cut out' those states to pass the New Deal, Truman didn't need to ignore them to be able to make his appeal to 'vote your interests', and Clinton didn't need to alientate them to reassemble a center-left coalition in the wake of Nixon and Reagan.

All that said, the system probably works as well as it does because the tension it creates (between majority will in each state and the will of the national majority) is kept within certain limits.

The big states are heavyweights, but no single one of them carries the disproportionate weight that, say, Germany now does in the councils of the EU--a disproportion that, I think, is slowly tearing that (much looser) union apart. And their geographical and cultural diversity keeps them from 'ganging up' on the small states in the way the EU 'core' has lately been able to dictate terms to the EU 'periphery.'

Similarly, the divergence of small state interests and views keeps them, as a group, from totally dominating the will of any single large state. True, the Senate insures that disproportionate benefits will flow to the smaller states. But it does not give them enough of a collective advantage to tempt them to play Lilliputians to the big state Gullivers. The biggest states are generally able to win enough federal consessions to maintain their growth and hence their power.

As long as the big state, small state divide is intercut in this way with other important differences, I think we'll be fine. In other words, it's probably a very good thing that the biggest states happen to be scattered across several different geographic and cultural regions, rather than being concentrated in a single 'core'.

For what it's worth, though, if we ever did need a solution to this problem (if the tension ever became too great), my vote would be for breaking up the largest states. Making large units smaller is likely to be politically easier and less dangerous than making small units larger.

There's a wonderful book by Philip Fradkin called The Seven States of California. Having been raised in one of the seven ("the Fractured Province"), spent summers with family in another ("the Great Valley"), and finally settled down in a third ("the Profligate Province"), I can attest that there is plenty of material here for a 'velvet divorce' if the need ever arose.


Dude, you live in Virginia.



"To be a Virginian either by Birth, Marriage, Adoption, or even on one's Mother's side is an Introduction to any State in the Union, a Passport to any Foreign Country, and a Benediction from Above" pl


"The national parties both act too much like vanguard parties loyal only to themselves and their ideologies"

We are seeing this at the state level in Michigan also. The MDP just voted out the 19 year incumbent as chairman and elected a party fundraiser connected to Obama machine – Lon Johnson. When on the local news channel for an extended roundtable interview he said his first goal was ‘winning’ followed up by fund-raising. Principles? Well apparently ‘winning’ and money are the principles, just like they were for the past decade or so. Needless to say the Democratic party in Michigan doesn’t lead (yes, lead) any branch of government. It is especially appalling that they consistently discriminated against male candidates for supreme court justices (nominated by party and elected in the general election in this state) or attorney general for at least the last ten years. It seems political science – i.e. electioneering – types dominate. The Republicans aren’t much better and we are starting to see a state level government that is more representative of France with the decisions made in the capital and locally elected mayors, city councils, etc. be damned. Detroit is the latest to be under the ‘emergency financial manager’ takeover

Nancy K

As liberal Californians, New Yorkers and New Englanders move to less liberal states that are cheaper to retire in , they can possibly dilute the local conservativism and change the way the state votes. I see that as a very real possibility in North Carolina.


My lord, I mean dear cowboy, it took me about 15 years to appreciate the Southern way. I am proud to be a Virginian by transplantation, although I'm slowly returning to the great white north (Ohio). Great day, that's the first time I've ever called myself a Virginian.

The beauty of regional representations is that the diversity of cultures is preserved, so that our nation doesn't put all of its eggs into one evolutionary basket.

Medicine Man

I wonder if the US, and indeed even the rest of the world, wouldn't be better off if New York were split off into a Vatican City-esque entity. A good portion of the global financial elite would no longer be able to avail themselves of US public money.

Eric Dönges

Note that in Germany, the smallest states have three seats, while the largest have six even though they have way more than twice the population of the smallest states, so it's actually not all that different from the situation in the U.S. Just like in the U.S., there is some bitching about this issue, and again just like in the U.S., it's not going to change because the smaller states are never ever going to agree to anything that limits their influence.

The comments to this entry are closed.

My Photo

February 2021

Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
  1 2 3 4 5 6
7 8 9 10 11 12 13
14 15 16 17 18 19 20
21 22 23 24 25 26 27
Blog powered by Typepad