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John Dingell was, before his 2015 retirement, a sitting congressman for nearly 60 years. He has a few ideas on how to repair our government and rebuild trust, like: automatic voter registration at age 18; the “elimination” of money in campaigns; an end to the Electoral College; and oh by the way, abolish the United States Senate.

Today, in a nation of more than 325 million and 37 additional states, not only is that structure antiquated, it’s downright dangerous. California has almost 40 million people, while the 20 smallest states have a combined population totaling less than that. Yet because of an 18th-century political deal, those 20 states have 40 senators, while California has just two. These sparsely populated, usually conservative states can block legislation supported by a majority of the American people. That’s just plain crazy.

The problem is indeed acute, and becoming more so. States with an ever-smaller fraction of America’s population hold ever-greater power over the crafting of the laws that govern the rest of us. But the Senate cannot be abolished without tearing up the Constitution or getting the consent of every one of those small states to give up their guaranteed national power, which will Never Ever Happen, which means that the Senate is almost certain to outlast, say, the soon-to-be-underwater state of Florida.

The easier alternative would be to break up the largest states so that the power differential between vast rural swaths like Wyoming and your average good-sized urban center is not so ridiculously absurd. This, too, is likely to be thwarted by lawmakers from those same small states, and for the same reasons. (My own crankish preference would be that every time we add a new state, the then-smallest state gets unceremoniously absorbed by a neighbor, keeping the total an even 50. Pigs will be genetically engineered to soar like eagles before that happens, but a fellow can dream.)

But in any event, it seems we are at last beginning to have earnest public discussions about the inherent grotesquery of citizens in the states where the majority of Americans live being brushed aside, repeatedly, via systems 200 years old, back when the population of the United States was, in grand total, roughly equal to the city of Los Angeles today. Go, read.

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This is a Creative Commons article. The original version of this article appeared here.

2 COMMENTS

  1. This makes sense to me. I’m fed up with small population States riding roughshod over the rest of us. No wonder things the majority of the people are for don’t get passed like common sense gun safety legislation & healthcare. I’d be rid of Ted Cruz & John Cornyn so I sure can’t condemn a plan that accomplishes that.

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