Thursday, November 02, 2006


The Constitution's to blame

Soccer Dad has a new post up called We have two houses don't we?, discussing a Brian Mann Op-Ed in today’s NY Times: Winning Small

Mr. Mann is seemingly none-too-pleased that:

“In part, the electoral importance of small towns reflects a profound rural bias hardwired into our political system. The Constitution grants two Senate seats to each state regardless of its population. As a consequence, a majority of senators are elected by voters in 26 sparsely settled states that together contain less than 18 percent of the country’s population.”

This is bad because:

“If rural America embraces Republicans with the same fervor it did two years ago, Democrats will almost certainly be denied a majority in the Senate and may fall short in the House.”

SD correctly points out that “[h]aving a bicameral legislature gives Congress the chance to check the outsize influence of the less populous states in the Senate” so I won’t belabor that point of seemingly constitutional obviousness. Instead, I was struck by this passage from Mr. Mann’s piece:

“And the Republicans are working feverishly to mollify and re-energize their rural base with talk about same-sex marriage, abortion, gun rights, public Christianity, terrorism and immigration — all issues that play brilliantly in small towns. The Republican National Committee has cranked up its sophisticated get-out-the-vote machine, combining phone and mail prompts, pastor-and-pulpit networks, conservative talk radio and door-to-door canvassing.”

They play brilliantly in big towns too…or that’s what the left wants you to believe. Listening to the left and its public faces in Congress, you’d think that same-sex marriage was something all decent Americans agreed on; that Abortion on demand was a mainstream thought; that the second amendment was an anachronism the majority eagerly sought to mute; that true Christians could be only be liberals; that Bush and Cheney were the true terrorists and that unchecked immigration was a national blessing.

In 2004, the national press was all agog gog over the sophistication of Howard Dean’s internet fundraising prowess; Air America was to be the rational person’s answer to conservative radio; there was hardly a predominantly black church that didn’t have at least one prominent Democrat preach to the masses and ACORN, MoveOn and of course the hugely funded Americans Coming Together (ACT) were all about sophisticated GOTV efforts.

I’m also left wondering if Mr. Mann isn’t just part of a new leftist consensus that the Constitution just isn’t fair. University of Texas law professor Sanford Levinson has a new book out on the subject and touched on it in a recent piece in the LA Times: Our Broken Constitution. What really riles Professor Levinson up is the power small states have via the Electoral College and, of course, the Senate. Now this “problem” has been around for awhile but I guess the recent GOP success with these institutions has highlighted their inherent unfairness.

Still, the shallowness of their analysis leaves me unimpressed. Maybe Mr. Levinson addresses it in his book (I haven’t read it) and maybe Mr. Mann has a ready answer but why would the less-populated states ever have wanted to join a Union of more-populated states if their views and concerns could be effectively overridden by the urban behemoths? Why would Delaware or Maryland have wanted to cede effective control to NY, Massachusetts and Virginia? What would have been in it for them? We know the advantages to the larger states: more land & more taxes at a minimal dispersion of power...Ah yes, some things never change.

(as a side note to Mr. Mann’s article, though, Professor Levinson notes that Democrats also benefit from the small state syndrome:

“The Democrats, for example, draw their leadership almost exclusively from small states. Over the last 30 years, that party's leadership has come from Montana (Mike Mansfield), West Virginia (Robert Byrd), Maine (George Mitchell), South Dakota (Tom Daschle) and Nevada (Harry Reid).”)

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