A completely practical reform for the Senate

I have written before about the constitutional problems arising from attempts to either abolish the Senate or create proportional representation. I now believe that I have developed a flawless scheme to achieve proportional representation with only minimal constitutional amendments. My model is the effort on the state level to make an end-run around the Electoral College. The scheme stipulates that once a number of states with a majority of electoral votes agrees to this measure, all those states would award their electoral votes to the winner of the national popular vote. The Electoral College would remain formally in place, but it would be functionally irrelevant, with no possibility of a mismatch between the Electoral College and the popular vote (which has happened a disturbing number of times in US history).

My Senate scheme would be more complex. First, it would require the agreement of all 50 states in order to work. Second, it would require eliminating the constitutional amendment stipulating that senators be directly elected, reverting to the previous model where state legislatures appointed them (which weirdly happens to be a Tea Party demand, so maybe we could slip this in). The twist is that state legislatures would bind themselves to appoint their senators on the basis of a new nationwide senatorial election scheme, with proportional districts drawn either within or across state lines. (Let’s just stipulate that we could find a nonpartisan body that could be trusted to draw these districts.) Two new senate districts would be formally assigned to each state, which would automatically provide for staggered elections as in the current system. Ideally, all senators would resign en masse so that the new proportional system would come online all at once, but if not, it would only take six years (three election cycles) to clean house.

This system wouldn’t technically run afoul of the constitutional provision that no state be deprived of equal representation, because each senator would still be “officially” appointed by one of the states — they would just be doing so on the basis of the election results from the new nationwide senate districts. In a deeper sense, the convolution and indirection of the system seem to me to be profoundly in the spirit of the US Constitution itself. If we implemented this plan, the Founders would surely be smiling down on us, pleased that we developed a Rube Goldberg machine to get us out of the corner they painted us into.

4 Responses to “A completely practical reform for the Senate”

  1. Lauri Says:

    Would you keep the requirement that senators be “inhabitants” of the states they (formally) represent? Not that it is very strictly observed as things are, apparently, but certainly it would make the system more contrived and thus interesting if you had to move to Wyoming to run for senator in some district of California, say, while a few miles down the road the candidates were Hawaiian.

  2. Adam Kotsko Says:

    Curses! I forgot about that provision! Perhaps the state legislatures could officially declare the senators they appoint to be “inhabitants” of their state.

  3. Fuck that. Says:

    To the American state the left has but one responsibility: end it. A shitstain on history. Participating in the American state and being of the left is not possible. Defining. The anti-American left is tautological. The American left is oxymoronic. Anything that perpetuates the American state is evil. Reform destroys hope. End it.

    Block all lines of flight out of this present. Eradicate all fruit of the poisoned tree and the tree itself hack to bits. Hack hack and hack to the roots. End it.

    Have a nice day.

  4. sy Says:

    Surely there’s a simpler version, where people are annoyed by how unrepresentative the senate is and public opinion turns against it as a chamber of government, to the point that a majority of senators just agrees to rubberstamp whatever the House says, and this happens for long enough that the Senate just withers away and then after a century or so is on the verge of being officically removed or depowered by transpartisan consensus. Ask Lloyd George for details.


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