Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Elections to the Imperial Senate

I don't think I have the energy to tackle the recent article about throwing away our Constitution.  We can either amend what we have or we could have a convention; but I don't see how it makes sense to rewrite the whole thing because it's just too hard to have a consensus for amending it.  If we can't form a consensus to amend it ...

Anyway,  I've had several passing thoughts about institutional changes that could be done through amendment, if not permitted by the current revision of the Constitution.

I've conjectured recently about better representation by the House of Representatives, and even conjectured about a third house of Congress (which might not need an amendment since the IPAB is supposedly Constitutional).

Now my thoughts turn to the Senate.

I think the 17th Amendment was a big mistake, one of those "what makes the Founding Fathers so goshdurned smart, they didn't even have modern technology" turns of Scientism-fueled, unfounded superiority.  I think most of the Populists that pushed for this probably thought the idea of a bicameral legislature was silly; most Progressives can't articulate a good reason for even having states, let alone state-based representation.  Having Senators elected by state legislatures meant that they would more likely represent the interests of the State, and balance the susceptibility of the House to demagoguery.  It would help ensure that the interests of the 10th Amendment.

With Populism, demagoguery is how things get done.  The pundits and educators and career politicians create the "need" for a government solution (Something must be done; now! -- sound familiar?) and engineer consensus.  The 17th Amendment (reform of the senate elections) paved the way for the ill-conceived 18th Amendment (prohibition), because many people thought that government could solve the rampant social ills of alcohol addiction by increasing the powers of the Internal Revenue Service.

However, as long as the Senators are supposed to represent the People of their states, I would propose something more in the spirit of pre-12th Amendment Presidential elections.  Both Senatorial seats get elected at the same time.  Every citizen casts up to two votes.  The two candidates with the largest plurality of votes win.

Could use some more colors. 
Here's the real catch though.  The parties with state memberships larger than 30% of the population can only present one candidate.  What this would mean, at first anyway, is that there would be only one Democrat and one Republican on the ballot.  A voter could cast the 2nd vote for a minor party or not cast a second vote (assuming he or she actually prefers one of the two major parties to all others).   You could decide to vote for both candidates of a given minor party.  (Most minor parties would probably only present one candidate at first.)

Once again, this gives the people more power to shift their influence away from the two-party Duopoly with less fear that their votes will be thrown away.  And that will mean that more parties will be able to compete for a voter's vote.  And more competition of ideas. More pressure to include minor party candidates in debates.   Right now it's very easy for 49% of a state's population to have very little representation.

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