Almost exactly three months ago, I posted on Larry Sabato’s (bad) ideas for revising the Constitution and holding a constitutional convention to do so. (I’m all for civic education, but that strikes me as a singularly bad means of accomplishing it.)
Among other things, LS apparently doesn’t like the Senate because it’s insufficiently democratic:
One thing we’re trying to do is remedy the unfairness of the Senate. Right now you have a population differential of 70-to-1 between California and Wyoming--70-to-1! The Founders could never have conceived of this. The population differentials among the early states were significant but not nearly to this extent. This is massive. Second, and this figure always shocks people, 17 percent of the people elect 51 Senators. The founders were concerned about the "tyranny of the majority," and I am, too. But there’s another evil at the opposite extreme: the tyranny of a small minority. It seems to me that when 17 percent of the people can drive the other 83 percent, we may have a problem. And it’s worse than that. Because in fact, since it only takes 41 senators to stop everything in the Senate, 11.2 percent of the people elect 41 senators. So 11 percent of Americans are driving the other 89 percent. To me that is tyranny of a small minority.
Oh, where to begin? How about with his implicit claim that minorities shouldn’t (ever?) obstruct overwhelming majorities? Kind of makes a hash of limited government, doesn’t it?
And then there’s his argument that current Senate procedures demand a constitutional response. Wouldn’t it be easier, if it’s really a problem, to change the Senate’s rules?
His most problematical argument--the most theoretical and least based on the kind of textured and nuanced political analysis for which he’s known--is his fear that small states will obstruct the will of large states. By my reckoning, the 26 smallest states are represented in the Senate by 22 Democrats, 28 Republicans, and 2 Independents. This is hardly a prescription for a unified tyrannically-minded minority, especially when you consider that the small states include almost all of New England (trending Democratic, with some Republican Senators who are hard to distinguish from their Democratic counterparts), Hawaii (which last elected a Republican when?), and a buch of states from the South and the West that you’d think would reliably elect Republicans (but include Democrats Jeff Bingamon, Byron Dorgan, Harry Reid, and Max Baucus, as well as Republicans like Chuck Hagel).
And if you pare Sabato’s obstructionist bloc down to the 21 smallest states, you get a 20/20 partisan split, with the tie-breakers being Joe Lieberman and Bernie Sanders.
It seems to me that the small states look quite a bit like the big states. And it seems to me that Sabato’s theoretical concern is so far-fetched as to be almost ridiculous. He hasn’t convinced me that anything is broken here, or that his "fix" (more "democracy") is in keeping with the spirit of the Constitution.