America’s oldest political problem

It was the first item of controversy at the First Continental Congress in 1774, and thirteen years later, at the Constitutional Convention, it was the hardest problem to solve.  It’s suffrage, or how will votes be counted.  Is it one State, one vote, or something else, based on population?

In 1774 Samuel Adams convinced the large States to accept equal power with the small.  In 1787 a compromise was reached, and in the Constitution large States were given power in the House of Representatives, and in Presidential elections.  But that’s all they got.

In the Senate, it’s equal suffrage for the States, and the Senate controls the Supreme Court.  If a Presidential election is thrown into the House, it’s one State, one vote.  To ratify Constitutional Amendments, it’s one State, one vote.  And to propose Amendments under Article V, it’s one State, one vote.

There have been dozens of Conventions of States, or colonies, in American history, and in every one of them it’s been one State, one vote.  So it will be in Phoenix in September, and at any subsequent Article V Convention if one is called.

There may be an attempt to introduce some other form of voting in Phoenix.  It happened at the last meeting of the Assembly of State Legislatures, before it was rejected.  In one sense, I hope it does.  This is one of the myths of the runaway.  The Birchers think that the large, liberal States will do their mischief because voting will be based on the electoral college.  So let’s debate the issue, and affirm one State, one vote officially and resoundingly.

Because it’s one State, one vote, the 30 red States will be in full control.  This will also destroy part of the runaway myth, that somehow the dreaded “liberals” are going to get control of a Convention.  Under current political conditions, and for the foreseeable future, conservative Republicans, mostly from small States, will control any meeting of the States.

And let’s not forget, State Legislatures are very often much more conservative than the State, itself.  Minnesota is the perfect example, a State where most of the Democrats are concentrated in Minneapolis-St. Paul, and a lot of their votes are wasted.  Republican votes are spread out across the countryside, and this natural gerrymander gives Republicans control over the Legislature of bluish purple Minnesota.   It’s much the same in Oregon, Washington, Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin  —  I could go on.

What this all boils down to is that State Legislatures are the most conservative political institution in this country, by far.  Most State legislatures are more conservative than their Governor, or Congressional delegation.

With some exceptions, State Legislators are not career politicians.  It’s a part time, poorly paid, temporary service.  A lot of these men and women are great Americans, even if most people don’t know who they are.

If all goes well, the Phoenix Convention will give the country a chance to see them in action.

 

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