The Founder’ monumental constitutional mistake; 2 senators from each state

But let’s not blame the Founders because they had no way of knowing how large this country would become and the great degree to which the populations of its states would vary.


As the Founding Fathers were creating the Constitution, including how the Senate would be constituted, they had to decide how many senators each state would have. They debated and agonized over this issue and then bent to pressure from representatives of the smaller states that wanted two senators for each state, regardless of size and population.

Unfortunately, they made the wrong decision, a mistake which has largely contributed to the dysfunctionality of the U.S. Senate. But let’s not blame the Founders because they had no way of knowing how large this country would become and the great degree to which the populations of its states would vary.

Also, it’s very likely they thought that, as the country grew in size, any such imbalance would be rectified by the actions of rational-minded, dedicated legislators. If so they were mistaken in thinking that, in the future, this country would possess those kinds of competent legislators.

To help in understanding why having two senators from each state is restricting the Senate’s ability to create and pass meaningful legislation check out which shows the current populations of each of the 51 states. The variance between states is very great.

The combined population of America’s largest states, California, Texas, and Florida is about 90 million; these three states have a total of 6 senators.

The three least populous states, Alaska, Vermont, and Wyoming, have a combined population of 1.9 million people and they also have 6 senators. The three largest states combined population is 47 times larger than the 3 smallest.
It is absolutely incomprehensible that these tiny states possess the same power in the Senate as the 3 largest but they do.

The District of Columbia is one of the 51 states but has no senators.

We can still apply the concept of “majority rule” to our election system, even though the electoral college sometimes negates it. But that concept does not exist in the Senate.

The makeup of this Senate is a complete misrepresentation of what democracy is supposed to be about, and living proof that it, as currently constituted, is a perfect example of taxation without appropriate representation.

It’s no wonder why this Senate has now become so very dysfunctional, why it remains in a perpetual state of gridlock. If this legislative body’s decisions were based on majority rule many of the problems currently facing this nation wouldn’t even exist.

Let’s review how this situation evolved from the time the Constitution was being created to now and see the ramifications of the Founders’ decision. As we have said, the Founders received great pressure from the representatives of smaller states who insisted that each state should have two senators, regardless of their populations.

Understandably, these small states had grave concerns over the distinct possibility that they would be dominated by the large states who would use their power to control Senate proceedings to advance their own interests, totally ignoring the needs and wants of the smaller states. And, yes, we could say that their concerns were valid.

However, what has happened since then is the opposite. In the Senate today the smaller states have the ability to block the creation of legislation that would greatly favor the vast majority of Americans. Why? Because they have two senators.

The difference between the objectives of the two political parties is very great. Right now Democrats and Republicans have opposite views on the issues of health care, taxation, inequality of income in America, women and minority rights, climate change, as well as many others.

Republicans are in power and are winning in this conflict of interests clearly because the two senator from each state rule gives them a distinct advantage. And that’s simply because they have most of the smaller states in the South and in the Northwest on their side. That gives them the right to dominate the creation of legislation; that which can be created and that which will not.
Of course, there are those who would say that even thinking about reconstituting the Senate and altering the number of senators for each state would be unwarranted; that everything is fine just as is. They say the U.S. House provides for fair and equal representation of the people and, therefore, the Senate need not do the same.

That’s not a valid argument. The Senate and the House do many different things; the Senate ratifies treaties, makes the final decision on impeachment, and advises and consents on important matters. They can take laws originated in the House and then pass them on to the president or they can block them.  

If the Senate truly represented the people of America properly Judge Brett Kavanaugh likely would not be a Supreme Court Justice. And the Congress would be totally controlled by Democrats.

If the Senate were reconstituted how would it look? Well, a study group to figure out the best configuration would have that responsibility; as an example, I will put forth my recommendations on what it might look like.  

Proposed Senate reconstitution

Based on the list of states’ populations shown in the link shown in paragraph 4 above:
California — 6 senators
Texas, New York, and Florida — 5
Illinois and Pennsylvania — 4
Ohio, Georgia, Michigan, and North Carolina — 3
States from New Jersey down to Connecticut — 2
States from Iowa down to Wyoming — 1

Of course, this change in the Senate would require a Constitutional Amendment, a very difficult thing to do.  

Unfortunately, we have a condition in the Senate in which one side of this issue, the larger states, and their many citizens, or the smaller states with far smaller populations, will be put at a disadvantage in the creation of legislation no matter what we do. So which one should it be?

To answer that question we need to ask another question; If they could return to this planet and America for a short time and see what their decision has done relative to the operation of the Senate, what exactly would the Founding Fathers do?

I think that they would understand that this was a condition that evolved over time and is very difficult to resolve but, in the end, that in order to provide a fair and appropriate representation of all the people that, indeed, there should be differences in the number of senators from each state based on their populations.
Will the people of America ever see that happen? Who knows? If this country ever enters into an Age of Enlightenment or a new Age of Reason then it might well happen. If it does not then America will be left with a democracy and a Senate that, unfortunately, do not fairly represent the people of this country.


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Michael Payne is an independent progressive activist. His writings deal with social, economic, political and foreign policy issues; and especially with the great dangers involved with the proliferation of perpetual war, the associated defense industry, and the massive control that Corporate America holds over this government and our election process; all which are leading this nation down the road to eventual financial ruin if the conditions are not reversed. He is a graduate of Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois and a U.S. Army veteran.