Is there a logical rationale for grouping people by state for federal government representation today (e.g. the US Senate)? I understand that precedent and reluctance to fundamentally alter the US constitution are perhaps reason enough for most, but barring these arguments, if the bicameral legislature were to be redefined today, what arguments would be used on the side of state-based seat allocation for the Senate? For argument purposes consider a proportional representation scheme such as open party-list proportional representation as an alternative.

  • Not my DV, but this is going to be largely opinion-based... If you want to make a more objective q, you could ask if there are federal systems/countries where the upper chamber is not elected strictly this way. – Fizz Feb 10 at 17:55
  • @Fizz How could the question be changed to make it less opinion-based? There must be some arguments in support of state-based allocation despite disparate representation? – DerekG Feb 10 at 17:58
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    Those are probably largely the same as they were when the Constitution was drafted. You could ask if any novel arguments were brought forth since then (but I rather doubt that's the case.) "modern benefits" is too vague, imho. – Fizz Feb 10 at 18:00
  • Right, but the heterogeneity of each state's constituents in terms of desires, economic centers, etc. has changed radically since then, so I'm wondering what modern arguments in support of state-based allocation would look like with acknowledgement of this shift – DerekG Feb 10 at 18:03
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    Downvoted because it seems an objective answer is pretty well impossible, because "benefits" are almost always inherently subjective. For instance, I as a rural person think it is very beneficial to keep damned urbanites from controlling more of the country than they already do. Those urbanites may well hold the opposite opinion :-) – jamesqf Feb 11 at 4:22

I think this question devolves into the question of "What are the modern benefits of states?".

The Senate was originally designed to represent state governments the way that the House was designed to represent the people in each state. This was later changed by the Seventeenth Amendment to allow the direct election of Senators, but they still represent the entirety of their state, the way they did when the government picked them. As long as each state has its own government which needs to address all the disparate concerns of its citizens (both urban and rural), then it makes sense to have representation at the national level of that same unit of population.

Additionally, the current Rural/Urban divide in politics is a relatively new situation. Compare the county-by-county maps from 1920 (100 years ago), 1968 (52 years ago), 2000 (20 years ago) and 2020 (now) - you can see that what used to be regional groupings by party has been gradually diffusing across the country. But that doesn't mean that this division is permanent. 20 years from now, it's very possible that the varying effects of climate change being the most important dividing issue, and the eastern states are opposed to the western states in how to best handle it.

1920 county map 1968 county map 2000 county map 2020 county map

  • You mention that The senate used to be appointed by the states themselves and was later changed to direct election like the house. It might be good to mention that part of the reason for this is that some Senate seats used to go unfilled for years because replacements would not get picked and the direct election was the way it was decided to fix that problem. – Joe W Feb 10 at 20:32
  • @JoeW - You might be right. I really only addressed why tying it to the existence of states makes sense, and didn't touch on the method for the election. I've linked the relevant amendment for now, and will consider elaborating on that part of it. – Bobson Feb 10 at 21:24
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    The reason I mention it is because people tend to think that Senators represent the people as they are elected by the people but that is only because some states failed to do their job and select Senators in a timely manner. – Joe W Feb 10 at 21:41

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