In the USA, do big states resent small states?

I’m not an American, and would appreciate some US input into this.

I recently came across a webpage giving the populations of all the US states. It said that the most populous state was California with (roughly) 36 million people, and the least populous was Wyoming with only half a million or so.

This got me thinking - since every state gets two (and only two) senators, do Californians resent the fact that Wyomingers get as much representation in the Senate as they do, despite the fact that they have only a seventieth, or less, of the Californian population?

Of course, I don’t mean to single out these two states specifically - Texas and Rhode Island would be almost as good an example. The point is, do the residents of big states feel under-represented compared to small states? Is this, or has it ever been, an issue in US politics? Or is it a case of “it’s enshrined in the Constitution, so there’s nothing we can do about it”? Has anyone ever suggested merging small states or splitting big states to improve the situation?

No, we have the House of Representatives to solve that problem.

http://www.house.gov/

They are the other half of the Legislative branch and they work with the Senate to get things done.

The number of represenatives a state has is determined by its population.

Here’s the wiki link that describes what it does:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_House_of_Representatives

I believe that the Senate was created just so big states don’t end up bullying the smaller states, which is why we implement both systems.

On the other hand, there is some resentment by the small states against the big states. In national elections, all the candidates go to the big states, which have lots of electoral votes, while the small states are often ignored.

Yes, I know about the House of Representatives, but my point is that unless the Senate is totally powerless (which presumably it isn’t), the small states still get disproportionate power. Apparently the 41 least populous states have half of the population, and therefore supply half of the House of Reps, but elect 82 of the 100 Senators.

To put it in a current perspective:

There are 4 states where GWB has a better than 50% approval rating. Those states are represented by 8 Senators.

New York City has a greater population than those 4 states combined. NYC shares 2 Senators with the rest of the state of New York.

In today’s terms, the system is rigged against the populace states. While there is not much acknowledgment of the problem, the resentment is growing.

The fact of the matter is that the US Senate wields more power than the House of Representative. While it was designed to balance out, the system was decided upon over 200 years ago and doesn’t really address today’s needs. Is there a solution in sight, NO.

This was a huge issue when the constitution was being written in the eighteenth century. The delegates from Connecticut proposed a compromise (known as the Connecticut Compromise) giving equal representation in the Senate and proportionate representation in the House, which is why we have the situation you described.

There is a difference in the amount of federal taxes paid compared to the federal dollars spent in or given to states, but it’s only sometimes eggregious enough to resent.
I get the impression that, even if unstated, senators from, say, Wyoming don’t have quite as much pull as ones from Texas.
Remember that:

  • nothing goes though the Senate that doesn’t go through the House of Representatives.
  • every state gets pork barrel spending.
  • they’re all on the same team (political parties notwithstanding).

This was a contentious issue when the Constitution was being formed.

On page you can read about the “Great Compromise”. You can see that there was the oposite position you have noticed as well : the small states (remember there were only 13 at this point) did not want a government based purely on Population. As the link says:

They foresaw the annexation of small, ineffective states as the populations of the large states continued to grow and their influence waned. Some, like the Delaware delegation, were instructed to leave the Convention if equal suffrage in the legislature were compromised*.

OTOH the whole purpose of the Convention was to rid the totally ineffective 1 state 1 vote system. Also, the populous states felt they should have more influence.

The Legislature with 2 Senators and House of Reps. (as** DVsickgirlDV** notes based on population was the (Great) Compromise - the way they found to get out of this dilemma… Bottom-line, I think There was a faction of our Founding Fathers who would agree with you Alive at Both Ends and argued as such – but in the end the Senate comprimise was thier way out

Presidential appointments go to the Senate for approval, but not to the House.

Additionally, spending bills have to originate in the House, which gives that body more power in that respect. It also has the power to impeach.

The candidates are more likely to ignore the safe states rather than the small ones, although I doubt Wyoming gets much attention. Frankly, some of us in CA are happy to not be barraged with political ads and phone calls around election time. I suspect the good folks of Ohio had a lot more of that than we did. :slight_smile:

It should also be noted that the one part of the Constitution that requires equal representation in the Senate is arguably not amendable (empahsis added):

Except high-level executive appointments, all federal judicial appointments, treaties, and impeachment trials.

Definitely the latter, at least since 1789. As a large-state resident, I know in the abstract that it’s wrong that I’m represented by two-ten-millionths of a Senator while a citizen of Wyoming is represented by two-five-hundred-thousandths. But on the list of practical concerns in my life, it’s somewhere below constipation and mosquito bites.

Americans tend to divide more readily along other fault lines–Southerners against Yankees, red states (some of which are large) against blue states (some of which are small), urban against rural. Nobody thinks much about small states as such.

The former is impossible; small states have no incentive to merge and they can’t be merged against their will. The latter has been occasionally discussed, especially in the case of California, but any change would inevitably become a matter of partisan politics. Where do you draw the new boundary, and would NoCal and SoCal end up with four Democratic Senators instead of two? It will probably never happen; inertia is too strong.

And on an unofficial side-note: some of us who live in a large state, but who are in the political minority, really like the fact that Wyoming, for example, has just as much pull in the Senate as California does. Kinda balances things out sometimes.

Actually, it’s often quite the opposite. “Pull” in the Senate is pretty much a matter of seniority, which determines who will chair the committees that do most of the nuts and bolts of crafting legislation. It’s often much easier for an incumbent to get reelected in a small state – you can engage directly with a higher percentage of the population, electorates may be more politically homogenous, and there may be a greater sense that we need “our guy” up in Washington to help us fight for our share of the pie against those bigger states. If you look at the current Senate Committee Chairmen, the largest state represented is Pennsylvania. On the Democratic side, the largest state with a Ranking Member is Massachusettes. And Wyoming managed to get one of their Senators as Chairman of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.

We saw the effectiveness of that with the Clinton fiasco. The House voted to impeach but the Senate would not convict. Therefore, no real harm done to Clinton. The impeachment was, in essence, nothing more than a censure.

The Senate held the real power.

The Senate holds different power. It couldn’t act without the House first acting. As to “no real harm done to Clinton”, well, this is GQ not GD so I think you’re way off base there. It certainly cannot be stated as a fact that no real harm was done to Clinton. I doubt that he’d agree with you on that!

As others have said, I think there is at least as much resentment of big states by small states.

Keep in mind that there is a high correlation between big (highly-populated) states and Democrat (and, conversely, small (sparsely-populated) states and Republican.

You may have seen election results maps for the last two elections showing the country divided into red and blue regions?

The small, populous blue states (mostly both coasts and a few north-border states) voted Democrat. The remainder of the country, representing a much larger geographic area, voted Republican.

In both elections, the vote was almost even.

I have heard numerous Republican friends and colleagues express the sentiment that this was somehow skewed in favor of the blue states – essentially, wishing that “one man = one vote” would be replaced by “one acre = one vote”.

I don’t understand this sentiment (I was born and raised in a red state, but have lived twenty years in a blue state).

Right. Putting aside all the fun little technicalities, the vast majority of legislation has a triple-veto incentive in play:

House likes it, Senate doesn’t? Nothing happens.
Senate likes it, House doesn’t? Nothing happens.

Or: House likes it, Senate likes it, President doesn’t? Then:

House REALLY likes it, Senate doesn’t? Nothing happens.
Senate REALLY likes it, House doesn’t? Nothing happens.

When you get right down to it, our system is meant to encourage stagnation.

Which just shows the wisdom of the Founding Fathers.

Just out of curiosity, where are you from?

Others have mostly answered all this, but I’ll add a couple points.

Changing state boundaries requires approval from the state or states involved, as well as Congress. As mentioned, the small states have no incentive to merge, since they would lose representation overall. The big states could divide, and might want to, but in Congress the members of the party losing seats — or who perceived themselves to be losing seats — would probably oppose the division.

Some of the last states that were added to the Union were added in complimentary pairs, precisely to smooth the political process. For example Alaska was, and is, mostly Republican; Hawaii mostly Democrat. These two joined at the same time in 1959. Similarly for Arizona and New Mexico, which joined in 1912.

If California were to ever divide in the foreseeable future, it would almost have to be in such a way that one half was solidly Democrat, and the other solidly Republican — at least at the time of the division. This might not really be possible. Alternatively, if you could get, say, both California and Texas to each split into two states, that might preserve the party balance in Congress well enough to be approved there. Still, none of these scenarios is very likely now.

I believe the only changes in state boundaries that have actually happened have all been divisions or reductions: Massachusetts gave up part of its territory, which became the state of Maine (c. 1820). West Virginia seceded from Virginia (c. 1863). The original Republic of Texas was even huger than modern Texas is; some extra bits were snipped off and eventually became parts of surrounding states. All of these events happened though in the much more volatile 19th Century, when the states were more “plastic” than they are today.