Commentaries on Representation

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Commentaries on Representation

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The Federalist & Anti-Federalist Dialectic

Credit for the Bill of Rights goes largely to the founders who opposed the Constitution.

In an interview, Judge Andrew Oldham1Bio: Hon. Andrew Oldham explains the tremendous significance of the Anti-Federalists’ writings, not merely because they were instrumental in securing the Bill of Rights, but also in order to fully understand the Constitution’s intended meaning.

From the Article:2Wall Street Journal: The Founders Who Opposed the Constitution July 3, 2019

“We understand what the document itself meant in 1787,” Judge Oldham says, through the “dialectic” between the Federalists and the Anti-Federalists.  Many arguments in the Federalist Papers—in which Hamilton, Madison and John Jay made their case for the Constitution—were rebuttals to Anti-Federalists who published first after the Constitutional Convention. “They’re talking to each other,” Judge Oldham says. Reading them against each other “shows you what people thought the document was doing.”

A striking example of this dialectic can be found in the very creation and then destruction of Article the first of the Bill of Rights.  The Anti-Federalists were so vehement in their concerns about the Constitution’s failure to specify a minimum House size that the Federalists attempted to overcome their arguments in Federalist 55 through 58.  The Federalists’ arguments were so unconvincing, however, that Madison felt compelled to propose an amendment to address the Anti-Federalists’ concern. Because his initial proposal was wholly inadequate relative to what had been demanded by many of the states, it was made far more robust as a result of numerous debates in the Congress, between the Federalists and the Anti-Federalists.  And then, in the waning hours of the first Congress, that robust solution was effectively neutered in such a way as to make it more satisfactory to some of the Federalists.

As an aside, Judge Oldham gave an interesting little lecture titled “Behind the Masks”3The Anti-Federalists: Behind the Masks about the various Anti-Federalist and Federalist writers and their pseudonyms.

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Massive electoral districts also corrupt the Senate.


Because the Congressional senatorial races are statewide, the average senate district contains over 6.6 million people, which is nearly nine times that of the average House congressional district! It is therefore not surprising that Senators have a much greater need than Representatives to raise vast sums of money from PACs, corporations, and other Special Interest groups.

In 2020, there were 33 senatorial races (because only one-third of the 100 Senators are up for re-election every two years). During the 2019–2020 timeframe, over $2.1 billion dollars was raised for those senatorial races [source]. This was even more than the total raised for all 435 House races! And bear in mind that this two-year total (2019 – 2020) represents only the final two years of a Senator’s six-year term – so presumably even more was raised by the incumbents during their term.

It is therefore not surprising that of the 31 incumbents seeking reelection, 26 were successful (84%), despite the fact that there were 206 challengers for all 31 of those races. [source]. Unfortunately, unlike the congressional districts, these statewide districts cannot be downsized to reduce their need for campaign donations. However, that doesn’t mean there isn’t a way to eliminate this problem.

As it turns out, the need for Senatorial candidates to raise so much money was created when the 17th Amendment was ratified in 1913. The 17th Amendment requires that the Senators be popularly elected rather than be appointed by their states’ legislatures (as was required by the Constitution). Therefore, regardless of whatever benefits that the 17th amendment is thought to have, repealing it would be the most effective way to eliminate the need for 33 senatorial candidates to personally raise over $2 billion every two years.

Though the popular election of Senators was originally expected to be beneficial to the citizenry, the evidence indicates that the Senators are effectively being selected by the powerful Special Interests rather than being truly elected by the people.


17th Amendment pro & con:
Why we have, and should keep, the 17th Amendment
Repeal the Seventeenth Amendment

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