Americans live under a political system that was largely designed two centuries ago and suffers from serious systemic inequities as a result. One of the most glaring of these is that states with below average population density have more political power per citizen than states with above average population density in the U.S. Senate. Such disparity has always been inherent to this elite-by-design institution, per the Constitution, but as the nation as a whole becomes more urbanized, and as the major parties become more thoroughly polarized between urban and rural voters, this built-in skew becomes ever more impactful.
In order to illustrate the red state/blue state disparity in a very simple way, here is what the Senate will look like when the 114th Congress convenes in January 2015:
For my purposes, purple states are those with one Senator who caucuses with the Republicans and one who caucuses with the Democrats. This leaves us with “red” Republican states and “blue” Democratic states (in which both Senators caucus with the same party) and these are the states which determine the overall balance of power in the institution. The above chart assumes incumbent Senator Mary Landrieu somehow holds on to her seat in Louisiana in the upcoming runoff election (not nearly a sure thing) and that Republican Dan Sullivan eventually prevails in Alaska (a fairly safe bet).
If we take those same fifty states and plot them out by total population instead of number of Senators, we get the following chart:
The roughly thirty percent of purple states would account for 30% of the Senate, so there is nothing to worry about there, but the 39.25% of people living in blue states will get only 32% of the Senators, while the 30.89% of people living in red states will get 38% of the Senate, along with control of all the committee chairs and the agenda.
Whence this disparity? Basically, it comes down to demographics. The average red state boasts 5,090,944 residents, while the average blue state has 7,682,082. Put very simply, the average blue state has 50% more people than the average red state, but they both get two Senators each.
As to potential solutions, I’d be happy to hear your thoughts. My idea of colonizing the relatively empty plains states from the densely populated eastern cities has already been tried.