Someone named Timothy Noah has a piece in the New Republic–once a respectable magazine, but that was a long time ago–in which he denounces the state of South Dakota as a “moral sewer” and calls for its expulsion from the Union. I think the piece is intended to be sort-of-humorous, but it betrays some of the Left’s current obsessions.
The substance of the article is not worth talking about. Noah is offended that South Dakota has a robust financial services sector, about which he betrays ignorance. He argues that there is no good reason for there to be two Dakotas, North and South, and suggests that the admission of northwestern states after 1880 was a plot to increase Republican power.
That is all rather silly, but his underlying complaint is that the Dakotas, “two states with a combined population of fewer than two million … get four senators.” Of course, leftists weren’t complaining as recently as 2005, when the Dakotas sent four Democrats to the Senate, or 2011, when three of four Dakota senators were Democrats. If South Dakota were still sending Democrats to Congress, you can be sure that liberals would not be attacking that state, just as they are not now attacking Delaware or Rhode Island. (By the way, is there any good reason why Rhode Island shouldn’t be part of Massachusetts? Let’s have two Democrat senators rather than four!)
Leftists try to delegitimize institutions that they do not control as “undemocratic.” Thus, the Supreme Court has come under withering attack, with threats to pack the Court by adding more seats to be filled with new, left-wing justices. Needless to say, leftists found no fault when they controlled the Court. The Senate is likewise in the Left’s crosshairs. How can it possibly be right for small states and big states to have the same number of senators? Of course, if the shoe were on the other foot, they would ask how it can possibly be right for the big states to swamp the rights and interests of the small states. Maybe they never learned about the Connecticut Compromise in high school.
In today’s terms, the fact that states have equal representation in the Senate reflects the importance of the states in our constitutional system. Our country is a union of 50 states, not 320 million atomized individuals. It also is a valuable part of the constitutional checks and balances that prevent momentary majorities, like the microscopic one the Democrats now enjoy, from running roughshod over others’ rights.
Beyond that, let me just say that South Dakota–my home state!–is a beacon of freedom and prosperity. South Dakota may currently be more self-consciously conservative than any other state in the Union. As a result, its government is run with astonishing efficiency and effectiveness, and South Dakota’s consequent economic and demographic growth sets a standard to which most other states can only aspire.
Rather than kicking South Dakota out of the Union, we should hold up that state’s sound principles as a model for less successful states like California, New York and Illinois to follow.