An interesting thought exercise. Organizing the upper house of the U.S. (or here in Canada, if it ever becomes elected) by territory is really as arbitrary as by any other means.
What if the 100-member Senate were designed to mirror the overall U.S. population — and were based on statistics rather than state lines?
Imagine a chamber in which senators were elected by different income brackets — with two senators representing the poorest 2 percent of the electorate, two senators representing the richest 2 percent and so on.
Based on Census Bureau data, five senators would represent Americans earning between $100,000 and $1 million individually per year, with a single senator working on behalf of the millionaires (technically, it would be two-tenths of a senator).
Eight senators would represent Americans with no income. Sixteen would represent Americans who make less than $10,000 a year, an amount well below the federal poverty line for families.
The bulk of the senators would work on behalf of the middle class, with 34 representing Americans making $30,000 to $80,000 per year.
Imagine trying to convince someone — Michael Bloomberg, perhaps? — to be the lonely senator representing the richest percentile. And what if the senators were apportioned according to jobs figures? This year, the unemployed would have gained two seats. Think of the deals that would be made to attract that bloc!
What about a Senate in which voters cast ballots for candidates campaigning to win over a certain age group? Thirteen senators would vie for 18-to-24-year-olds, who strongly support measures such as the cap-and-trade climate bill and marriage rights for gays. Nearly all of these senators would be Democrats.
Americans over 65 would control 16 seats — and would be mostly Republicans interested in protecting Medicare and the broader status quo. The baby boomer bubble would be largely in the eldest category, though its stragglers would round out the segment of voters, probably split between the parties, that is edging up on retirement.
Thirty-six senators would serve 25-to-44-year-olds, and 35 senators 45-to-64-year-olds — and would be likely to push the very issues now on the table, including health care, entitlement viability and tax breaks for the middle class.