Article V of the Constitution, Explained

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The United States Senate favors states with small populations. Wyoming has half a million people and California has 40 million people, but they both get exactly two senators each.

I assume we all know this, right? And we know how unfair it is. And how much it favors Republicans. And how it’s intolerable and we should change it. And how it’s the root of all evil at this moment in history. Etc. This is pretty much all true, but before anybody says anything more, I’d like to introduce you all to Article V of the US Constitution:

The Congress, whenever two thirds of both Houses shall deem it necessary, shall propose Amendments to this Constitution…..

Article V is about amending the Constitution. You all know how that’s done, so let’s skip ahead to the final sentence:

Provided that no Amendment which may be made prior to the Year One thousand eight hundred and eight shall in any Manner affect the first and fourth Clauses in the Ninth Section of the first Article; and that no State, without its Consent, shall be deprived of its equal Suffrage in the Senate.

See that? It means that you can’t amend the Constitution to change the Senate. Every state gets the same number of votes. Period. Even if you fancifully assume that there’s some way of getting a whole bunch of states to agree to reduce their own power via constitutional amendment, it doesn’t matter. There’s no way to alter Senate representation without calling a constitutional convention and literally writing a whole new constitution.

So can we please all stop yammering about this? It’s unfair and intolerable and its roots are offensive and blah blah blah. But it doesn’t matter. There’s nothing you can do to change it. If you want to yammer about something useful, how about coming up with ways for progressives to do a better job of winning votes in small states?

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Thank you!

We didn't know what to expect when we told you we needed to raise $400,000 before our fiscal year closed on June 30, and we're thrilled to report that our incredible community of readers contributed some $415,000 to help us keep charging as hard as we can during this crazy year.

You just sent an incredible message: that quality journalism doesn't have to answer to advertisers, billionaires, or hedge funds; that newsrooms can eke out an existence thanks primarily to the generosity of its readers. That's so powerful. Especially during what's been called a "media extinction event" when those looking to make a profit from the news pull back, the Mother Jones community steps in.

The months and years ahead won't be easy. Far from it. But there's no one we'd rather face the big challenges with than you, our committed and passionate readers, and our team of fearless reporters who show up every day.

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