The Glory of the Senate


HUGH HEWITT: Welcome back, America. Morning glory and evening grace! That music means it is time for the Hillsdale Dialogue, the last radio hour of the week. And I am joined, as I ambymost weeks, Dr. Larry Arnn, president of Hillsdale College.  

All things Hillsdale are collected at Hillsdale.edu, including an application of that fine institution; the opportunity to sign up for Imprimis, their newsletter; and a bunch of great online courses, especially about the Constitution, but also about Winston Churchill and Shakespeare. 

And all of our conversations, which began in 2013 about Homer, and have brought us to the Constitution itself today, are all found at HughforHillsdale.com. Dr. Arnn, a good Friday morning to you. Thank you for joining me. 

LARRY ARNN: Good morning to you too. 

HEWITT: All right, we are back. Because of current events, I have to go backwards in our Constitution series to Article I, Section 3the United States Senate. And the reason I'm doing that is, not surprisingly, as the Republicans seem intent upon keeping and indeed expanding their Senate majority, we have seen, online and on-air, arguments that the Senate is non-representative and must be changedthat it's wrong for North Dakota to have two senators, et cetera. 

So, I thought, Larry Arnn is The Founders' Key authorone of his great books on the Framers and what they intended. And we're going to talk about the Senate and what it is supposed to do this morning. And Article I, Section 3 says, The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two Senators from each state, chosen by the legislature thereof, for six years; and each Senator shall have one vote. 

Now, the choosing part has been changed by the Seventeenth Amendment, which now reads, The Senate of the United States shall be comprised of two Senators from each state, elected by the people thereof, for six years; and each senator shall have one vote. That was ratified in 1913. So, our original document was updated in 1913, wrongly or rightly. But we kept that, Larry Arnn. We kept that two senators. Would you explain the theory and practice thereof? 

ARNN: Well, the original is slightly different from the current. They both have the same central principle. The original was a compromise—the biggest compromisein that it made the Constitution come together. And the question was, shall there be two chambers, both representing just the population of the United States? Or shall there be two chambers, one of them representing the states? 

And that compromise was necessary to get the Constitution through and, in my opinion, also good. And I will tell you that James Madison and Alexander Hamilton, who were the initial enemies of the compromisethey came around to that way of thinking too. The Constitutional Convention produced a consensus on most of these big things. And why? Well, the thing is, they were looking out already upon a continent. And they didn't know how big it was yet. They didn't find that out for almost 20 years. Actuallyyeah, almost 20 years. 

HEWITT: Lewis and Clark, yep. 

ARNN: Lewis and Clark, right? So, somebody came back. It was a big day when Lewis and Clark got back. Tell me about this place. 

HEWITT: They said, It's a big country. Yeah. 

ARNN: Yeah, what is this thing? But they were keenly interested in the thing, right? So, George Washington's army was called the Continental Army. And they also very much believed—and this is in the arguments of The Federalist Papers, more than the Anti-Federalists. But it's in both sets of papers in various places. 

The argument is you're going to have to have a big country. And you're going to have to have a big country for a lot of reasons, but one of them that's obvious and simple is national defense. And we don't want to build another Europe here. We don't want all that—the borders, neighbors, wars, constant intrigue. And so, they were interested in extending the sphere of the United States. 

And the deeper reasons are in Federalist 9. And they're about how you can get better divisions of power and ultimately more excellence in government by having a wide sphere. So there, it's going to be a big country. Now, the question then is, how do you represent it? 

Just think: The Senate is, like, a massive fact that happened in the same summer as writing the Constitution. In the Northwest Ordinance, they devise a method for the country to grow. And the method is not that the new territory will ever be treated as a colony. It would not. It would be treated as a territory soon to become a state. 

And then there's one thing that's always a consensus in the Founding Era and in the Constitutional Convention, and that is, most actions by government will be done locally, as close to the people as possible. So now, at the national level, you've got to represent the continent and huge, diverse changes in territory and geography and, therefore, the way people live. And so, you want to represent that too. 

And you want to represent the whole of it, because the challenge is to unite a great empire of liberty. So, the Senate is for balancing, it's for protection of local, and it's for uniting the country, section by section, into a whole. 

HEWITT: To stitch out of many disparate parts one quilt of liberty. Now, Larry Arnn, our Framers were often on horseback traveling great distances, not just during the Revolutionary War, but before and after, and back and forth to the Annapolis Convention, to the Philadelphia Convention, to the state ratifying conventions. And they were acquainted with the diversity of this great country. And this is not merely, though it is partially, a slave-owning interest versus the abolitionist interest. It is not merely that. 

They also recognized that there were mercantilist states, like New York; and agrarian states, like Georgia; and small states, like Rhode Island; and vast states, like Virginia, which, at the time of this, was literally unlimited, I believe, because it got the land grant all the way extending as far as it could go. So, what part did that recognition of the deep diversity of America play in the cobbling together of the Senate? 

ARNN: Yeah, the word diversity occurs in the Federalist Papersgood point. So yeah, and just remember, today, people have real attachments to the place where they were born and grew up, and especially if they need to live there, although they don't do that as must as they used to. 

HEWITT:  They are even attached to Michigan. Unbelievable! 

ARNN: Yeah, yeah, because, first of all, what choice have you got? Are you going to go to Ohio? So, it's—you like the football team from your state. You like the baseball team and all that, right? And that's just a reflection of something larger. 

HEWITT: Yes, yes. 

ARNN: If you grow up in urban California, where I lived a long time, and you lived a long time, then God help you. It's in some ways very similar to growing up in urban Boston but in other ways really different. 

HEWITT: Completely 100% different because of the freeways and the beach, because of the music and the restaurants, because of the fact that you have to drive these vast distances, as opposed to Boston, getting on the MTA, the Green Line, to go down three stops. 

ARNN: That's right, yeah. So, in LA, nothing is more than 70 miles apart. And that's like being across the ocean. 

Just remember, we forget, these days, right? But we have these bodies, and they have to be somewhere. And it matters what their surroundings are like. And so, the idea that you would eliminate that would be, ultimately, to eliminate the consent of the governed. 

HEWITT: I want to go back—you said that Hamilton and Madison were originally opposed to the Senate. There is abroad the argument that the Senate reflects the slave-holding interest. That is profoundly wrong, but it is everywhere. 

ARNN: Yeah, the slave-holding interest influenced the debate. But it did not drive the debate. And the way to understand that is there was an assumption, and it was very widespread, that slavery was going to pass away, and that it had to. And it did pass away in more than half the Union. And that doesn't mean there weren't exceptions to that. There were very few prominent exceptions to that. 

And for the South Carolina delegates, for exampleslaveholdersPinckneythey said things in their private lives that indicated that they thought that this institution was incompatible with the Declaration of Independence. And it is, but protecting their interest is not the same thing as protecting their slaves, because one of the big holdouts was New York state. And what was its interest, right? There was slavery in New York state soon abolished after the Founding. 

But what they had is a big old port, and a big old city, and a big old state. And they were powerful and important. And the way people made a livingand remember, that's very influential with peoplethe way people made a living in New York had very much to do with the fact that lots of goods that went all over the country passed through that state. And they didn't want to lose authority over all that. 

HEWITT: So, hold onto that. So, we have the two biggest states, Virginia and New York, and they’re not looking for a legislative body that will equalize them to Georgia and Rhode Island and Vermontwell, Vermont wasn't there. And we'll talk about why that matters on the Hillsdale Dialogue. Stay tuned. 

Welcome back, America. It's Hugh Hewitt in one of the most important Hillsdale Dialogues I think I have ever conducted with Dr. Larry Arnn, president of Hillsdale College—all things Hillsdale at Hillsdale.edu—because there is abroad in the political discourse a really dumb argument. And life is hard, but it's harder when you're stupid. And it's really harder when you do not understand what the Senate is about. And I have seen it everywhere, Dr. Arnn, that the Senate is a deeply offensive institution when, in fact, it is the tendons that hold the country together. 

And we were talking about why New York didn't want a senate and why Virginia didn't want a senate. But we had to have a senate in order to have a republic. Please continue. 

ARNN: Well, New York and Virginia and Massachusettsbig, powerful statesthey were very reluctant about a strong central government in general. And then the Senate protecting the little statesof course they didn't want that. And, before you emphasize that interest drove all of these discussions too much, there's a way that they came together for ratification that disproves that. And I'll mention that in a minute. 

But, of course, right now, they're trying to unite the country. You have to think back to the fact that this had never been done before. Nobody had ever built a country like this. This started out with the basic principle on which it's born. And then extend that to the consent of the governed made necessary by that principle. This is the first thing in the world in human history to undertake that. 

So, they have to figure out a way to do it. If you think that big countries are the great rule—but the truth is they aren't. The European Union is an attempt to unite the European continent, and it's fallen apart. And China has got intermittent dis-assemblies of itself. And the Russian Federation is strained at the corners. 

And yet, these big, powerful countries have a better means of defending themselves than the small, weak countries. If you want to keep your independence for sure and certain for the rest of time, you don't really want to be Belgium, because they've managed to survive. But it took some really big countries getting on their side to help that happen. So how do you hold them together? 

And this is the American experiment, right? And, remember, this experiment was conducted on a new continentnever been anything like it, didn't know how big it was, didn't know anything much about it, really. And so, their idea was local things will be governed cheaply by local things. And then the Senate becomes a protection in the national thing of the prerogatives of the local things. And that device is a powerful protector. 

HEWITT: I think you need to explain that again. It becomes a powerful national interest in the protection of local interests. Would you expand on that? 

ARNN: Well, it was better when the Senate was appointed by state legislatures, although I confess the Senate was often not very important in that time, because, first of all, there wasn't this whacking big federal government with the ability to reach into every town. I mean, there's a federal installation, basically, in every town. And they don't just do the post office anymore. 

Now there's local and private things of all kinds that are influenced by this federal government. And so, that wasn't possible when the Senate was chosen by the state legislatures. And I would go back to that, although I think there's little prospect of it. 

HEWITT: Yeah, we're not going to reopen the Seventeenth Amendment as a practical matter. I'm against a convention of the states as a matter as well. But, when we come back, we're going to continue to talk about the glory of the Senate and this current eruption of attacks upon it as an institutionnot any particular decision. The decision that confirmed Brett Kavanaugh is a great and good decision, but it launched—it triggered on the left a madcap rush to denounce the Senate. And we stand here, as we always do every Friday at this hour, with Dr. Larry Arnn and the Hillsdale Dialogue, reminding people there were Framers once, and they were people of genius. Stay tuned. 

Welcome back, America. It’s Hugh Hewitt from the ReliefFactor.com studio. It is a Hillsdale Dialogue for the ages. Dr. Larry Arnn, the president of Hillsdale College, is my guest. He's the author of The Founders' Key. 

He is an expert in the Framing and, therefore, in the institutions of the Founding of the United States, including the United States Senate, which has come under vigorous, sustained assault from the left in the aftermath of the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh and in the apparent trending of the election towards Mitch McConnell's Republican Party in places like North Dakota, where Heidi Heitkamp has collapsed, and it appears that Kevin Cramer is going to win; and places like Montana, where Jon Tester is under struggle, and Matt Rosendale is surging; in places like Missouri, where Josh Hawley is overtaking Claire McCaskill. 

Now, they don't mind much they can't talk about Florida, where Rick Scott is surging, or Arizona, where Martha McSally is surging. But they like to focus on North Dakota and Montana. In fact, Dr. Larry Arnn, let me give you an example from two days ago. In GQ magazine, that noted journal of political scienceGQ magazine has an article, The Case for Abolishing the Senate, by one Jay Willis, the subhead of which is, The upper chamber has become far more undemocratic than the Constitution's Framers could ever imagine. What would American government look like without it? 

And I read you a paragraph from this same article, The Senate's transformation into a funhouse-mirror version of the House is a quiet emergency for democracy, because its members are still allocated equally among states. And since there are now a greater number of sparsely-populated, mostly-white, right-leaning states than there are heavily-populated, racially-diverse, left-leaning states, the Senate acts to preserve power for people in groups who would otherwise have failed to earn it. 

A voter in Wyoming (population 579,000) enjoys roughly 70 times more influence in the Senate than a voter in California (population 39.5 million), which sounds like the most unfair statistic in American politics, until you realize the taxpaying U.S. citizens in Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico have no influence in the Senate at all. Dr. Arnn, your response to Jay Willis. 

ARNN: That's brilliant. That's one of the most intense and dense pieces of nonsense that I've ever read. 

And here's why: First of all, there's many wonderful passages in The Federalist. What he's calling for, by the way, is a majority faction. He's saying, there are a bunch of white people scattered here and there, which, step one, because there aren't very many of them, they're not likely to dominate the political system, although they're influential in it, as they should be. And, because they're thereand they get in our way, and there's more of us. 

And so, what these things have a tendency to do is to turn the national politicsnot just presidential politics, congressional politicsall politics will revolve around the will of half a dozen, let's say, large cities. And campaignsthe same thing is going on with the Electoral College. It's now moved to the more fundamental point of the Senate. 

But the two debates or the two claims mean the same thing, and that is, you're going to changeif you do a national popular vote, which is growing in some statesif you do that, then what the candidates are going to do is they're all going to campaign in the cities. And then, what about the people who live in the country? 

And are they going to have a majority faction raised against them that deprives them of their rights? It is specifically that kind of balance that the Senate and the Electoral College was meant to preserve. And so, what all this is, really, is a claim: Let us do what we want; there are more of uswhich, by the way, I think is not true—but there are more of us, and it's illegitimate for anybody to thwart our will. 

But, of course, democracy is not founded in the will. It's founded in the reasonable thing that the government is supposed to protect our rights. And, when our will violates that, it needs to be curbed. And so, these curbs in the Constitution on the immediate dominance of the popular willimmediatelong-term, the popular will always dominate in Americabut the immediate dominance of it or the dominance of it by any faction is exactly why they wrote the Constitution. 

HEWITT: It was so important. And Jay WillisI want to acknowledge that he recognizes that even in his intemperate inveighing against the states, he recognizes that Article V of the Constitution says no state, without its consent, shall be deprived of its equal suffrage in the Senate, which means, in essence, you would have to amend this only with the consent of all 50 states, Larry Arnn. It was that important to them. It’s not un-amendable; it's only amendable with unanimous consent. 

That's another curious bit of stupidity that's out there, that it's unamendable. It's not unamendable. It's just they're saying you have to consent before we take away your two senators. And he admits that. So we are, in essence, agreeing it's impossible to change the Senate. So, I think that makes us look at what was the argument hidden in the piece. And the argument hidden in the piece is that the people of Wyoming, white yokels that they are, have no business in the governance of America. I think that's the hidden message.

ARNN: Yeah. Well, they're backward. I mean, look at Hillary Clinton'sI guess it's OK to talk bad about her on the radio. She's finished. But Hillary Clinton's America is a centralized, urban, sophisticated, academicin the modern and corrupt senseAmerica. And the people outside itthey're ignorant. And they really need some management, because what they would do, left to their own devices, is deplorable. 

The people who wrote the Constitution of the United Statesthey were pretty sophisticated people. I would put their education up against Hillary Clinton, for example. And they had every reason to want their place to dominate and all of that. But that would never bring them together into a consensus to pass the Constitution, or, for that matter, to make the Revolution. They had to find some principle that would be good for everybody, in principle and in practice. 

HEWITT: When I have been reading this weekStanley McChrystal, the General of the Army who was so successful in Afghanistan and Iraq until Rolling Stone took him out, has a new book out with a couple of co-authors called Leaders. And it begins with a reflection on what Alexander Hamilton did during the long winter in Valley Forge. Know what he did, Larry Arnn? He studied Plutarch. He took copious notes on The Lives, which you and I have spent many weeks on, studying Plutarch. 

And, if you study Plutarch, you study the danger of the mob in Athens. You study what Pericles can dowhat orators can do. And so, the Senate is a check on the mob. It is to ensure our liberty. But by mixing it up with racenotice they're talking about the white people in Wyoming. I don't talk about race except when the left provokes me to it. But they wish to make this again a racial discussion, and it isn't. It's about preserving individual freedoms for everyone, regardless of their race. 

ARNN: Yeah. And see, the mob thingwe get mobs in America today moreit's a sign of the intensity of the crisis that we're in. It's intensifying, and it is a crisis of the house dividedanother one. And it's a sign of it, that you get violence and mobs and people running. And, I mean, somebody told me something that made me feel gloomy. They said, apparently, there's some very large number of law professors who signed a thing saying that Brett Kavanaugh shouldn't be acceptable for any 

HEWITT: 2,400 law professors. 

ARNN: But what about that, right? I mean, aren't they supposed to be people who are trained and then train others, that before you're going to believe a bad thing about anybody, you should try to prove it? 


ARNN: And you need evidence, right? In the American legal system, the bedrock of it is not judges and lawyers. It's juriesordinary people. And they make the ultimate decisions. 

HEWITT: And it is no accident. I wish to underscore this, that when the composition of the Supreme Court was up for the people in Philadelphia to decide, they gave the president the power to nominate and the undemocratic Senatethe equally state-represented Senatethe right to confirm. And the House was excluded from that process. And I think it was because, Dr. Arnn, they did not want the majoritarian influence on the people who would be making the laws. 

ARNN: That's right. That's right. Well, becauseremember, the whole pointyou can't say that without also adding the point that, ultimately, it is the people in their majority who should rule. And so, how do you set up a system where there is deliberation and debate and, ultimately, the people rule? 

And any people, by the way, if you look at a mob anywhere in the world, what you're seeing is a bunch of human beings who are capable of good behavior. And so, you need a system for them to participate in that will respond to that good behavior and not to their marching in the streets. 

I read an article long ago. It was a fact that happened apparently a long time ago that the Palestinian Authority, when they got their governmenttheir parliamentset up, they passed a law that it was the death penalty to sell the land in the West Bank to a Jew. And then, apparently, a horde of them left the place and marched down the street with a bunch of others and arrested some people and beat them. And I think they might have killed one of them. So, it's a mob. And you can't have that. 

And so, this idea that it's justas Jefferson saidJefferson had a way with wordshe said, in all cases, the majority must rule. But for the rule to be rightful, it must be reasonable and protective of the rights of minorities. 

HEWITT: And that, when we come back for the final segment of this week's Hillsdale Dialogue, is what we'll focus on. How does the majority rule, even when you have an anti-majoritarian institution like the Senate? And the answer will be they rule constitutionally, through mediating institutions that are designed exactlyand functioning exactlyas they were designed to do. And no, it is not white privilege. No, it is not rural privilege. It's the Constitution, doggone it. Be right back with Dr. Larry Arnn of Hillsdale College, from Tampa. 

Welcome back, America. It's Hugh Hewitt with Dr. Larry Arnn. We are talking about the Senate of the United States in our ongoing Hillsdale Dialogues. All things Hillsdale collected at Hillsdale.edu. All of our conversations, including the last many about the Constitution, and soon we will go on to the Bill of Rights, but we're moving along at a Larry Arnn-like pace, which is deliberate. That's a nice way of putting it. 

We're talking about the Senate today. And, in the last segment, Dr. Larry Arnn made the statement that the people must rule eventually, to which the leftist critics like this fellow from GQ would respond, but the Senate prevents the majority from ruling. So, I'd like you to expand on how, in fact, the majority will work its will as it did in the '30s. It just takes some time. 

ARNN: That's right. Well, so obviously, if there's a public opinionso there are two sublime places in The Federalist where Madison describes what will be achieved by the Constitution. And, in the 51st Federalist49thI can't remember now, sorryhe says, it is the reason alone of the people that should be placed in control of the government. Their passion should be controlled by it. Now, how do you achieve that? 

Well, you spread authority across the country. That's what the Senate does. But then the second thing is even bigger than that. And just think, just the whole structure of the Constitution, if you werethe argument to get rid of the Senate is an argument to get rid of the whole Constitution, because the House is represented from districts every two years. And the Senate is elected for six years from states. And the president is elected nationally every four years. 

And then a lot of the power is lodged in the states. And they have lots of different systems. And that means, to get a big, dramatic thing done, you have to ask the people their opinion over a series of elections. 

HEWITT: You just gave the game away, though. It's an attack on the Constitution. 

ARNN: Right? 

HEWITT: It's not really an attack on the Senate. It's an attack on the Constitution. 

ARNN: The whole thing. 

HEWITT: The whole thing. And to the end of what? That's what we really got to get to. Why are people attacking the Senate in order to attack the Constitution? What is the motive, Larry Arnn? What is their objective? 

ARNN: Well, there have been several. There was one when slavery became a big deal. And people decided they loved it, under the influence, by the way, of a bunch of ideas of evolution foreign to the founding of America. 

Then they were attacking the Constitution or supporting it. Abolitionists would attack the Constitution because it protects slavery. Southerners who wanted more Confederates, who wanted more slavery, would attack it, because it doesn't give us enough protection for our slaves in the territories. So, these things are not new. 

But the current one starts in the 1880s'90s. Woodrow Wilson is a big author. And what he says is, this regime of checks and balances, it's like Newton, like his picture of the universe. But now we have Darwin. And we know that government is a living organism and has to change. 

So, the Progressive movement is very impatient with this. And people should understand this. The effect of the Constitution is to make public opinion powerful in a sustained way. In the end, even today, where the government has its mitts on more than half of the economy. Even today, it does matter so very much what the people think. And to sustain that and get that, that's what the Constitution does. 

But their idea—the ProgressivesWoodrow Wilson, for examplewhat he thinks is, experts—people who know—people who can apply science to public policyshould become much more influential in the government. And that's what gives rise to this fourth branch of government, which now makes most of our laws, and enforces them, and adjudicates them in their 150 or so independent agencies. That's where all that came from. 

And it is, by the way, a change in the nature of sovereignty, because sovereignty came in the American Revolution, according to the nature of the individual. You're born a person. You're not born a horse or a dog. And so, you have to be, by your nature, governed only with your consent. 

The new way is, we have power over nature now. And, if we use science and knowledge, we can perfect the society. And people who have that science and that knowledgethey become a new kind of sovereign. And so, of course, the Constitution must be swept away, because its specific achievement is that it keeps the people in control of the government for a long time. 

HEWITT: And that is the whole game in every attack on the Senate. And that is why today's Hillsdale Dialogue needs to travel far and wide before these elections. And, hopefully, we'll even get some know-nothings of constitutional intent and freedom to pay attention to it. 

Dr. Larry Arnn of Hillsdale College, thank you. I want everyone to go to Hillsdale.edu for his course on the Constitution, where you'll get a lot more of that. And, if you want to get a lot more of my conversations with him and other leading lights from the lantern of the north that is Hillsdale College, go to HughforHillsdale.com. And binge-listen and learn, especially you lefties. You don't understand the Senate.