It is a testament to Stevens' popularity — he was once named "Alaskan of the Century" — that he won nearly half the votes, even after his conviction. He routinely brought home the highest number of government dollars per capita in the nation — more than $9 billion in 2006 alone, according to one estimate.
With Stevens gone "it's a big gap in dollars — billions of dollars — that none of the other members of the delegation, Begich, whoever, could fill," said Gerald McBeath, chair of the political science department at University of Alaska Fairbanks. "There is no immediate replacement for him." [full story here]
The idea behind the reductionist model of the world is simple: what is best for the part(s) is best for the whole.
If this were true, having 535 congressmen all clamoring for tax breaks and spending for their districts would result in what is best for the country. But actually, the more successful each senator or congressperson is in getting more spending into his / her district, the larger the deficit and the higher the burden on the country as a whole.
To give you some idea of well this reductionist model is working, next year the federal deficit might reach one trillion dollars. And while nearly all individual congresspersons or senators has an approval rating high enough to win by a comfortable margin, Congress as a whole has an approval rating in the single digits.
Congress is not designed to do what is best for the country. It is designed to do what is best for each district. There is a difference. It's not obvious how we'll translate that distinction into policy.