When we talk about this great country, the United States of America, we sometimes hear our centuries-old form of government referred to as a “great experiment.”
And that’s exactly what this country was as our Founding Fathers negotiated and compromised their way into putting some semblance of a democratic government together. The idea was to have a government by the people, for the people, with three branches that would serve as checks and balances on the others — whether it be the lawmakers, the law enforcers, or the single executive living at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.
While the Senate is part of the lawmaking body of the Washington trinity, its existence was not exactly part of the original plan. Instead, it was a product of what has become known as the Connecticut Compromise in 1787 — a compromise that New York, believe it or not, didn’t even get a vote in.
In between the Articles of Confederation and what would become the U.S. Constitution, debate raged about how laws would be created. There was a number of plans, most of them including a bicameral legislature — although who would populate those two chambers was the subject of some raucous discussion.
Smaller states feared their voices would be drowned out by the more populous states like New York and Pennsylvania. A central government, they argued, not only should represent populations, but also represent states. That somehow, the rights of artificially drawn lines should be equal to those of actual human beings.
Sound familiar? It’s the same argument that was later applied to corporations being people, too.
One of the major opponents to this discussion was Alexander Hamilton, who called the move to create what would become the U.S. Senate a ploy by the smaller states to get power over simple representation of people.
Hamilton, unfortunately, lost that battle, and today we have to deal with a Senate that is so opposite from the political makeup of our country, it screams obsolescence.
The average member of the U.S. House represents more than 700,000 people (although some are fewer, because each state is guaranteed at least one member of the House). A Senator, however, can fluctuate wildly — from 19.8 million people represented in California, to just 290,000 in Wyoming.
Before the Nov. 6 elections, the 48 Democratic senators represented roughly 181 million people, while the 50 Republicans represented 149 million. The average Democratic senator was responsible for roughly 3.8 million people, while the average Republican just 3 million.
That might not seem like much of a disparity, but we’re talking 800,000 people — or the entire state of South Dakota — per Republican senator in difference. And that is the body that gets to give stamps of approval to the executive branch, including who ultimately serves on the Supreme Court.
All while the body that actually represents people (and not states) sits back and does, well, nothing.
But then again, what can we do? This is the way it’s been for 242 years, so who are we to change that now?
Who are we? The people who actually run the government. And it’s time we showed it.