“Dear Prudence, won’t you come out to play. Dear Prudence, greet the brand new day.”– John Lennon
Many of us are contradictions. I spend my time at work working with students in their English classes. It seems someone there seems to think I can write a little. Yet, I work with numbers as well and work with statistics in my spare time. Yet. ask me to support a math class and I might become a basket case.
So, take all of this with a grain of salt. However, it is hard to imagine that the framers of the constitution had this in mind when they put everything together. Who knows, maybe they did. There were only 13 states in the beginning, so population distribution could not have been nearly as big a deal as it is now. Below is a simple chart of the five biggest states and the ten smallest states in terms of population and party representation.
|New York||19.3 mil||1||1|
|North Dakota||0.77 mil||0||2|
|South Dakota||0.90 mil||0||2|
|R. Island||1.06 mil||2||0|
|New Hamp.||1.37 mil||2||0|
Immediately, you notice two things when looking at the list. First, the population disparity is tremendous. I don’t think the population in Wyoming would fit into the greater Clear Lake area much less Houston in general. Of course, the representation doesn’t necessarily follow predictable lines as both states are represented by Republicans.
In fact, the biggest five states have six Republican senators and four Democratic senators while the smallest ten states have nine Democratic senators and eleven Republican ones. So, the population breakdown is not perfect, but there is a correlation between population size and who represents the state. That becomes much more obvious when we include states six through ten in population.
We know two things about the founding fathers. First, they could not have envisioned 50 states. Secondly, the framers themselves could not have envisioned political parties. They certainly couldn’t have foreseen what they would become. So, a system of representing states with equal zeal has turned into a representing a political party and its agenda.
Democrats represent people. Republicans represent land. Land can be loosely translated to wealth. It always has been throughout history and there is no sense of it changing now. While the numbers above don’t necessarily reveal this, it should be noted that 50 Democratic senators (or those that caucus with Democrats) represent 41 million more Americans than those that caucus with Republicans.
This doesn’t appear to be changing for the better. In fact, population is becoming more and more stratified and representation much more predictable based on population. You might need to add together 15 to 20 states from the bottom until you equal the population of California. Yet, California gets two senators and those 15 to 20 states get between 30 and 40 senators.
I honestly don’t know how you fix that. I don’t even know if we are meant to fix it. It seems to me that this is a system that really can’t sustain itself, but I’m also a lifelong Democrat. I’m going to tend to see that situation as unfair because I’ve always been a believer in one person, one vote.
I suppose that’s the question when you get down to it. We left Great Britain in part because they used an antiquated system known as virtual representation. Shires and localities kept the same number of representatives no matter how populations shifted. They had so-called rotten boroughs that had zero people and a representative. The Senate is getting close to that now.
When the senate does not represent the population breakdown of the people it can hardly be a surprise when it fails to do the people’s business. If I literally represent no one then why should I be expected to fight for anyone? Again, who knows how that can change. Maybe they can make the Senate more proportional but still smaller than the House. That would require a change in the constitution which isn’t likely to happen. Maybe someone has a DeLorean that we can take back to Philadelphia in 1787.