Congress: One House

papaioannou-kostas-tysecUm5HJA-unsplash

 

The Senate of the U.S. Congress is an antiquated and inequitable system that we should abolish. When I learned how Congress worked, I was surprised. It’s a self-evident charade. The Senate and the Electoral College both deserve abolition. The man who served longer in Congress than any other agrees with me.

“One man, one vote” and all arising corollaries support the argument that 100 senators, 2 per state, bears no direct relation to our prevailing general concept of democracy. Its existence arose out of a need to give a nod toward states rights during the formation of our country. Senators were chosen by state leaders with the intent of protecting the state and its interests – not the citizens. It no way arose out of a need to serve us equally. The necessities present during our country’s founding are no longer current; our adherence to such a system no longer helps us. The Great Compromise has compromised this generation’s ability to determine our own trajectory.

As for the Founder’s intent, I’m not particularly interested. The same Founders had some strange ideas about humanity. I owe them no allegiance simply because they preceded me. Each generation deserves the same ability to determine its course. That the Founders declared war to achieve their determination holds no more weight than our current right to choose our governance.

More simply put: the Senate represents geography, no people. There’s no way around it. It’s an alien concept to a modern person. To have legislation passed by the House and then refused a vote by the Senate is unacceptable. The United States is no longer a confederation of states: it is a robust and unbreakable body. In a sense, the Senate is an untouchable example of gerrymandering because states with fewer people, economy, and interests have an undue voice. Though it may paint me as a radical, I’d much prefer that the federal government have a majority voice in every instance over that of my state. Either we are a republic or we aren’t. We can’t be both fervent nationalists and states-rights advocates simultaneously.

“The existence of the Senate helps keep majorities from other areas having a larger say in our government,” some might say. No kidding? The Senate as it exists today already deprives me of representation, in part because I live life as a progressive trapped in a Southern state. I’m not sure how majorities in other parts of the country hampering my right to representation are worse than having closer parties do so. My state does not deserve a greater share of the decision-making process simply because that’s the way it’s always been done.

I’m not making my argument based on the current composition of the House. I believe the same even when the other party controls the body. Because my progressive voice is already lost in a Southern state, I don’t unduly fear the probability of party disparity. This is doubly true if we ever manage to eliminate gerrymandering of districts at the state level. I predict that we won’t, at least not for a generation, barring political revolution. If you’re going to attempt to weaken my argument, you’re going to need to choose another argument other than current political makeup of the House.

The Senate is a sanctimonious relic which needs to be dismembered. Any institution formed with any intent to protect slavery is suspect at best and ongoing fraud at worst. That a state with 40 million people has the same number of senators as one with less than a million is a travesty of just representation. I loathe the idea that we are so anchored to the past, one which is problematic at best. Due to rules in the Senate, filibusters give groups without a majority the ability to prevent votes on issues, withhold the right of appointments, and overall lessen people’s collective voice.

Rare is the Senator who feels humbled and privileged to serve as an elected employee of the people. Most tend to demonstrate a disengaged superiority and fail to understand that they are simply employees we’ve chosen to represent us.

The majority of Americans now live in 9 states and therefore have only 18 out of 100 Senate seats. Senators representing 5% of the total population can prevent any significant changes to the government due to arcane rules in place. Most people simply don’t understand how the Senate itself contributes to many of the problems which plague our government. As the population grows, so too does the issue with the Senate, precisely because the largest concentrations of people tend to lose a disproportionate share of their representation. California has more population than the combined smallest 20 states, yet has the same number of Senators.

Having a congress of one body, divided by population, would be a much better method of representation. All duties and powers currently exercised by the Senate can and should be distributed among our Representatives. Elections would be simpler, our legal process would be more flexible, and the idea that a Senator is of elevated status would disappear. Most people claim they want a simpler government. Eliminating one house of Congress goes a long way toward that goal. All the arguments I’ve in resistance to my opinion can be lumped under the heading, “We’ve always done it that way,” or “It would require effort.”

Factoring in the discord between the two houses of Congress, and it’s difficult to argue that one serves as a check on the other. Given the power of the executive branch, it’s essential that all the duties currently falling to the Senate should be based on genuine representative democracy, with the population being the primary determinate of deliberations, rather than artificially created power in the hands of Senators who do not proportionately reflect the will of the people. I’m not approaching this issue as a liberal or conservative; my main focus is proportional voice and power.

I would also lengthen the terms of Representatives from 2 to 4 years, with a term limit of 1 term. All representatives would be up for election every 4 years. All members would receive a salary equalling three times the current minimum wage, with no benefit after their terms of service are finished, other than their wages contributed to our social safety net, like any other citizen. I would also reduce the number of representatives in the proposed Singular House to 250. Yes, I realize that this lessens the hold some states have on power. Under a representative democracy, that’s the way it should be.

Smarter people have written about this subject. The more I’ve witnessed and learned, the stronger my belief that our bicameral system is a farce. I think states would do well to implement a one-house system as well. It’s time.

While I realize that such a move is practically impossible, I wonder whether we’ll address the disparity before political chaos envelopes us as a nation.

P.S. If you think that individual states could rescind their agreement to be a part of the federal government, I suggest you return to your bunker.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s