The Undemocratic US Senate

Okay, I know the title of this post sounds partisan, but bear with me a while. My concern is more about the weighting of Senate members that their party affiliation. Now, I know the Senate is supposed to be the more calm, mature house of Congress where our elder statesmen rationally look at legislation and take state interests more in mind than citizen concerns. The theory of the founders was the House of Representatives was the people’s house, which is why they are apportioned by population and have shorter terms (after all, the populace changes their views often, and having them there for a longer term risks them losing touch with their base). Senators have a longer term so they are less affected by shifting political storms and can sit back and come to a consensus better. Of course, we all know that is not true, especially with recent changes to Senate protocol which has made the chamber strictly partisan, in my opinion.

Up until the early part of the twentieth century (before the 17th amendment), Senators were selected by their state governments. The thinking of the founders was that they would be representatives of the state, which is why there are two for each state. Each state would have equal representation so that more populated states could not run over the others. The 17th amendment changed that due to the cronyism of the body. The Senate was even called a “millionaire’s club.” It is funny that even after the change, it pretty much is a millionaire’s club even today, although many obtained that wealth due to their Senate seats. The drafters of the amendment clearly believed that by having the people vote for Senators, all the problems would go away. Of course, politics being what it is, that can never happen. Rather than having the Senate crammed with political buddies of the governors, it is packed with favorites of the political machines in each state. I cannot say which is better or worse. Even though I am personally in favor of repealing the 17th amendment, I know that will never happen. But let me cut to the point of this tirade.

The five states with the highest population have a total of 10 senators, obviously. Therefore, they get 10% of the vote in the Senate, while their states contain 37% of the people. On the other end, the five least populated states also have 10 senators, but in total represent just over 1% of the national population. That does not sound much like equal representation to me. So, if the senators do not really represent the state governments, who do they represent? Let’s compare the top and bottom states by population. I know each senator represents the entire state, but let us assume each represents one-half of the population. In California (where I live), each senator represents 17,6000,000 people. In Wyoming (where I did live for a while), each represents less than 300,000. I do not want to dredge up the issues that led to the 17th amendment, but if there are such large differences in populations by state, and their is no direct connection between the senators and state government, then who do they really represent?

To be fair, it should be known that I lean to the right, and as such, I probably should not say anything about this because most of the low population states are red. It still does bug me that solving one issue with the 17th amendment only created new issues. But hey, I am talking about politics, so who would imagine that anything ever gets solved by government.

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