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The Tyranny of the Right-Wing Minority

January 3rd, 2010

Remind me: why do we even have a Senate?

Oh yeah, it was one of those archaic compromises made at the time of the revolution, when individual states had more relevance than they have today. Back then, there were separate colonies, almost like separate nations, which jockeyed for power in the newly formed union. Originally, the plan was for both houses to be proportional to population, but the smaller states threatened to pull out if that were the case. Thus we were saddled with the “Great Compromise,” giving disproportionate power to conservative inhabitants of low-population states–a compromise which was the twin sister to the infamous Three-fifths Compromise, which degradingly counted blacks as 60% of a person each (and itself was a further power grab by the slave-owning conservatives, who hypocritically tried to claim that slaves should both be property and should be counted as people with political representation). And we’ve been “compromising” to the conservative minority ever since.

In the U.S., there has always been a disproportionate amount of power in the hands of the low-population states, which tend to be the most backward and conservative; we still suffer from that today. There is no good reason to give these states more power, at least none that make up for the harm the setup causes. Add the warped and demented way that the conservatives are now using the filibuster (they’re breaking records in abusing it, again), and we see an incredibly disproportionate and most decidedly undemocratic tilt in favor of right-wingers. If you live in a small state, your vote counts much more than that of a person from a large state. How is that fair or Democratic? Answer: it’s not. Never has been.

Party IdSo much could be improved by electing the president by popular vote and by either repealing the Senate or changing it to reflect actual population. But that will never happen, because doing so would require three-fourths of all states to agree to it–requiring most of the low-population states to agree to surrender their disproportionate power. Which is why it’ll never, ever happen. Like it or not, this power imbalance is locked in, but good.

So we are stuck in a system where a conservative minority can wield an unreasonable level of power, despite only 21% of Americans identifying themselves as Republicans, and even beyond what can be explained by their arrogant hypocrisy and the Democrats’ willingness to give in all the time. Wheee!

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  1. Mark
    January 5th, 2010 at 11:50 | #1

    I’ve always thought (and I forget who said it first–Churchill, I believe), our system of government is the worst possible–excepting all the others. I don’t think the Founding Fathers were trying to help ensure Montana and Idaho’s farmers and ranchers couldn’t be kept by Californians and New Yorkers from buying pickup trucks by establishing the Senate–I think they were more interested in preventing each state (in the “United States”), despite a relative lack of population (the Jeffersonian gentleman farmers), from having a disparate lack of representation as compared to the highly populated North East. In short, they were trying to make the best possible government to represent a diverse people with diverse needs and interests.

    The Senate also was originally considered to be a slow, steady, deliberative body, elected to longer terms and by each State’s legislature (only changed by the 17th Amendment in 1911.) The Senate was to represent the States–the House the people.

    Since only about 27 percent of the population today approve of the Congress, it’s not clear to me today who they’re representing.

    I guess we’ll learn more next Nov.

    Regarding the number of Americans identifying themselves as Republicans, you might try using data more recent than April’s…how ’bout Gallup in Nov…with voters leaning more R than D


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