A Harsh Reality Check: Our Structure of Government is Becoming a Big Problem in this Country

joint-session-of-congressDespite the obvious flaws of our Founding Fathers, it’s almost undeniable that these men crafted one of the greatest living documents in human history when they wrote our Constitution. That being said, this was also a document that was completely flawed from the beginning. It’s also structured a government for a society that no longer exists.

When this nation was founded we had thirteen states and a total population that was around half of what we currently have in just New York City alone. We had 65 members of the House of Representatives, 26 senators (91 total members of Congress) and one president.

But now we have fifty states, a population around 316 million, 435 members of the House of Representatives, 100 senators and still one president.

Who in their right mind thinks having 535 members of Congress is a good idea? How does anyone expect to get anything done by having that many politicians running our government? Especially when you factor in gerrymandering of House districts that unethically gives more power to one party. If you look at last year’s elections, Republicans won handily. But they only won the overall popular vote by around 4.4 million votes, yet they control the House of Representatives by 59 seats.

In other words, 59 seats have basically been given to 4.4 million Americans. To show how messed up that is, Kentucky has a population of around 4.4 million – yet only has 6 House seats. Because of gerrymandering, around 53 seats aren’t accurately being represented in Congress.

To put that into even another perspective, the states of Texas and New York are given 63 House seats combined (only 4 more than the current GOP advantage in the House), yet have a combined population of 46 million.

While Republicans should control the majority because they won the overall popular vote (though they didn’t win it in 2012 despite still maintaining control of the House), they damn sure shouldn’t have a 59 seat advantage when they only won it by 4.4 million votes.

Then there’s the Senate. The Senate is much simpler – every state, no matter the size, is given two senators.

The theory behind our government was that the House represented the population, giving bigger states more power than smaller ones due to population variances, with the Senate giving equal power to all states, regardless of size.

Sounds great, right?

And it was – in 1789 when we only had 13 states.

Currently we have 24 states with 5 or fewer House representatives that only account for 65 total House members combined. To put it another way, these 24 states combine for a total population right around that of New York and Texas. Yet when you look at the make up of the Senate, those 24 states give us 48 senators whereas Texas and New York only give us 4.

Meaning that when it comes to the Senate, a state like Wyoming with a population of less than 600k, has as much power as New York despite having less than half the amount of people living in just the Bronx alone.

Based on that setup, how could our Senate ever really represent “the American people” in today’s modern society? What the Senate was meant to do was to give each state an equal representation in government, but that’s when we had thirteen states and our population was much more evenly distributed. Now it’s giving more power to whatever political party controls each state, and the most states overall. In Texas, millions of Democrats aren’t represented in the Senate because there are simply more Republicans. In California you find the same issue, only it’s Democrats who control those two seats where millions of conservatives have no voice.

But in a society of 50 states, the Senate is increasingly becoming about geographic boundaries drawn up by humans rather than a real representation of the American people. Basically, those of us who don’t want to live in states such as North Dakota, South Dakota, Alaska, Wyoming, Delaware, Maine, Idaho, Kansas, Oklahoma or Mississippi are giving more power to those states as more and more people move to states like Florida, Texas and California.

Because no matter how few people live in states such as Wyoming, North Dakota, Idaho or Kansas – they will always have two senators each.

For just a hypothetical situation, say 95 percent of our population moved into California, Texas, Illinois, Florida and New York. That would give the entire power of our Senate to just 5 percent of our population living in the other 45 states. Meaning that 90 of our Senators would be voted into office by just 5 percent of Americans.

And while those numbers are exaggerated some, it’s a decent representation of what we’re seeing now. Because currently, around half of our Senate is comprised of senators from 24 states that represent a fairly small percentage of overall population.

Now, when we had just 13 states, the way we structured the Senate was great. But now with 50 states, it’s essentially becoming an unbalanced mess where an entire chamber of our Congress has the potential to be controlled by just a fraction of our population.

And as we become more partisan in this country, with some states becoming “solidly red/blue,” we’re also approaching a point where no matter what the vast majority of the American people want – it’s not going to matter. Because if 40 million people in New York, California and Florida want one thing, but 5 million people in North Dakota, South Dakota, Kansas, Wyoming, Idaho, Alaska and Mississippi want another…that’s 6 vs. 14 in the Senate.

Then when you add in gerrymandering, where House representation isn’t being figured accurately based upon the overall popular vote, it’s hard to deny that our structure of government is incredibly broken.

Because, right now, we have a House of Representatives that’s given a 59 seat advantage to a party that only won the overall popular vote by 4.4 million votes and a Senate that could very easily become about nothing more than which party controls more states.

If you’re being honest with yourself, you damn sure know that’s not how our government is supposed to work.

Allen Clifton

Allen Clifton is a native Texan who now lives in the Austin area. He has a degree in Political Science from Sam Houston State University. Allen is a co-founder of Forward Progressives and creator of the popular Right Off A Cliff column and Facebook page. Be sure to follow Allen on Twitter and Facebook, and subscribe to his channel on YouTube as well.


Facebook comments

  • Cemetery Girl

    So states with a small population have little say in the House but too much in the Senate? Gerrymandering is a problem. The elected officials should represent the interests of those they are supposed to be serving, but complaints of this not happening go back a long time. The constant having to tow the party line is a bigger problem. A politician actually works with other politicians of a different party to take action for the people they’re supposed to represent and suddenly they’re a pariah. How dare there be collaboration between people from different groups to make improvements! That’s our biggest flaw, politics is a career and to have a long career you have to tow the party line above all else.

  • Robert B.

    Our bigger problem is voter apathy. Fix that and our elected officials may actually listen to the voters over political contributors.

    • John Michael Hutton

      Make voting day a national holiday and keep the polls opened until all have been allowed to vote. Open at 6a.m. and close at 12 a.m. That gives 18 hours for everyone to vote. Absentee ballots should only be issued to those that truly can’t make it to their polling place.

      • Robert B.

        Good start. Also make it easier to vote. Putting up barriers to voters actually voting under the guise of fraud prevention doesn’t help. It only stops those that have minimal interest in voting from turning out. We need legislators that feel voters matter more than corporate dollars.

    • Val Williams

      Churches used for voting is offensive. Division between church and state, hello Kentucky?

  • John Michael Hutton

    AFter wading through this treatise, I find that the only villain here is gerrymandering. although because of the size differential then as opposed to now the percentage is still the same except in the House. Until we rid ourselves of the REThuglicans in the house and on the Supreme Court, nothing is going to change. ReThuglicans and gerrymandering are un-American. We need to rid ourselves of both things.

  • sherry06053

    So what are you suggesting? You have any ideas?

  • Politician

    The founding fathers new exactly what they were doing. Remember, they did not trust the uneducated citizens to vote directly for president.

  • JZ71

    Yes, we have a problem. No, the Senate is not the problem – it was designed that way. Yes, redistricting sucks, but do you have any better solutions? To some degree, the “spoils should go to the victor” – elections matter. But creating safe seats through gerrymandering is also patently unfair. Do we pass a constitutional amendment requiring ALL districts be as compact as possible? Do we rely on a national, nonpartisan entity (or computer program) to crunch the census data and create more “fair” maps? Or, do we set a maximum (or minimum) state population, and once it’s exceeded, states are are REQUIRED to split (or combine) into more governable units?!

  • Grindy Stone

    You have to be a special kind of dumbass to shoot your mouth off on gerrymandering without stating that it’s both parties that gerrymander their districts. Stop promoting this false dichotomy, and if you honestly don’t understand a topic, realize that writing isn’t your thing. The world needs ditch diggers, too.

  • Grindy Stone

    The author “stirs the pot for the Progressive movement.” Hey, I also have a pot for my movements – it’s called the toilet, which is where this crap belongs.