I am a great admirer of the Founding Fathers and the many things that they did for their country and its people in rejecting monarchy and establishing our democracy, But, as historians have pointed out, they weren’t perfect.
Here’s one example of that. They, after much deliberation, decided to create the US Senate with two senators from each state, regardless of their populations. Yes, that was a very big mistake but, then again, they could not foresee that it would, at some time in the future, adversely affect this nation’s democracy.
We are living in that moment right now as we have watched the US Senate conduct an impeachment trial that, instead of being a fair trial with witnesses and evidence, was anything but that. If the Founders could witness what has just happened they would see what their decision is doing to our democracy and majority rule.
Based on the solid facts and evidence presented by the Democrats in House Committee hearings and subsequent Senate presentations, this president could not be more guilty of abuse of power and blatant obstruction of Congress. But, because of the way the Senate is configured, with two senators from each state, he will be allowed to escape removal.
Let’s discuss how and why the Founder’s made this decision and how it is adversely affecting our democracy.
Article 1, Section 3 of the U.S. Constitution states, “The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two senators from each state, chosen by the Legislature thereof, for six Years and each senator shall have one Vote.” Further that each state will have two senators, regardless of the size of its population.”
Back, during those trying times, the Founders received both strong support as well as strong opposition when deciding what they should do. They heard from many different areas, from larger states to smaller ones; and even the issue of slavery by Southern states was a significant part of the deliberations. To a great degree, the end decision was largely based on a political compromise.
The Founder’s had no way of knowing how large this country would become in the future and the great degree to which the populations of its states would vary. They likely thought that, as the country grew in size, any such imbalance in representation would be rectified by the actions of intelligent, dedicated legislators. How mistaken they were in thinking that this country would possess mostly rational-thinking, competent legislators in its Congress.
To see just how totally unbalanced this representation in the Senate is: the combined population of this country’s three most populous states, California, Texas and New York is close to 90 million and they have a combined total of 6 senators. The three least populous states, North Dakota, Vermont, and Wyoming, have about 2 million people, and they also have a combined total of 6 senators. So, the three states that are 45 times larger in population have the same number of senators as those three tiny states.
Let’s also take a look at this condition from a slightly different view that makes the continued existence of this imbalance almost incomprehensible:
We have a condition in America in which some 55 million people who live in its smallest states, about 20% of the entire population of this country, possess as much power and representation as the states in which 276 million people live. What kind of system of governing in such a huge, complex nation like this is that? Is that one in which the majority rules, where the wishes and power of the people determine the direction of the country; is this an example of how a democracy functions most effectively?
This has now become a largely unworkable situation because, based on the Senate rules that allow senators from tiny states to possess and use the same degree of power as senators from the most populous states, that’s just plain ludicrous.
If the Founders could have predicted the future it is highly likely that they would have made the entire process of impeachment the responsibility of the House instead of the Senate. That legislative body could conduct a thorough investigation after which all the House members, who truly represented all the people of America, would vote to decide if a president was guilty or was not.
It’s no wonder why this Senate has now become so very dysfunctional, why it remains in a perpetual state of gridlock. If this legislative body’s decisions were based on majority rule many of the problems currently facing this nation would no longer exist.
Now, there are those who would say that such a change in the Senate is unwarranted, that everything is fine just as is and, besides, the same Article I of the Constitution provides for fair and equitable representation of the people, based on states’ populations, in the U.S. House of Representatives. So, the Senate should conduct the trial.
Such a change in the Congress would, of course, require a Constitutional Amendment to become law. Now, while that may seem to be a very difficult, if not impossible, task in today’s partisan political environment, it can be done. Any proposed Amendment must have the support of two-thirds of members in both the House and Senate. The second step requires a three-fourths majority of the states ratifying the amendment. The alternate and better way is for 2/3 of the state legislatures to call for Congress to convene a Constitutional Convention.
Now, those requirements of 2/3 and 3/4 would seem to be an overwhelming mountain to climb but not impossible for there have been 27 Amendments successfully passed in the history of this nation.
The states that would be very much against such a move would be the ones who would likely end up with only one senator, but that would be an equitable result. This is an illustration of how majority rule should work in this democracy.
And so, while the chances of reconstituting the Senate’s membership are not very great this highly necessary move must continue to be pursued because this huge imbalance, this misrepresentation of the needs and interests of the American people by a faulted Article in the U.S. Constitution, has created a massive hole in America’s system of democracy that needs to be repaired.
This is most certainly one of the most egregious problems in this country; yet it’s one that remains below the surface, one that is rarely discussed or debated. It’s way past time that this issue is brought to the surface and given a high priority for subsequent action, for it is having a very negative, damaging effect on the governing of this nation and greatly harming our democracy, putting it on life support.
Historians tell us that the North won the Civil War and the South lost, but I’m not sure that is reality. When a state like Alabama has as much power and influence in the Senate as California and Mississippi has as much as New York state, then that is ludicrous, totally beyond comprehension.
I think that we might accurately say that the combination of Southern states and other less populated ones took the final decision about impeachment out of the hands of the majority of Americans and gave it to themselves; and only to serve their master, Trump.
To conclude, if this impeachment process had been done by a Senate that had been reconstituted in relation to states’ populations, which would reflect the wishes of the majority of Americans; or, if the Founders had had the foresight to give that responsibility to the House of Representatives, then the chances of Trump getting a free pass and the ability to evade removal, would have been zero to none.
So, while Trump has been acquitted by controlled Republicans, in no sense of the word has he been exonerated. What just happened is a dark stain on the soul of this nation’s democracy. It’s now up to the uncontrolled Americans to find him guilty as charged and remove that stain, along with him.