The United States Senate

Virtually everyone in the US agrees that things are not what they should be for the common citizen. First glance criticism points at inbred party politics; others are concerned about the shifting economy that takes growth and reward from working classes and feathers the nests of capitalistic oligarchs; others worry that the cash-rich special interests own Congress through donations, favors and intense lobbying.

All these issues are real and burdensome. But they are political in nature, that is, these issues affect the rituals of governance. There are larger issues that affect the doctrine of our nation, its Constitution, its court systems and the relationship between State governments and the Federal government. Some doctrinaire issues are:

֎The US Supreme Court is the only ‘appointed for life’ court among other nations with similar high courts. When times change slowly, as they did before the telegraph, telephone, television, and computerized decision making, perhaps life time appointments were satisfactory. Today, as everyone is aware, culture, science, technology and economics are changing at lightning speed. Given the constraints of knowing most about one’s own developmental years and less about current society as one grows older, is it relevant that lifetime, politically anointed appointments degrade the decision quality of the Supreme Court? Thinking differently, should judges be rotated?

֎Gerrymandering and a politically controlled census process seem to be just political at first glance but coupled with voter suppression not only at the polls but not allowing voting via modern techniques e.g., mail-in and email ballots, party or government manipulation of voter registration records and the idea of an Electoral College – together permit a virtual plutocracy to exist hidden beneath a plethora of manipulative laws and regulations. Mariner need only point out that he and his wife were not allowed to vote for their candidate in the last Presidential primary. One person, one vote has not existed for a century or more.

֎The United States Senate is an old fix to encourage the original States to go along with new Federal powers that impinged on the independence of states at the time. In fact, voters did not have a say in their Senator’s appointment until 1913 when the 17th amendment was ratified. Still, the representation stayed at two senators per State rather than integrating their election into a population-based representation. As a consequence, today, 12% of the US population elects 60% of the Senate. Ironically, the fewer citizens a State has, the more powerful is their voice in the Senate. Politically this means that farm states, low population states like Idaho, Montana and North Dakota – all typically conservative because of the lack of industrial cities and population density – are able to sway the Senate voting power in a way that does not genuinely represent the common US voter.

One wonders why the gun issue cannot be resolved – could it be the Senate with 60 % of the vote coming from rural and underpopulated states that do not have inner city gun murders on a daily basis, does not care so much? Mariner suspects hot issues like guns, prioritized education and comprehensive discretionary funding similar to welfare, health and career opportunity will remain unresolved because the Senate is intrinsically biased.

It was a man in West Virginia recently who said to a reporter that it was time the Senate was eliminated. Perhaps he is right.

Ancient Mariner