Bipartisan politics: America’s greatest Constitutional crisis is a simple matter of math; here’s how to fix it
The size of our legislature made sense in 1789; it's far too small today.

Bipartisan politics: America’s greatest Constitutional crisis is a simple matter of math; here’s how to fix it

The American people face a major Constitutional crisis bigger than any other on the news today. It gets absolutely zero attention but it negatively impacts every single one of us – no matter on which side of the national divide you sit. 

It’s a simple matter of math. And it’s easy to resolve. But first it needs some attention. 

TOO MANY VOICES, TOO FEW TO LISTEN
Here’s the crisis that you NEVER hear about but that negatively impacts the well being of all Americans every single day:

The power to legislate for this vast nation of 330 million people, representing all cultures, languages and ethnicities from around the world, and spread out across an entire continent from sea to shining sea, is vested in just 535 power-hungry asshats in Washington D.C.

That’s your ENTIRE legislative branch, my American friends. Just 100 senators, 435 representatives. 

Just 535 people purporting to speak for the 330 million unique individuals across the continent, and legislating for all from Washington D.C. – in many cases thousands of miles removed from those people for whom they allege to speak. 

That’s just 0.00016 percent of the nation’s population purporting to speak for and in many cases lording over the other 99.99984 percent of the people. 

That’s not good enough. 

Not nearly good enough for a healthy democracy. And it’s certainly not what our Founding Fathers intended when they set forth their otherwise brilliant vision for a new Constitutional Republic. 

Among the few shortcomings of their revolutionary vision, they failed to account for the exponential growth of the nation – a rapid growth never experienced by any other nation in history. 

When the Constitution was adopted in 1789, the United States was comprised of just 13 states and a mere 3.9 million residents. 

The United States today in 2020 boasts 50 states and 330 million residents. 

Our population has grown nearly 100 fold – but our federal representation has not. Quite the opposite. Our representation in Washington – YOUR voice in Washington – has been dramatically diluted. 

And with that dilution has come fewer and fewer opportunities for Ordinary Joe and Jill American to be heard by their overlords on Capitol Hill. 

CONGRESS IN 1789 vs. CONGRESS IN 2020
While our nation has grown dramatically, the size of our federal representation has not. Here are the Cold, Hard Political Facts:

  • The 1st Congress in 1789 enjoyed 65 representatives, or 1 member of the house for every 60,000 Americans
  • The 116th Congress today suffers with just 435 representatives or one member of the house for every 759,000 Americans 
  • The 1st Senate in 1789 enjoyed 26 members, or 1 senator for every 150,000 Americans
  • The 116th Senate today suffers with just 100 members, or one senator for every 3.3 million Americans 

Back in 1789, with one congressman for every 60,000 people, and one senator for every 150,000 people, American citizens had a fairly reasonable expectation of having their voice heard directly by a representative in Washington (or New York and Philly, as it were during the 1st Congress). 

Today, with one congressman for every 759,000 Americans and one senator for every 3.3 million Americans, you’re shit out of luck if you want your voice heard in Washington. 

You better have a lot of money or a lot of power if you want an audience in Washington. The rest of you can go pound sand. 

My little home state of Massachusetts provides a perfect microcosm of this problem.

  • The Commonwealth in 1789 enjoyed two U.S. senators for 379,000 residents – 1 voice per 189,500 people. 
  • The Commonwealth today suffers with two U.S. senators for 7 million residents – 1 voice per 3.5 million people. 
  • The Commonwealth in 1789 enjoyed 8 U.S. congressmen for 379,000 residents – 1 voice per 47,375 people. 
  • The Commonwealth today suffers with 9 congressmen for 7 million residents – 1 voice per 777,778 people. 

The population of Massachusetts has grown more than 18 times over since the founding of the nation … but the commonwealth has gained only one more congressman!! The number of senators has, of course, remained static: two senators in 1789, two senators today. 

Pure insanity.  

The problem is compounded by the fact that in 1789 women were not allowed to vote and slaves were counted as only 3/5th of a person for population purposes. So the people who actually COULD vote, men and mostly white, had a reasonable expectation of access to their federal representatives.

Not today. Not even close. There is NOBODY in D.C. to listen to you, Ordinary Joe or Jill American. Nobody. Only the very wealthy, the very well connected or the very lucky get an audience with their alleged emissaries in D.C.

Statistically speaking, the tiny little structure of our legislative branch is a total failure. 

GOOD NEWS! THERE IS A SIMPLE SOLUTION

The solution to this problem is simple. We need to dramatically expand the size of our Congress, in both houses – at least to the levels of 1789, if not beyond. 

The average state in 1789 had just 300,000 residents. The average state today has 6.6 million residents. 

If we were to expand the upper chamber accordingly, each state today would enjoy 22 senators. Nothing wrong with more voices in the senate. 

If we were to expand the lower chamber accordingly, each state would have one congressman for every 60,000 residents – or an average of 110 congressman per state.

Larger states get more congressmen, smaller states get fewer, as outlined in the Constitution. But an average of 110, consistent with the standards set in 1789. 

We’re not changing the intent of the Constitution or the political foundation of the nation, the most stable political foundation in human history. We’re merely just adapting to the natural growth of our people and giving more people more access to the decision makers in D.C. 

So now we’re talking a legislative branch with 1,100 senators and 5,500 congressmen. Not a lot of people, really, amid the vastness of the nation. 

Even with 6,600 members of congress, it’s still only 0.002 percent of the population purporting to represent the rest of the 99.998 percent. 

All we need is a place to house our expanded legislative branch. And that effort will not be a problem. There are taxpayer-funded state universities around the country with football arenas that hold 110,000 people. 

So we can certainly marshal the resources to build a new Capitol building to house a few thousand legislators – with plans for future expansion of the legislative body as our nation continues to grow.

DILUTE INDIVIDUALS IN CONGRESS; NOT INDIVIDUAL AMERICANS

None of which is to say we need to vest MORE power in Washington D.C. Quite the opposite. God knows these 535 people have enough power over our lives as it is. They need no more power. They need less, in fact. 

This problem of concentrated power in too few people is exacerbated by the fact that almost every one of these legislators screws the taxpayer and games the system, legally or otherwise. Almost all of them exit D.C. with vast wealth for what should be, in reality, a public service, even an unpaid public service. But that’s a battle for another day.

Instead of expanding government we are, by expanding the size of the legislature, diluting the power of each individual in Washington and giving ordinary Americans more access to their federal representatives. 

More voices in Washington. Good for me. Good for you. Good for our democracy. 

It won’t solve all our problems. But it will dramatically increase the likelihood that your voice and your local community norms will be heard in Washington – no matter your political views. 

Maybe we find more voices in the middle. And wouldn’t that be a relief for all of us?

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