As stipulated in the U.S. Constitution (Article I, section 3, clause 1), “The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two Senators from each State.” At the time when the Constitution was written, a slave counted as three-fifths of a person for purposes of taxation and apportionment of the House of Representatives. As a result, some southern states had lower legal counted populations than northern states. Providing each state with two senators, no matter what the population, assured equal power in the Senate for slave states.
That arrangement creates major inequalities in modern times. The citizens of the smallest state, Wyoming (578,000 people), have legislative power in the Senate equal to that of the citizens of the largest state, California (39 million people). Citizens of Wyoming, in other words, have voting power 67 times greater than those in California. The gross unfairness is obvious.
This leftover vestige of a prejudicial past, like the filibuster and the Electoral College, must be expunged. Why do we as a nation go on accepting blatantly undemocratic practices when it is within our power to change them?
The answer to that question is, in part, because change is difficult and complex. But it is also because these practices benefit a minority of people. Members of that group tend be white, financially better off, and conservative in outlook. It is not in their interest to have the goods and the powers of the nation equitably distributed to all citizens.
The United States of America is, by all accounts, the greatest nation in history. That doesn’t mean it’s flawless. As citizens, we must work together to rid our homeland of blemishes that weaken us. Now with a new progressive administration in power is a good time to start.