It great to see all the ideas bouncing around cyberspace today about the state of our Union. Many of them have to do with Freedom, others about Democracy. Let’s get some of the ground rules straight. First of all the US is not a democracy; we are a republic, fortunately still with many democratic characteristics. We do not have direct election of a president (remember that Gore won the popular vote over Bush).

The Senate has nothing to do with democracy. Wyoming has less than 600, 000 residents, and two Senators, just like California with 37 million residents. A resident of Wyoming has 60 times the voice in the Senate than someone in California. That is not democratic. This is not just a theoretical matter; small groups of concerned citizens from a small state have a reasonable chance of getting face time with their Senator, but if you come from a big state you can only get that kind of access by using paid lobbyists. To make matters worse, 41 out of 100 Senators can block a bill from moving forward. Our 20 smallest states together have less than 10% of our population, and they have 40 Senators.. Furthermore, a lot of our small states tend to vote as a block because of their common interests in mining and agriculture.

This is a weird situation of micro-states being able to drive the national political agenda that was never intended by our Founding Fathers. In those days they were more or less all small states, with a gigantic Virginia looming aside them. While today states that represent less than 10% of our population can in theory “filibuster” a vote in the Senate, in 1790 the comparable number was 37%. There are some arguments to be made about “States Rights” and “All States are Equal”. These are great intellectual exercises in history, but the Civil War did a major Control-Alt-Delete on those ideas. And what wasn’t settled by Sherman’s March certainly was by the reinterpretation of the Commerce Clause to enable the New Deal Legislation to go forward.

The lack of a proportional representation system is not the result of a conspiracy of the corporations and moneyed interests; it is written into the Consitution, the foundational document of our nation. Even if we tried to change it, you can’t change the Senate (Art. V, “…and that no State, without its Consent, shall be deprived of its equal Suffrage in the Senate.” .

For either the House of Representatives or the Senate, if your political party had 49% of the vote in every election across this land you walk away with zero, nada, nunca.

We still do have the right to free speech, to assembly, to organize, and while these are coming under increasing attack and marginalisation they remain an essential part of any chance for political change.