Just how representative is our representative government?
Before John Adams came to be the 2nd President of the United States, he played a very influential role in shaping the ideas behind Constitutional government. In his “Thoughts on Government” Adams explains, government which “communicates ease, comfort, security, or, in one word, happiness, to the greatest number of persons, and in the greatest degree is the best.” To Adams, influenced by such great English philosophers as John Locke, Republican government was the best form of government.
Adams went on further to say “..In a large society, inhabiting an extensive country, it is impossible that the whole should assemble to make laws. The first necessary step, then, is to depute power from the many to a few of the most wise and good. But by what rules shall you choose your representatives? Agree upon the number and qualifications of persons who shall have the benefit of choosing, or annex this privilege to the inhabitants of a certain extent of ground. The principal difficulty lies, and the greatest care should be employed, in constituting this representative assembly. It should be in miniature an exact portrait of the people at large. It should think, feel, reason, and act like them. That it may be the interest of this assembly to do strict justice at all times, it should be an equal representation, or, in other words, equal interests among the people should have equal interests in it.”
This is a noble idea but in practice it has not always been the case. If we look at today’s make up of Congress I would suggest that a great many of the problems we are experiencing right now are due in no small part to the fact that our representatives do not really represent us. I am not only referring to their demonstrable lack of representation for the will of the people i.e. Obamacare, but their actual demographic make-up.
Here’s some interesting statistics regarding the 113th Congress as of January 2014:
- 93% of House Members and 99% of Senators have at least a bachelor’s degree this compares to roughly just 28% for the general public (US census 2010 data)
- The average age of Members of the House of Representatives is 57 years and of Senators 62 years. As of 2010 the median age of US citizens was 37.2.
- The majority occupations come from just four groups: business, education, law and public service.
- The majority are White and Protestant.
- A record 102 women (18.8% of total membership) serve in the 113th Congress as of December 2013.
- Additionally there are 44 African American Members of Congress (8.1% of the total membership) 37 Hispanic or Latino Members or 6.9% of the total membership and thirteen Asian/Pacific Islander Members (2.4% of the total membership There are also two American Indian (Native American) members.
- According to Measure of America, median earnings for members of Congress are $174,000. According to the 2010 US census however the median income for all Americans over age 25 with earnings was just $32,140.
The US census as of 2010 shows 50.9% of Americans are women, 72.4% of Americans are White, 12,6% are black, 16.4% are Hispanic or Latino, 4.8% Asian, .9% are Native American or Alaskan native and .2% are Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander.
Congress is supposed to represent the people of the United States but just a quick examination of these demographics illustrate clearly, sociologically speaking, women and minorities are not well represented in Congress as compared to the general population of US citizens. Similarly there are great disparities in age, education and income. So how then can we expect Congress to understand us and represent our real interests when they don’t share much in common with us?
According to a January 2014 Gallup poll Congress has a 13% approval rating from the public. That is appalling when you think about it.
So ask yourself what has the Congress done to change that approval. Nothing, it’s still business as usual in Washington. As has been said before by many political commentators and especially Mark Levin, radio host and vocal critic of the current administration, “Congress is not going to fix itself”.
Fundamental changes have to take place. The status quo must be challenged. New ideas need to be proposed and the old ways of doing things rejected. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. Want to keep things the same, keep voting for Democrats or Republicans. Want change than look to people who believe that the country is dying and that reversing course is necessary. It looks risky but so is doing the same thing over and over again.
Both houses of Congress and the White House need to have people who believe in true Republican democracy and not crony capitalism or centralized government. One hundred plus years of progressive/socialist ideology needs to be reversed. The fundamental ideals of the Republic like independence need to be rekindled. Elitism too needs to be addressed. The average American needs to have a voice. It has been suggested that term limits be imposed but I do not think that will work. Perhaps another house equal in stature to the Senate and House of Representatives needs to be added to Congress, a house of truly common people. Where plumbers and dock workers and teachers and students are represented, populist in nature it would accurately reflect the demographics of the country and be filled with volunteers who are not compensated and prohibited from receiving any benefits. It could act as another check to power that currently is misrepresented. It’s a crazy thought I know but something has to be done before people start really thinking government is best left to the “experts.”
“It does not take a majority to prevail…but rather an irate tireless minority, keen on setting brushfires of freedom in the minds of men.” -Samuel Adams