Over 2000 years ago, the Roman Republic keeled over under the weight of soon-to-be emperor Julius Caesar. For 7 years the First Triumvirate oversaw Rome as an alarmingly unstable division of power. The trio of Pompey, Caesar and Crassus formed attempting to subvert the power of the Roman Senate. Each man sought to expand their own power in the context of the Republic.
Clearly, however, Caesar rose above the pack. A widely popular military commander, he had the support of both the military and the Roman people. Following Crassus’s death in 53 BC, the alliance appeared shattered. The Senate quickly aligned themselves with Pompey while Caesar was in Gaul on a military campaign. The Senators feared Caesar’s political power, and ordered he resign command of his army. Caesar refused, opting for civil war. He promptly set about destroying the Roman Republic and establishing the Roman Empire.
Our founders clearly looked to Rome as a model for our own system of democracy. Citizens elect representatives, although citizenship is historically more of a boys club than a legitimate right for all subjects. Our architecture mimics Roman styles, and Latin appears on our currency. Unfortunately, America’s republic is fallible, just as Rome’s was.
I don’t expect Donald Trump to march on the Capitol anytime soon, but the cracks in American democracy are widening. Particularly, our votes grow less and less influential with each election cycle. As Americans become more concentrated in the large states, the small states benefit from maintaining the minimum electoral vote count of 3 while actively losing population. In this young century, the electoral college has failed to accurately reflect the popular vote twice. To his credit, George Bush received a lot of votes in 2000. Al Gore just happened to receive more. 3,000,000 more Americans voted for Hillary Clinton than Donald Trump, and he won the Electoral College handily. Given the Supreme Court developments under Trump’s administration, he is arguably the most influential loser of all time.
He didn’t win. Not even close.
One of our most basic principles, justice, is routinely threatened at the ballot box. I can excuse the founders for failing to foresee this unfortunate development. The Electoral College is unbalanced, but it has historically aligned with the popular vote. However, this transgression is not limited only to presidential elections.
In Rome, the Senate often acted as the singular string tying Rome to republicanism. It feared Caesar and the danger he posed to their (kinda) democracy. In the United States, however, I argue it pulls our government further from the light with each election cycle.
As the framers ordained it, the Senate chamber intrinsically and perpetually threatens the idea of equality. Giving each state 2 Senators is as unjust as it comes. Wyoming with 579,315 people receives the same representation as California with 39,536,653 people. In that legislative body, 1 Wyomingite has the same representative power as 68.25 Californians.
Wyoming is home to .17% of American citizens. 17 out of every 10,000 Americans lives in Wyoming. 2 out of every 100 Senators is from Wyoming.
Democracy is being undercut with every ballot. Unlike Rome, however, American democracy will not definitively collapse. It will only crawl along, falling prey to a system that discourages electoral reform. America has continually resisted expanding suffrage. While we have grown far more tolerant of universal suffrage, our government is still horrendous at ensuring every vote matters equally. This injustice has prevailed throughout all of American history, and it will not be defeated now.
The die has been cast.
Just as Caesar subverted democracy for his own personal gain, the American republic refuses to correct this objective wrong. Small states prioritize their own political power over this nation’s most base principles. Constitutional amendments require two-thirds of state legislatures to approve of the measure prior to enactment. This stipulation ensures small states will not vote for any proposition which strips them of their unjustly appointed power.
Democracy functions around people, not states. States do not vote (or they shouldn’t anyways). “Protecting the small states” is a euphemism that blasphemously casts aside the doctrine of the United States. We are a government of the people, by the people, and for the people. State autonomy is important, but that’s why we have state legislatures. The federal government should protect all its citizens, without regard to which arbitrary lines they fall between.
Voting is a right. Fair representation is not.
It should be.