A tax bill that will have long-term consequences was passed with 33% (CNN, 12/19/17) approval of the American people—this raises the question of why legislation reflects the wishes of a minority and not the majority of the American electorate. The answer, at least in part, is because elements of the US Constitution, as originally crafted to protect the landed elite, have been artfully exploited to further the interests of the contemporary rich and powerful.
We were taught about the large and small states debate in the 1787 Constitutional Convention. However, the real conflict between the states was caused not by difference in size and population, but by economic forces. The Industrial Revolution was at hand and the major industry was the production of cloth from cotton. Three things were needed to produce the raw product, cotton, to fuel the industry:
- Climate for growing cotton
- Abundance of free or cheap land
- Abundance of free or cheap labor
All these requirements were found in the US – If the Constitution did not prohibit slavery.
When the Constitution was written, Virginia was the largest colony with 40% of its population enslaved. The Virginia Plan called for a supreme national government, the legitimacy of which would come directly from the people, but that would also serve as a check on the excesses of democracy. The US Constitution enacted on March 4, 1789, included elements of the Virginia Plan that addressed how our presidents were elected and how members of Congress were apportioned. Thus, was born the Electoral College and the need for drawing district lines.
The electoral process has changed very little. The 15th Amendment (1871) gave African American men the vote, the 17th Amendment (1913) established the popular election of United States’ Senators by the people of the states, the 19th Amendment (1920) gave women the vote, and the 26th Amendment (1971) lowered the voting age to 18 years.
Further reforms are needed. Possible ways forward include:
- Eliminate the Electoral College
- Address gerrymandering
- Consider voting methods other than plurality
League of Women Voters Larimer County