Past & Present: Reflect On The System

Oct 30, 2018


While the ideals of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence hold true today, the mechanisms of those ideals were rooted in a specific time and place. The founding fathers created our system right at the tail end of the pre-industrial era. Most people were engaged in agriculture, travel was difficult, food, information, and defense were largely local, and worldly cosmopolitan perspectives were the privilege of the educated and wealthy few.  

The early United States was a nation of farms with the county courthouse and township the most relevant unit of governance for most. State governments emerged to tap into this system, with lower house and upper house seats spread across the state instead of concentrated by population. That means that U.S. state governments have traditionally skewed rural, outvoting the often larger population in cities. In Kansas, that translates to 125 legislators and 40 senators spread across the state. That gives rural voices a significant presence in the statehouse. This was especially so prior to the 17th Amendment, back when state legislatures, not voters, chose senators.

Nationally, too, the founding fathers envisioned the Senate with its two senators per state as a key element in checking both the lower house and the president. This means that in the Senate, the Great Plains states from the Dakotas to Oklahoma can wield more power than New York, California, and Texas combined!

So as you vote this year, reflect not just on the candidates but also on the system in which we all participate.