Saturday, April 21, 2007

Blog Entry #5 - Congress

I found it interesting in my studies of the roles and powers of Congress that we place such little interest in who we elect to represent us in the Senate and perhaps even less interest in who represents us in the House of Representatives. Perhaps in this day and age when the President achieves near 100% name recognition in every home in the country and his name and face are constantly emblazoned on our TV screens, newspapers, magazines and websites that we feel a greater draw to participate in electing who represents us as President than we do to participating in electing who represents us in Congress.

It is therefore interesting to note the role and extent Congress plays in fashioning the policies that affect us as a nation. The framers of the Constitution had this role in mind. The first article of the Constitution outlines that all legislative power of the nation should be vested in Congress - not in the President.

The video clip we watched highlights an entertaining extreme of what would happen should Congress simply cease to exist, and they guy in the Post Office that couldn't care less about who is elected is perhaps increasingly representative of us as voters. It is only faced with the realization of what Congress actually does that we will ever feel the necessity to participate in voting them into office.

Should Congress reflect perfectly the demographic breakdown of our society? I do believe that on one extreme of having an all male, middle aged, white, protestant Congress is completely undemocratic and an unacceptable situation, I somewhat doubt to which extent we can have a comletely reflected chamber. Sure, we can make efforts to elect 50% of women, we can even make strides to elect representatively the numbers of ethnic minorities, but where does the demographic profiling cease? Do we make strides to elect on religion also, on age, on size of family, on income, on disabilities, on pastimes, on favorite colour? There are so many demographics and combination of demographics that our chamber will never be 100% representative. But I do accept there needs to be efforts to make it more representative than it currently is.

If I could change one aspect of the legislative branch of government I would change the way states are represented in the Senate. It is highly undemocratic to have 2 senators for each state regardless of population. For example, as we read on the Senate, a coalition of 41 senators from the 11 smallest popultion states, representing only 3% of the population can block any bill in the Senate. I believe changes should be made to the Senate to dissuade this form of undemocratic rule from succeeding.


Anush B said...

Andrew !!! I agree with you that there is a need to put some more effort to make the congress more demographically even. And at the same time, even being a woman, I would hate to see people vote for a candidate just for their gender or ethnicity. I would never vote for a woman candidate just because she is a woman if I wouldn’t agree with her views. I do understand that women representatives will present issues that are more beneficial for woman and children but at the same time they might have totally different outlook on some other issues that are important for me. The fact that you brought up that there are 41 senators from the smallest states and they can block any bill was interesting. But I don’t think I agree that the senates should be as many as the House of Representatives because yes, now it’s not very democratic, but than I think it wouldn’t be fair for the small states. They would practically have no voice in the country.

hastings101 said...

Great overview Andrew. Anush brings up an interesting point on your discussion of representation. I think many women will face it this next year with Hillary Clinton. Many women will want to vote for a women but what if they disagree with her politics. Women (and many men) might vote for her to make a statement, to get the ball rolling on electing a woman president but then some may not because they either don't share her views or are sexist. I don't know what I would do because one part of me would want to see a woman president but the other might not agree with her views. Interesting. CHastings

Tannerama said...

If I could change on thing about the legislative branch of the government it would be to institute term limits. That would get rid of life-long politicians and oligarchs like Ted Kennedy and such. If you had 12 years in office and you still haven't pushed any of your legislation through? Sorry buddy, you missed your window. Time to give someone else a shot.

I enjoy your blog. It is well written and talks about important things. It balances out my crappy blog which talks of nothing of consequence.