A Thought Continued On Representation

June 27, 2006

I wrote this post for annatopia.com a while back and want to expand on it. First, the post:

I have no representation in the government. I look at the politicians and do not feel a single one actually represents what I think, feel or want. Our government is supposed to be about representation of the people in the political forum. But it is not.

Let’s look at some numbers:

Population of The US- 295,734,134

Total number of Senators- 100

That’s one Senator for every 2,957,341 citizens.

Total number of Representatives in the House- 435

That’s one Rep for every 679,848 citizens.

And at the State Level (Texas):

Total Population- 20,851,820

Senate- 31, one for every 672,639 citizens

House- 150, one for every 139,012 citizens

And on the local level (Arlington):

Total Population- 347,607

City Government- 9

That means one Council member for every 38,623 citizens.

Yeah, I feel represented. How can our government really be of the people, for the people and by the people with these kind of numbers? When this country was founded, we had a lot less folks. The natives didn’t count along with women and slaves. But we have a much larger population now. And there is no way that even a fifth of us get any representation.

This is why money matters in Washington, in the state governments, and even in local councils. With so many represented by so few, the ones with the means simply buy the attention of the politicians. Meanwhile, the rest of us are left out.

On the other side of the coin, with so many people and so few governing, why doesn’t the citizenry pay better attention to what their politicians are doing? Maybe it’s because we all feel so under represented.

Maybe Americans would pay more attention if we made our government a “Reality Show”. One in which politicians have to compete to get our votes, then must go through a series of challenges to stay in office. If they fail, we vote them out of office.

Oh, wait….

(Updated in response to this comment by annatopia:

we discuss this all the time. sometimes it makes me feel like we need to either split the country into smaller parts or we need to drastically increase the number of congressional representatives. i honestly wouldn’t know where to start when it comes to resolving this problem.

i agree with the basis premise of this post, i just have no clue what to do about it. anyone?
Posted by: annatopia at September 29, 2005 09:20 PM)

Anna-In 2000 we voted for multiple parties when we voted for Nader. I still believe that is a viable option. Also, having one president, one person with so much power is archaic and dangerous.

In reality, every citizen eligible to vote is part of the government. The republic is only as strong as the people. Our government is weak and crippled because we the people have continuously failed to keep our end of the bargain.

There are so many avenues to fix this. Run off voting, multiple parties, real civic education; the list goes on. It is the current parties and their need to survive that keeps all these things from happening. Ever wonder why November 2nd isn’t a national holiday? Ever wonder why we spend 500 billion on defense but can’t get voting machines that have paper trails? (Which, incidently, even Venezuela has)

It saddens me to think that in a couple of months so many well meaning folks will go to work propping up the system that keeps our country sick. The Democrats are one half of the problem. They are the other half of the FEC, which is a tool to keep them and the Republicans in control. It kind of reminds me of the book 1984. Perpetual warfare. Each side entrenched, keeping their ground. One side against the other, but both stable enough that regardless of the minor changes both will survive. And at our expense.

Nothing will ever change as long as these two parties keep control. Ever. They may differ in language, but they are the same when it comes to the most important point; keeping themselves in power. And we will all fall in line to keep them there, pushing candidates on this site, going to rallies, going door to door, mailing out fliers.

We the people are lost in this game because we allow ourselves to be. We are the republic. It only exists in our minds, and as long as we continue to think and act the way we do, nothing will ever change.

The reason I bring it up again here is because I have learned a lot the past couple of months and feel the need to share.

For starters, as much as I am a supporter of third parties, I am finding myself pushing more and more to get the Democrats elected in 2006 and 2008. Why? Because a wise friend once told me we can only change things when we have people in the governement who will listen to us in the first place. And right now this is not the case.

Now, that doesn’t mean I am 100% Dem. But after meeting some of the candidates and learning more about them as people I believe they are much better at understanding the needs of the average person. Plus, those that have reached out to the grass and net roots understand (I hope) that they will be held accountable for their actions once elected, which will keep them in check, the way its supposed to be.

We must however be ever vigilant in sticking to our beliefs in these races. Getting Democrats elected just because they are Democrats is not good enough. If we bend our words to get in but then do what we want once elected we are no better then the Republicans. And even if what we do is good, the other side will use it against us. What is in our favor is that what we want and stand for is in the best interest of the average person and the nation as a whole. So we are now tasked with getting that message out, which isn’t easy as long as we keep infighting.

Why the infighting in the first place? I think its a mixture of passion and stubbornness. I have fallen in love with the grassroots folks I have met because of the unbelievable passion they have in changing this country into what America is supposed to be. But I think that passion has led to a “you will say exactly what I want or I won’t vote for you” mentality that cripples us as a party. So here we find the conflict: how do we say what we mean and stand by our beliefs while at the same time comprimising enough to come together as a party and win?

Its this very conflict that made me a third party supporter in the beginning. But in light of that, I think every one of us needs to look at what is most important to us and consider the bigger picture of what the government is about. We seem to expect all things from the government, every problem solved, more laws and legislation for every issue we hold dear. But as I alluded to in the original post, with so many of us, can we really expect to have our individual beliefs exactly represented in the government?

Having attended the Texas Democratic Convention and seen all the groups represented there, I can only begin to imagine what it must be like to be a politician and have all those groups, plus thousands more, wanting my undivided attention. Every group saying “I want this or you don’t get my vote”, every letter received demanding action now, every person they meet pushing for a specific cause; no wonder nothing gets done.

What a lot of this boils down to is what about our responsibilties to each other? We run to the government like children to mom and dad to fix our problems. We work so hard at finding differences to argue about that we forget we are all in this together. Its not about you or me, but our nation as a whole. We are fed constant conflict by a media who makes its living feeding us fear, we focus on everything everyone else is doing and we remember what wrongs have been done to us over what good we can all bring to the table.

Look, in the end the government can only do so much. We are the real power in this country. What we say and do every day is what’s important. Our elected officials are only humans, and can only do so much. We do our best to elect people who will try their best to lead the nation in a just and fair way, but it’s up to us to create a nation that is just and fair. I think Howard Dean said it best when he said “You have the power.”

I definitely think the structure of our government needs changing to meet the challenges of today. But I also think we need to change ourselves as well. Ultimately how we treat each other has a more direct impact on our daily lives then what happens in Washington. Now, that is not to say what happens there is not important. But one thing I’ve learned from the grass and net roots is that people can come together and change our world through their collective will.

So where does all this lead? For me I will vote for people who cover the overarching theme represented here. They may not fit my beliefs 100%, but I don’t expect them to. In the mean time I will do my best to be a good citizen. A friend of mine has asked me to join a local activist group that goes around doing things for the community. Sounds right up my alley.

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