A Flaw in the System

 President Obama addressing a joint session of Congress in 2009 ( source )

President Obama addressing a joint session of Congress in 2009 (source)

 The United States Constitution ( source )

The United States Constitution (source)

In the past 242 years, the history of the United States has witnessed both intense political strife and powerful social movements. While it has navigated through a civil war, two world wars, political and civil rights crises, and a plethora of other major events, one thing has stayed consistent: the Constitution. Over the course of 231 years the Constitution has only been altered twenty-seven times. As the Bill of Rights was ratified two years later, that number is essentially narrowed to fifteen. This remarkably small number of changes is exactly what the founders intended, due to the incredibly difficult requirements that are set to amend the document. The stability these strict stipulations engendered was imperative during the formation and development of the nation and can arguably be considered one of the most important factors in checking the powers of the new government against its citizens. As time has progressed, however, technological and social advancement has shown that applying strict interpretations of the Constitution, which employ rigid and archaic thought,  to modern-day problems can lead to unforeseen and even dangerous circumstances.

According to year Gallup polls released since 1974, Congress has rarely received approval ratings above fifty percent. In 2013, the rating hit an all-time low, seeing 86% of Americans disapproving of the work Congress was doing. These abysmal numbers exist in conjunction with the realization that the electoral college can deny a sizable portion of voters their voice due to inflated college votes for small states and deflated votes for larger states. For example, under the electoral college structure, an electoral vote in Wyoming currently carries four times the weight as a vote in California. This does not even begin to address the concerns of politics at the state level such as majorities being able to gerrymander district maps to solidify their majority, beginning a feedback loop that the courts are loathe to address.

 

 The electoral college's votes in the 2016 presidential election ( source )

The electoral college's votes in the 2016 presidential election (source)

This obstacle is perhaps most frustrating because it is inherently difficult to address. There are no easy fixes to chronic institutional problems that have plagued the country for centuries, and it would certainly be difficult to get a consensus on how to address those institutional problems. But what does seem to be consistent is that citizens of this country are not satisfied with the constant drumbeat of corruption and decadence that has become the norm of our elected officials. What’s more, they are not satisfied with relegation to second class citizens simply because they don’t have the money to compete with Super PACs and corporations. The public debate often rages on who should be elected into what position. Maybe it’s time to think about these issues stemming not from corrupt individuals, but from the flaws in the system itself.