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The American Senate and Its Evolution

The interplay between individual interests and choices of the people, and the existing formal institutions is a fundamental and often complicated part of the American politics. Not only does it transpire in every policy debate, but this dynamic is often essential to obtain the broader understanding of the internal political landscape. This assignment aims to provide an analysis of the American Senate as an example of the political institution. It focuses on how the Senate has changed over time and which of these changes can be considered the most significant. The changes examined in the assignment include the introduction of the popular election, the establishment of standing committees and the socially conscious behavior of the modern voter. It also discusses the impact of these changes on the power of Senate and its role in the government organization.

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Introduction of the Popular Election

The Senate was designed in 1817 with the objective of defending the rights and interests of the individual states and protect the minority opinion. Unlike the House, where the number of seats depends on the size of a state’s population, in the Senate all states are represented equally (“U.S. Senate: Origins And Development”). Despite originally being given the sole authority to elect delegates and officials, it was later assigned to share it with the President to compensate for potentially insufficient competence. Interestingly enough, the original version of the Constitution suggested the Senate to be elected by the House officials, indicating the Founders’ suspicion of democracy (Yoo, 47). However, over the course of time it became the institution most directly tied to the American population due to the fundamental changes in its election procedure.

Although the Senate’s role as a body dedicated to the protection of the balance, fairness and equality remained the same, its efficiency has been questioned on numerous occasions throughout history. This viewpoint, arguably, is connected to the Senate being a focal point of democracy by virtue of its members being directly elected by the people (O’Kelley and Johnson, 2). Despite only being introduced in 1913 (“U.S. Senate: Origins And Development”), direct popular election is definitely the main characteristic of Senate’s internal structure as of now. The introduction of this change aided in protection of the values of the American democracy by separating the election process from the influence of the corrupt legislators and special interests.

Standing Committees

The second change examined concerns an internal structure of the Senate and was implemented much earlier, shortly after the 1812 war. In 1816, the American government has established the permanent committees within the Senate, addressing the disarray in the delegation of duties within the body (“U.S. Senate: Origins And Development”). Prior to this change, the Senate has only relied on the temporary committees, that were re-designed and re-elected each session. Such ever-temporary organization created room for disarray and ineffective delegation and was poorly suited for the management of the American policies and laws.

This change introduced 16 permanent standing committees to the Senate. Separate congregations were now focusing on Agriculture; Appropriations; Armed Services; Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs; Commerce, Science, and Transportation; Energy and Natural Resources; Environment and Public Works. The committee list also included Finance; Foreign Relations; Governmental Affairs; Judiciary; and Health, Education, Labor, Pensions, Budget, Rules and Administration, Small Business, and Veterans’ Affairs. This introduction of sub-divisions significantly increased the legislative effectiveness of the senate and the level of expertise associated with the decisions made (Volden and Wiseman, 732). Such system allowed the Senate to further its egalitarian and individualistic approach to the law making, allocating the most qualified officials to each of the respective committees.

Governing Demographics Changes

The third change discussed in the paper is, perhaps, the least evident and somewhat sociological, rather than political, in nature. It concerns the evolution in voting behavior and how it affects the structure and the demographics presented as the elected officials in the American Senate. It is crucial to note, that this third change is still ongoing, and any discussions of its impacts and consequences remain somewhat in the speculatory area. Despite this vague introduction, however, the researchers are now in the possession of the sufficient evidence to claim there has been a major shift in the voters’ consciousness over the recent years.

As most other legislative institutions, the Senate remains primarily White, Christian and male with regards to who is designing the policies and gets memberships in the committees. However, recently the voters have become aware of the bias that create additional barriers for the members of marginalized communities to have an impact on the legislation in the country (O’Kelley and Johnson, 6). It is the most evident with regards to classism and the supposed correlation between the level of education and the duration of the term in the office, that was later disproven. O’Kelley and Johnson have conducted a statistical analysis to test correlation and causation between the duration of the senators’ terms and their markers of social success. Other statistically significant variables, such as sex and number of children were also taken into account.

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The analysis revealed that the level of education is not relevant for how long senators stay in the office and how frequently they are elected, or at least not on the statistical level. Logically, the lack of correlation between the degree qualification and the number of terms a senator serves is definitely a surprise. This is an indirect marker of a change mentioned above, as the voters desire to be represented by the officials that understand their struggles and limitations (O’Kelley and Johnson, 11). Consecutively, this shift towards perhaps less academically equipped candidates makes sense in terms of the role of the Senate as a body of law close to the people. This observation is particularly relevant for the American socioeconomic context, where higher education is largely inaccessible to the majority of people, due to the exceptionally high fees of private colleges. More and more people are looking to support comparatively down-to-earth candidates with focus on national politics and internal needs (Sievert and McKee, 1060). Symbolically speaking, this change is reinforcing the senate’s connection to its roots as the first popularly elected boy of law.

Impact

The changes discussed above all point out in the direction of the increased inclusivity, efficiency, and representative power of the senate. The direct popular election was incredibly needed at the time to protect the dignity and objectivity of the American democracy from the corruption and bureaucratic chaos. The introduction of committees increased the precision and efficiency in the decisions made, which was essential for a successful legislative organization of a country this large. For a modern scholar it is impossible to even imagine the senate without these components that were once considered fundamental and revolutionary changes. As mentioned earlier, the change in voting behavior is ongoing and cross-disciplinal, but already noticeable.

National politics is evolving in accordance with the social trends, where more and more members of the public are becoming actively invested in the political future and present of their country. As many of the young people develop their standing on the policy debates for the first time, the role of the Senate is to provide them with representatives they can see themselves in. Engaging a young voter base is a universal goal across all the institutions involved in the electoral politics. In this area, the Senate has the benefit associated with its history and role in the governmental organization. Young voters, however, are the ones behind the introduction of the third trend to the political landscape. It is reasonable to expect that in the future the demographic characteristics of the senators will change, and impossible to predict the effect it might have on the policy design.

In conclusion, the three changes discussed in the assignment have greatly impacted the Senate’s ability to represent the modern voter. With information on political debates and structures available in the Internet to the wide audience, it is reasonable to assume that political activity of the majority will only continue to grow. For the legislation designed in the future it means qualified officials elected on the basis of the informed decisions of the majority. Thus, the efficiency of the U.S. Senate as popularly elected legislative body remains up to the standard of the modern day due to its focus on precision and readiness to evolve.

References

O’Kelley, Caitlin, and April Johnson. “The Demographics Of The Modern American Senate And How It Reflects The Modern American Voter”. The Kennesaw Journal Of Undergraduate Research, vol 5, no. 3, 2017, Web.

Sievert, Joel, and Seth C. McKee. “Nationalization In U.S. Senate And Gubernatorial Elections”. American Politics Research, vol 47, no. 5, 2018, pp. 1055-1080. SAGE Publications. Web.

Volden, Craig, and Alan E. Wiseman. “Legislative Effectiveness In The United States Senate”. The Journal Of Politics, vol 80, no. 2, 2018, pp. 731-735. University Of Chicago Press. Web.

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“U.S. Senate: Origins And Development”. Senate.Gov, 2021. Web.

Yoo, John. “The Proper Role of the Senate”. Harvard Journal Of Law And Public Policy, vol. 44, no.1, 2021, pp. 47-55. Web.

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