To resist efficiently and effectively, the Bloated Orange has created a Civics 101 refresher course (with slight modifications to account for our digital age and the bloated orange’s addiction to Twitter).
Viewer discretion is advised.
The God’dang Basics (And Also, Coincidentally, the Only Things That Matter)
The United States Congress consists of two chambers: the Senate and the House of Representatives.
Senators and representatives are both chosen through direct election (Really Important Fact #1).
Congress has 535 voting members: 435 representatives and 100 senators.
Fun Fact! In addition to 435 voting members, the House of Representatives has 6 non-voting members—also chosen by direct election—representing Washington, D.C.; Puerto Rico; American Samoa; the U.S. Virgin Islands; and the Northern Mariana Islands.
Although these representatives cannot vote, they can sit on congressional committees and introduce legislation, giving them the great potential to be that really annoying kid in class who won’t stop asking questions and constantly derails everything.
You may be thinking, “Oh, great! So we’re stuck with these assholes forever!”
Fuck to the hell no.
Members of the House of Representatives serve 2-year terms (Really Important Fact #2), representing the people of a single constituency, a.k.a. districts. The number of house representatives in Congress is generally dependent on the population of a state. More people/more districts, more house representatives.
Another Fun Fact! Congressional districts are apportioned to states by population using the U.S. Census results. If you’ve seen some stuff in the news over the years about redistricting efforts by the GOP, that’s because Republicans took it upon themselves to unfairly redraw boundaries to tilt elections in their favor. That’s not just the Bloated Orange’s opinion, that’s what’s been proven at the Supreme Court level.
Of course, this isn’t really the basics anymore, so we’ll leave that for another day.
Members of the Senate serve 6-year terms (Really Important Fact #3a), representing all the constituencies in their state. Terms are staggered, so every 2 years, approximately one-third of the Senate is up for re-election (Really Important Fact #3b). Regardless of size or population, there are always 2 senators representing each state in Congress.
So what the fuck does this mean for you?
Well, if you don’t give a shit about anything, not much.
If, for some wildly-incomprehensible reason, you do give a shit about something, proceed whence forth:
There are 3 branches of government: the legislative, the executive, and the judicial.
Congress, composed of the Senate and the House of Representatives, is the legislative branch of the U.S. government.
‘Legislative’ is a word here which means to make and write laws.
The President, cabinet departments, and independent agencies compose the executive branch.
The 9-member Supreme Court, the District Courts and the Courts of Appeal compose the judicial branch.
All three branches of government have some measure of control over the others, a system known as “checks and balances.”
Congress can pass a law, but the president can veto it and/or the Supreme Court can declare it unconstitutional.
The President nominates judges and officials, but Congress has to approve them and the Supreme Court can declare presidential acts unconstitutional.
The Supreme Court can declare laws or acts unconstitutional, but the President can nominate more-favorable judges and Congress can impeach judges.
Congress can overrule a Presidential veto with a two-thirds majority. Full stop. End of sentence.
Congress can lessen or negate a court ruling by passing new laws or amending old ones. Full stop. End of sentence.
Only Congress can impeach a President. Full stop. End of sentence.
Only Congress can amend the Constitution. Full stop. End of Sentence.
Some presidents – I won’t say who, but a lot of people are saying – would like you to think that they are your Sir Heavenly Lord Almighty Ruler Conqueror dictating the law of the land.
Even the Supreme Court is presented as the final Holy Scripture who can do no wrong -cough- Citizens United -cough- and never be circumvented.
But the law of the land is determined by the lawmakers, and the lawmakers are elected by you.
The lawmakers are paid by you.
The lawmakers represent you.
“Geez, it almost sounds like I’m the owner/boss of a company who hired an employee, pays their salary, and has complete authority to fire the employee if they continuously to fail to adequately represent me or my company?”
Yep, it sure does almost sound like that. (It completely fucking sounds like that.)
It couldn’t be any simpler, yet participation rates in elections consistently show that the message has been lost. The message is this:
You elect fucking lawmakers to represent you.
You even pay lawmakers a very handsome, cushy paycheck to represent you.
These lawmakers exist only to represent you.
They are you.
They are no longer themselves. They are a voice for a collective group of people.
They no longer get to look out for their own self-interests. They took an oath to look out for your interests.
They don’t get to make sure that every government contract and subsidy now goes to the offshore company of one of their family members.
They don’t get to bring in their entire family or extended family or friends or friends of friends’ or donors in right behind them for government jobs they barely applied for, nor are qualified for, with beautiful, so, so beautiful pensions after 5 whopping God’dang years of service.
They get to field your phone calls, your questions, your complaints, your requests, your needs, your desires, your disgust, your pain, all day every day, and then they get to say, “This is what my people want, and this is what they’re gonna get.”
That’s the trade.
And it doesn’t matter if you didn’t vote for them in the first place. You still pay their salary. You are their boss, you are the decision-maker, you are the agent of change, and if they would like to retain employment, they best consider how to better represent We the People.
So, if your tools are giving you trouble, it’s time to grease them.
The most important thing you can do (other than registering to vote, obviously) is find out who your Members of Congress are, specifically:
- Who are the 2 Senators of your state?
- Who are the Representatives of your congressional district?
Your senators represent you and all the citizens of your state. Since there are only 100 total voices in the Senate, every vote counts and there’s little room for error. If you want to make sure the direction your country is heading in even slightly aligns with your own values, you need to be applying constant pressure to your Senators.
Representatives, on the other hand, represent a certain district within your state. Find out which district you live in, and find out who represents that district. Remember, there needs to be at least 1 representative, but there can be multiple depending on the size and population of your state.
How do you find out who are your Senators and House Representatives?
Using any one of these free online tools, of course!
GovTrack. Launched in 2014, GovTrack helps Americans participate in the national legislature by tracking and chronicling the activities of the U.S. Congress, including information and voting history on current and former members, what bills are being brought to the floor, and more.
While not an official website of the U.S. government, we included it at the top of this list due to its simple interface and ease-of-use.
Official U.S. Senate website. The official website for the U.S. Senate outlines member, committee, and election cycle info, schedules, and more.
Official U.S. House of Representatives website. The official website for the U.S. House of Representatives lists member info, committee info, its rules, history, and more.