A 680 Member House of Representatives?

It is, at least, proposed:

The American public’s dislike of Congress is far from a new development in US politics. However, over the past few years the situation has gotten even worse with public approval of this institution hovering around historic lows.

The vast majority of citizens in this country think most members of Congress have lost touch with the people and don’t represent their interests. There are not many simple answers to remedy this problem but one change that might help bring members of Congress closer to the people is to increase the size of the US House of Representatives to 680 members.
One hundred years at 435 seats

For almost a century the House has consisted of 435 members. This seemingly permanent fixture of American politics often obscures the reality that during the first century of the country’s existence the House was increased almost every ten years after its original size of 65 members was established…

Of course, I’ve been yammering on about this for years. Over at Hot Air, Jazz Shaw reviews the proposal and counters with the idea that it might be better if we just got to some hard-to-game redistricting system. This is a good idea, but I’ve been advised since I was a teenager – and first got a bit outraged at gerrymandering – that there is no system which can’t be gamed by people with the right amount of shamelessness and dishonesty (ie, the general run of any political class).

We do, however, need to do something – quite clearly, regardless of which party is in power, the government and it’s attendant Ruling Class is entirely disinterested in the fate of the American people, and when it gets into the hands of the actually baleful (ie, the Obama Administration), the results can be rather catastrophic. To me, there isn’t just One Answer – there has to be a complete reworking of the system. In service of this, trying to make a harder-than-usual-to-game districting system is a good idea, but we also need to increase the size of the House (my preference these days is for 651 members) because a House member should be (a) someone who can actually be in touch with his constituents and (b), potentially, be someone who can run for the office on a shoestring relative to the cost of a Senate or gubernatorial office. But with redistricting and increasing the size of the House, term limits are a requirement or we’re just spinning our wheels. But here’s the part that will make a lot of people stop in shock – term limits just in the sense of saying “Congresscritter, you can’t be in office after Date X” isn’t good enough. Term limits must also include a prohibition against obtaining a different federal elective or appointive office for a period of time after leaving the current office. I’d say five years is a good time frame. You’re a Representative and coming to the end of your term limit (I’d limit House members to four, two-year terms) – see ya in five years. Until that time has passed, you can’t run for President or Senate, nor be appointed to a federal judgeship, nor take a position within the Executive Branch of government (five years it to make it unlikely in most cases that a person who leaves office will be able to be rewarded with a new federal office by gift of a grateful President). Yes, this does mean that a sitting Senator or such won’t be able to be selected for the Cabinet by the President – this, right there, would have spared us both Secretary of State Clinton and Secretary of State Kerry; it also would have spared us President Obama. It would not, however, have spared us President Lincoln nor President Reagan – and for you liberals, it still would have allowed President Roosevelt and President Wilson.

But we can’t stop there. We need to go further and further into this, I’m afraid. We need more States. 50 just doesn’t cut it – especially since at least a dozen of them are not really States, but two or more States rather mashed together as the States were created in the 19th century – when national population wasn’t a third of its current level and the new States, especially, were largely empty of people and hadn’t had time to develope into organic politico-economic units. As I’ve said again and again, just in my State of Nevada it is starkly clear that the northern part of the State is vastly different in needs and outlook from the southern part. There is no reason that the people of Winnemucca should have to put up, for instance, with a Senator or governor elected on the strength of voters in Las Vegas – and vice-versa. Having more States would ensure that the State government are really representative of the people of the State rather than being representative of the large population centers within the States – it would make it so that Senators, especially, represent their States, rather than select special interests within the States (California’s Senators, for instance, are the merest tools of the monied interests in San Francisco and Los Angeles – the rest of the State has, in practical terms, no representation in the United States Senate).

It is, as we have seen, enormously difficult to maintain a democratic Republic – but part of our difficulty is that a great deal of power is held by a very small group of people representing only very narrow interests – and they can do this because the way our system is set up combined with the way our nation has developed from 3 million people on the east coast to 317 million people spread out of over 3 million square miles has allowed too much power to aggregate in just a few areas. California, Texas, Florida and New York have power far in excess of their aliquot portion because they carry far too much weight in Presidential and Senatorial elections…but, worse than that, all four of the States garner their power from just a few metropolitan areas – New York from New York City, California from Los Angeles and San Francisco, eg; in other words, the powerful in those States are wielding power they haven’t properly earned from the totality of the people within the States, because they can safely ignore a lot of the people as long as they please the particular people in the large, urban areas…and then take that excess, unearned power and apply it to the rest of the country. Breaking up the sources of power will allow more people access to the power – and thus to have a say in how things shall and shall not be done. In a democratic republic, political health is only possible if the largest possible number of people and interests have a say in governing. It does, of course, make for lumbering, slow and contentious government, but that is the only way to safety for a people wishing to remain free. It must be that we have to ask everyone’s brother for permission before we move – that way we have the best chance (though still not perfect, of course) of ensuring that national policy reflects the overall desires of the American people.

So, redistricting reform; term limits, increase the size of the House, increase the number of States. That has to be the ultimate plan for the political reform of the United States – if we don’t do this, then we will, as I said, be spinning our wheels. Those who have power right now will not want to give it up – and if the GOP wins on Tuesday, as everyone expects, then all you’ll see is the Ruling Class turning itself to the task of co-opting the new GOP powers-that-be, to ensure that they stay on board with things as they are (this is what killed the GOP revolution of 1994 – eventually, the GOP was captured by the system; for all the reformist zeal of the Class of ’94, they failed to recognize that only fundamental reforms will do – anything less than that, and the Ruling Class will eventually re-conquer).

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