It is Time to Evict the Corporatist Squatters from the People's House

In an op-ed for the New York Times on Sunday, Dalton Conley and Jacqueline Stevens argued that Americans today are the "worst-represented group of citizens in the country's history."  Tell us something we don't know!  Refreshingly, however, the two professors do not make this claim on qualitative or ideological grounds, but rather purely quantitatively.  Excerpt via Ballot Access News:
It’s been far too long since the House expanded to keep up with population growth and, as a result, it has lost touch with the public and been overtaken by special interests. Indeed, the lower chamber of Congress has had the same number of members for so long that many Americans assume that its 435 seats are constitutionally mandated.  But that’s wrong: while the founders wanted to limit the size of the Senate, they intended the House to expand based on population growth. . . .

For well over a century, after each census Congress would pass a law increasing the size of the House. But after the 1910 census, when the House grew from 391 members to 433 (two more were added later when Arizona and New Mexico became states), the growth stopped. By the time the next decade rolled around, members found themselves reluctant to dilute their votes, and the issue was never seriously considered again.

The result is that Americans today are numerically the worst-represented group of citizens in the country’s history. The average House member speaks for about 700,000 Americans. In contrast, in 1913 he represented roughly 200,000, a ratio that today would mean a House with 1,500 members — or 5,000 if we match the ratio the founders awarded themselves. 
The article goes on to outline the cons of the current regime and the advantages of expanding the size of the People's House, effectively arguing that increasing the quantity of representatives and decreasing the size of districts would increase the quality of political representation:
This disparity increases the influence of lobbyists and special interests: the more constituents one has, the easier it is for money to outshine individual voices. And it means that representatives have a harder time connecting with the people back in their districts.

What’s needed, then, is a significant increase in the size of the House by expanding the number, and shrinking the size, of districts. Doing so would make campaigns cheaper, the political value of donations lower and the importance of local mobilizing much greater.

Smaller districts would also end the two-party deadlock. Orange County, Calif., might elect a Libertarian, while Cambridge, Mass., might pick a candidate from the Green Party. Moreover, with additional House members we’d likely see more citizen-legislators and fewer lifers.  [Emphasis added.]
Too bad Septimus of the Whig blog has been offline, this was one of his signature issues.


Paulie said...

Speaking of Septimus, I've noticed that none of the Whig blogs I know or Whig national website have been updated since Thanksgiving or so, and we have not been getting any Whig emails at IPR for a while. Anyone know what is going on with them, if anything?

Samuel Wilson said...

Just a thought provoked by your latest: given likely complaints about fitting an expanded HR into the Capitol and a purported desire that legislators remain close to their constituents, how about tele-legislation? Keeping the actual legislators dispersed among their constituents (except for a handful of ceremonial occasions, I suppose)while deliberating online could keep them closer to the people while reducing lobbying to the level of spam. I just had the idea this minute, so feel free to criticize.

d.eris said...

Sam, I don't think that's a bad idea, but it may be some time before the technology effectively seeps into the aged political class. That aside, the authors of the op-ed also mentioned something along those lines, writing, "True, more members means more agendas, legislation and debates. But Internet technology already provides effective low-cost management solutions, from Google Documents to streaming interactive video to online voting."

But such means can also be used RIGHT NOW to make current representatives more accountable to their constituents. For instance, I thought Jake Towne's idea of the "Open Office" was very promising when he unveiled it during his indy campaign for Congress in PA last year. See:

d.eris said...

Paulie, I haven't heard much from the Whigs recently either, which is too bad because it seemed like they had begun to build some momentum last year after the merger with the Centrist Party and then the flurry of mainstream media coverage led by the WSJ.