Alliance for Democracy

Making govenment more representative – we need a bigger House, bigger Supreme Court

Posted in Uncategorized by Alliance for Democracy Portland OR on November 14, 2009

  The House of Representatives rules fixing the number of representatives is undemocratic.  The number of representatives needs to be increased.  And we need to pack the US Supreme Court in order to nullify the conservative majority which is set to overturn century old laws prohibiting corporate treasury funds in elections.

The following article says that the United States needs to expand the number of Representatives in Congress so that the People’s House is more in touch and representative of the people who elect them.

At the founding constitutional convention, everyone understood that the Senate would be the representatives of the elites because the people were excluded from voting for senators.  Great arguments occurred about the proper size of the House.  If the districts were small, then the voice of the people would be stronger; if the districts were large, then the voice of the people would not be heard and the chamber would be a echo chamber for the elites. They settled on this language establishing large districts:  “The number of Representatives shall not exceed one for every thirty thousand, but each state shall have at least one Representative”.  Notice that they do not say how many is the maximum number who can be represented by a single representative.

Over time the unrepresentative nature of the House deepened.  In 1900 the ratio of representative/people represented was 1/193,167; by the 2000 census that ratio had increased to 1/646,952.  And note that in 2000, Montana with a population of 905,316 had only one representative whereas Wyoming with a population of 485,304 also had only one representative.

So each of our representatives is supposed to be representative of more and more people.  This is an elitist formulation.  Time to increase the number of representatives. 

The other institution which needs to be enlarged is the US Supreme Court.  It is time to PACK THE COURT. 

Why would I say this?  The US Supreme Court is about to issue a decision in Citizens United vs FEC.  The court asked the lawyers for both sides to consider eliminating various laws passed over the past century which ban the use of corporate treasury funds in political campaigns.  All indications are that the US Supreme Court will rule to expand corporate “free speech”, and therefore corporate power.  The only way to undo this is for congress to increase the number of supreme court justices. Obama then could nominate and congress could confirm new justices favorable to campaign finance reform nd controlling corporate bribery of our elected officials.  Go to www.packthecourt.com for more details.

David e. Delk, Alliance for Democracy – Portland Chapter 503 232 5495 www.afd-pdx.org


Article source:  http://www.progress.org/2009/house.htm.  Progress.org is a website advocating the ideas

Population, but not representation, has grown 

We need a bigger House, say, 5000 Reps

By Jonah Goldberg

Watching the House of Representatives on late-night C-SPAN, you might have any number of reactions, including seppukuseppuku-inducing boredom. But, depending on who’s talking and the quality of his or her chart-and-easel presentation, you might also feel disgust, rage, contempt or, in rare cases, inspiration. But whether you hail from the right, the left or the allegedly vital center, one reaction you probably won’t have is: “Gosh, if only there were more of these jokers.”

And that’s too bad. Because what our political system may be lacking more than anything else is enough members of Congress. No, really. Seriously, stop laughing.

Except for a brief effort to accommodate Alaska and Hawaii, the size of the House has been frozen at 435 members since 1911. A 1929 law, driven in part to keep immigrants underrepresented, has kept it that way.

But there’s nothing sacred about the 435 number. In fact, the founders would be aghast at the idea that the “peoples’ house” is filled with pols speaking for hundreds of thousands of citizens.

In Federalist No. 55, James Madison observed that perhaps more than any other article in the proposed U.S. Constitution, the part dealing with the size and apportionment of the House received the most attention and criticism. The chief complaints, according to Madison, were that, under the proposed system, Congress would be so small that it would become an “unsafe depository of the public interests”; that the districts would be too large and diverse for any politician to “possess a proper knowledge of the local circumstances of their numerous constituents”; and that such a tiny House would have the net result of attracting the more elitist types whose aim would be the “permanent elevation of the few on the depression of the many.”

So how big were these liberty-threatening districts? How tiny was the potentially oligarchic House? The districts had no more than 30,000 people, yielding a total of 65 representatives. Under today’s apportionment system, the “ideal” congressional district is 700,000 people, with some districts reaching nearly 1 million. Montana, with a population of 958,000, has just one representative, but each of Rhode Island’s two districts has about 530,000 people.

There is, of course, an important principle here, and if all of Montana’s residents were black, it would be easier for everyone to see it. Montanans’ votes don’t count as much as Rhode Islanders’ — in fact, a Montanan’s vote only counts for nearly three-fifths of a Rhode Islander’s. That America’s slave population was counted by the same ratio under the original Constitution is usually cited, rightly, as one of the document’s greatest sins.

A lawsuit filed in federal court in Mississippi last month hopes to force Congress to remedy the status quo’s assault on the one-person, one-vote principle by increasing Congress to as many as a paltry 1,761 members.

Beyond principle, there are practical reasons to expand Congress. For decades, presidential candidates have promised to change the “way Washington works.” But once elected, they’re soon captured by their own congressional parties, which are in turn beholden to the “old bulls” and constituencies rooted in interests outside their districts.

A Congress of, say, 5,000 citizen-legislators would change that overnight. Would it cost more money? Yes. But today’s huge staffs could be cut, and perks and pork might even be curtailed by using the old chewing gum rule: If there’s not enough for everyone, nobody can have any.

 Term-limit activists have the right idea — getting new blood in Washington — but their remedy is anti-democratic. The trick is to swamp Congress with new blood and new ideas. Want more minorities in Congress? Done. Want more libertarians? More socialists? More blue-collar workers? Done, done, done.

In debates about the 1st Amendment, it’s often said that the cure for bad speech is more speech. Well, the cure for a calcified Congress just might be more members; the remedy for an undemocratic system, more democracy.

When you look at the congressional corruption scandals of the last 20 years, it’s hard not to see them as stemming from a system that has, in fact, led to the “permanent elevation of the few on the depression of the many.”

Critics of the status quo from the left and right yearn to shatter the two-party system’s lock on politics. I’m not convinced that would be a good thing, but wouldn’t the best way to do that be for smaller parties in Congress to champion new, fresh ideas? Rather than have some billionaire egomaniac who, in effect, creates or co-opts a ridiculous third party just so he can indulge his presidential ambitions, why not have third, fourth or 15th parties test their wares in a smaller political market and build themselves up to where they could field a president?

Obviously, the rajahs of incumbentstan don’t like the prospect of diluting their own power. But expanding Congress would, among other things, make late night C-SPAN so much more entertaining.

The following article says that the United States needs to expand the number of Representatives in Congress so that the People’s House is more in touch and representative of the people who elect them.

At the founding constitutional convention, everyone understood that the Senate would be the representatives of the elites because the people were excluded from voting for senators.  Great arguments occurred about the proper size of the House.  If the districts were small, then the voice of the people would be stronger; if the districts were large, then the voice of the people would not be heard and the chamber would be a echo chamber for the elites. They settled on this language establishing large districts:  “The number of Representatives shall not exceed one for every thirty thousand, but each state shall have at least one Representative”.  Notice that they do not say how many is the maximum number who can be represented by a single representative.

Over time the unrepresentative nature of the House deepened.  In 1900 the ratio of representative/people represented was 1/193,167; by the 2000 census that ratio had increased to 1/646,952.  And note that in 2000, Montana with a population of 905,316 had only one representative whereas Wyoming with a population of 485,304 also had only one representative.

So each of our representatives is supposed to be representative of more and more people.  This is an elitist formulation.  Time to increase the number of representatives. 

The other institution which needs to be enlarged is the US Supreme Court.  It is time to PACK THE COURT. 

Why would I say this?  The US Supreme Court is about to issue a decision in Citizens United vs FEC.  The court asked the lawyers for both sides to consider eliminating various laws passed over the past century which ban the use of corporate treasury funds in political campaigns.  All indications are that the US Supreme Court will rule to expand corporate “free speech”, and therefore corporate power.  The only way to undo this is for congress to increase the number of supreme court justices. Obama then could nominate and congress could confirm new justices favorable to campaign finance reform nd controlling corporate bribery of our elected officials.  Go to www.packthecourt.com for more details.

David e. Delk, Alliance for Democracy – Portland Chapter 503 232 5495 www.afd-pdx.org


Article source:  http://www.progress.org/2009/house.htm.  Progress.org is a website advocating the ideas

Population, but not representation, has grown 

We need a bigger House, say, 5000 Reps

By Jonah Goldberg

Watching the House of Representatives on late-night C-SPAN, you might have any number of reactions, including seppukuseppuku-inducing boredom. But, depending on who’s talking and the quality of his or her chart-and-easel presentation, you might also feel disgust, rage, contempt or, in rare cases, inspiration. But whether you hail from the right, the left or the allegedly vital center, one reaction you probably won’t have is: “Gosh, if only there were more of these jokers.”

And that’s too bad. Because what our political system may be lacking more than anything else is enough members of Congress. No, really. Seriously, stop laughing.

Except for a brief effort to accommodate Alaska and Hawaii, the size of the House has been frozen at 435 members since 1911. A 1929 law, driven in part to keep immigrants underrepresented, has kept it that way.

But there’s nothing sacred about the 435 number. In fact, the founders would be aghast at the idea that the “peoples’ house” is filled with pols speaking for hundreds of thousands of citizens.

In Federalist No. 55, James Madison observed that perhaps more than any other article in the proposed U.S. Constitution, the part dealing with the size and apportionment of the House received the most attention and criticism. The chief complaints, according to Madison, were that, under the proposed system, Congress would be so small that it would become an “unsafe depository of the public interests”; that the districts would be too large and diverse for any politician to “possess a proper knowledge of the local circumstances of their numerous constituents”; and that such a tiny House would have the net result of attracting the more elitist types whose aim would be the “permanent elevation of the few on the depression of the many.”

So how big were these liberty-threatening districts? How tiny was the potentially oligarchic House? The districts had no more than 30,000 people, yielding a total of 65 representatives. Under today’s apportionment system, the “ideal” congressional district is 700,000 people, with some districts reaching nearly 1 million. Montana, with a population of 958,000, has just one representative, but each of Rhode Island’s two districts has about 530,000 people.

There is, of course, an important principle here, and if all of Montana’s residents were black, it would be easier for everyone to see it. Montanans’ votes don’t count as much as Rhode Islanders’ — in fact, a Montanan’s vote only counts for nearly three-fifths of a Rhode Islander’s. That America’s slave population was counted by the same ratio under the original Constitution is usually cited, rightly, as one of the document’s greatest sins.

A lawsuit filed in federal court in Mississippi last month hopes to force Congress to remedy the status quo’s assault on the one-person, one-vote principle by increasing Congress to as many as a paltry 1,761 members.

Beyond principle, there are practical reasons to expand Congress. For decades, presidential candidates have promised to change the “way Washington works.” But once elected, they’re soon captured by their own congressional parties, which are in turn beholden to the “old bulls” and constituencies rooted in interests outside their districts.

A Congress of, say, 5,000 citizen-legislators would change that overnight. Would it cost more money? Yes. But today’s huge staffs could be cut, and perks and pork might even be curtailed by using the old chewing gum rule: If there’s not enough for everyone, nobody can have any.

Term-limit activists have the right idea — getting new blood in Washington — but their remedy is anti-democratic. The trick is to swamp Congress with new blood and new ideas. Want more minorities in Congress? Done. Want more libertarians? More socialists? More blue-collar workers? Done, done, done.

In debates about the 1st Amendment, it’s often said that the cure for bad speech is more speech. Well, the cure for a calcified Congress just might be more members; the remedy for an undemocratic system, more democracy.

When you look at the congressional corruption scandals of the last 20 years, it’s hard not to see them as stemming from a system that has, in fact, led to the “permanent elevation of the few on the depression of the many.”

Critics of the status quo from the left and right yearn to shatter the two-party system’s lock on politics. I’m not convinced that would be a good thing, but wouldn’t the best way to do that be for smaller parties in Congress to champion new, fresh ideas? Rather than have some billionaire egomaniac who, in effect, creates or co-opts a ridiculous third party just so he can indulge his presidential ambitions, why not have third, fourth or 15th parties test their wares in a smaller political market and build themselves up to where they could field a president?

Obviously, the rajahs of incumbentstan don’t like the prospect of diluting their own power. But expanding Congress would, among other things, make late night C-SPAN so much more entertaining.

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