In these pages you will find the historical truths concerning our loss of representation and the rationale behind our proposal to restore our "republican form of government" .
"A government is republican in proportion as every member composing it has his equal voice in the direction of its concerns: not indeed in person, which would be impracticable beyond the limits of a city or small township, but by representatives chosen by himself and responsible to him at short periods." --Thomas Jefferson to Samuel Kercheval, 1816.
Our proposal makes use of well established minor technology in allowing a dramatic expansion of the voting membership of the House of Representatives without altering the structure or process of that assembly in any way. All of the committee structure and general procedure of the House of Representatives remains exactly as is. The goal of this expansion is to restore and improve the representative nature of our government such that it more closely resembles that which was described by the founders and ratified by the people.
These Constitutional goals of improved representation are achieved by physically locating the increased voting membership in offices much closer to the people they represent. The Committee members of the current House of Representatives remain officed in Washington DC where they function exactly as they do now. For the extended representation video conferencing allows them to function as they would if they were in the nation's capital. The extended representation should be officed in the districts they represent or in the state capitals but locating them within the Washington DC beltway would just continue the undue influence to the lobby and the political parties. The extended representatives will become aware of pending "bills" exactly as members do now, by secure electronic means. They will observe floor debates exactly as members do now, on monitors in their offices. And they will vote on the "bills" as members do now, without ever entering the House chamber.
It is proposed that the total membership of the House be increased to 1740 with all but 435 members being officed in their respective districts or the state capitals. This dramatic structured increase in the membership achieves the stated goal of improved representation for many reasons. But the two most important and sustaining benefits are the improved accessibility to our representatives and a huge reduction in the power of the Washington lobby. As discussed below, the increased membership also reduces the power of centralized campaign financing, and there is much to be said for the fact that the additional representatives can be elected without threatening to remove any of the current representatives and the valuable experience they provide.
In presenting this idea in various venues much difficulty has been found it preventing premature incorrect perceptions concerning the intent of the proposal. Therefore it is important to say what this proposal definitely is not, before attempting a description of why it is thought to accomplish its stated goals.
This proposal creates a more representative United States House of Representatives and there is no direct effect on any other department of government.
This is not a proposal to increase or alter the current committee structure of the House of Representatives or to change the number of people involved in the actual creation of budgets and other House legislation.
This is not a proposal to change the way in which bills before the house are passed by vote of the membership of the House, or to create any form of direct democracy or any form of government by referendum
As this proposal addresses the United States House of Representatives it is important to convey some general knowledge concerning the basic structure of the House of Representatives and how it currently produces legislation. Though changes in the structure and operation of the House may occur, this proposal does not directly alter any of the current structure and methodology in any way.
The House of Representatives is currently a structure of committees and subcommittees that receive proposed legislation from the general membership. Such proposals are rejected, amended, or ignored, and perhaps combined with other works to create proposed legislation that is then submitted to the full House. The vast majority of all the legislation proposed by the general membership simply dies in committee.
House members currently become aware of pending floor debates and bills in their offices by electronic means. The members and their staff read these bills and are aware of what language is in the bills. The members observe the debates of the "bill" on monitors in their offices and then, at the allotted time they vote on the "bills". At no time is it necessary for the members to enter the House chamber. Anyone ever watching C-span will observe the "emptiness" of that chamber.
After debate the bills are voted on by the entire membership. The entire membership therefore decides what further action is to be taken. Those bills that receive a positive vote in excess of negative votes are said to have been "passed" by the House.
District Size Versus Representation
With a dramatically enlarged membership comes dramatically reduced district sizes. It is axiomatic that the smaller a group may be, the more representative a given single spokesperson will be for that group. It is also agreed by most statesmen and scholars that the smaller groups elect leaders more likely to be _known_ to the people who elect them, and it is thus more likely that the selected/elected person will sympathize with the concerns of the electorate as opposed to the concerns of "Big Pharma", "Big Military Industrialist", and "Big Lobbyists" in general.
The Fear of a Multitude
The other side of extending the membership, however, is the fear of a multitude. In Federalist 10 Madison is concerned with the "confusion of a multitude" (he is concerned that a large legislative body is unwieldy, becoming thwarted in attempts at legislation). This has been the much abused primary excuse backing the failure to enlarge the membership. But arguments proclaiming the inability of 1740 representatives to enact legislation are laid to rest by the fact that the House is currently composed of 435 members. Any claim that such an organization is a "deliberative body" is laughable. The House is currently made up of twenty-two standing committees. The committee system took its current form in 1946, and this has remained as the methodology employed in the House until now in 2008. There are 230 members of the House serving on these committees. The remainder of the throng in Washington are assigned to subcommittees so as to keep them "involved" with the party and the pyramid structure. The current 435 member House is a country club where the lobby and the special interests wine and dine the members and the members secure the promises of the obscene funding and outside support necessary to fend off any challenge to their royal incumbency. Within this country club the membership decides who will form the actual committees that create bills and budgets; a real feast for the lobby.
The selection/election of committee members is the province of the members of the House. No campaign funds or mass media advertising wars are waged in this process. As described earlier an extended voting House membership does not alter the committee selection process. However, by expanding the sphere from which to select the more deliberate and seasoned persons (1740 as opposed to 435), more choice is engendered in this internal election process and the likelihood of more fit selections is improved. And due to the relocation of the members there is much less lobby influence in this selection process.
It is not necessary that the current members of the House be replaced by new grass-roots candidates. The decisions as to who will actually sit on the committees will be more open and the constant threat of replacement will continue to drive the opposing parties toward the center and toward moderation. This will not appeal to those of the far left or the far right. But the likelihood of legislation that prevents government negotiation with pharmaceutical companies or legislation that takes away habeas corpus is greatly reduced. The likelihood of legislation that would favor more comprehensive health care solutions and a speedy retreat from ill advised militarism is also enhanced. These issues are not "left right" issues. They are issues on which the majority seem to agree while the extremes may not. The most endearing quality of popular representation is that it marginalizes the extremes and provides a more rational approach to government.
Presently, the two major political parties raise large amounts of money in support of their chosen representatives. The lobby and the special interests donate to the political parties and also spend large sums outside the campaign finance rules on the negative advertisements that help enshrine their particular choices. But as the funding of candidates chosen by this current oligarchy would be spread across more races the amount that could be allocated to each race is dramatically reduced. Hence, there is a far greater opportunity for less well funded candidates from outside the current establishment to enter any and all races; candidates that are more independent of the two major parties and the special interests; candidates who might position themselves to appeal more to the particular people of the district as opposed to catering so much to the party and the big money that fund mass media advertisement.
Candidates of the oligarchy will still be financed from the national pools but in the smaller districts the money is of much less significance. In smaller districts mass media advertising (especially candidate specific negative advertising) is much easier to combat. While the television may splatter Mr. Packaged and Blow-dried into everyone's living room and the Harry and Loise negative ads might continue, the honest candidate need not use such expensive media. In smaller districts a very powerful "ground game" and an closer relationship with the voters can stand up to the smears. All the money in the world will not PREVENT the truth from being disseminated by a local organization. The excess money available to the oligarchy's candidate is simply of much less benefit. It is entirely possible to engender true interest in the issues and to create local "town hall" debates and discussions that get a good candidate elected. Yard signs directing people to the picnic and grass roots meetings will fill the landscape. Honest people give their time as opposed to money. THAT, boys and girls, is representative government.
Placing additional representatives inside the beltway where visitations by the lobby and the special interests are facilitated is a slap in the face to the reason for their very existence. They are Constitutionally bound to represent their particular constituents. They are not to be representing the lobby or the special interests or their particular political party. And while they most certainly will be called upon to comprehend and contemplate the objects of the nation as a whole they are to be directly charged and held accountable by those local constituents who vote them in and out of office. Quadrupling the membership as provided herein will insure that the votes of the representatives reflect the will of the people being represented as opposed to the will of the lobby, the special interests, and the party. And it is in this manner that legislation that would not be in the best interest of the people as a whole is thwarted.
A major concern of the founders was the protection of the propertied class from the improper actions of the multitudes. But that is why we have a Senate and the Supreme Court. These bodies are designed to arrest populist majoritarianism that might trample the rights of minorities, including the wealthy. That is a very important part of the design of our government. And having the Senate and the Supreme court to guard against too much populism our House of Representatives was purposefully designed to legislate with due regard for the will of the majority; the will of the common people. Our current problem, of course, is that by limiting the membership of the House we have devolved into a condition where we have two Senates.. Extended representation is the means by which this malady should be addressed.
Our government was not specifically designed to counter the mob rule that is engendered by an oligarchy in control of mass media. The founders never conceived of a situation where the entire nation could be whipped into a frenzy through the use of centralized auditory and visual stimulus, i.e. the "Big Brother" syndrome. But the responsibility for countering the runaway passion of a misinformed majority inflamed by mass media should lie first and foremost with the local representatives; the representatives of the more enlightened, community oriented, involved and aware members of the society. Where appropriate representation is lacking as it is now, all that is left is the oligarchy scripting whatever message they deem necessary to harangue the mob. If there is any defense against the use of mass media it must lie in the use of a free and open Internet, and the will of well informed and enlightened local groups and representatives who do their own research and insist on the truth. Moving the nation to action in times of crises is not a difficult task when there is truth and honesty. The propaganda machine serves only the vile and the corrupt.
James Madison would be pleased to know that he could have his cake and eat it too; to know that he could have a smaller, more deliberative body debating and drafting legislation while maintaining legislative districts of less than two hundred thousand people. While technology allows a central authority to possibly mislead and distort and propagandize the nation, technology also allows a redress for the people through local and wary representatives. Such representatives are not at the mercy of one way mass media and can stand their ground armed with the truth.
Trucker, aka Mike the Meany