Thursday, April 18, 2013

Does Congress Really Represent Us?

Despite polls that show public support for the very modest gun safety laws  proposed by the Senate Democrats together with a few Republicans (universal background checks and tightening laws against straw purchases) at around 75% to 90%, the legislation went down to defeat, not because it failed to get a majority of votes in the Senate, but because it failed to get the necessary two thirds to overcome the inevitable filibuster threat.  Senate Democrats, fearing a Republican takeover of the Senate in 2014, are reluctant to get rid of the abuse of the filibuster, and so found themselves defeated on an issue that they should have won easily.

I've asked before and I'll ask again, does Congress really represent us?

I remain amazed that 535 people in total are expected to fairly represent a country with a population of more than 300 million (that total number of people in Congress includes the Senate). The British House of Commons (only Commons, not Parliament as a whole) has 650 members representing a country with a population of around 63 million. Small wonder there is so large a disconnect between Congress and public opinion on so many issues. Small wonder it is so easily manipulated in our culture of legalized corruption.

Also, the population of the Congress has a disproportionate number of millionaires.  The top one percent of the population is amply represented and so are their interests.  The US Capitol may not be for sale, but it is definitely for rent.

If it was up to me, I'd expand the House of Representatives by at least another 600 seats.  If they complain about not enough room in the Chamber, so what?  The House Chamber has been rebuilt many times over.  Why not rebuild it again?  Though there are 650 MPs in the House of Commons, the chamber remains small accommodating barely 200 of them at a time.  I think we can find ways to adjust.

I would take redistricting out of the hands of state legislatures and create independent commissions to draw up district boundaries.

Thomas U. Walter's first design for the expansion of the US Capitol, 1850s

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