One year ago today I stood on a stage in Huntington, Indiana and announced I was running for Congress. Sadly, my life was forced into dramatic changes and that race has ended for, but I'm still a political beast with thoughts and opinions. Can I be honest about one of them? I no longer have faith in American democracy, and therefore I'm losing faith in America. Our democracy is broken, and we can talk about all the different ways in which it is broken, but I believe the first and most important way in which it is broken is in the bicameral legislative branch. (Incoming history lesson, hopefully the short version.) Our bicameral legislator is a compromise dating back to 16 JUL, 1787. The Connecticut Compromise gave us a Senate with a set number of representatives per state, and in the House we get representation apportioned to population. This "perfect" compromise pleased the prosperous and heavily populated northern states, who believed that representation shoudl be proportional to population, and pleased the delegates from the southern states, for historically dubious reasons. So that is the roots of our current system. If you want a long version, just Google up the Connecticut Compromise. So what happened? Well, the country got bigger, and the House got bigger. The House actually has the power to regulate their own membership numbers, and for from 1789 to 1913 the House regularly got larger, from 65 members all the way up to 435, the current number. (History nerds may remember the House has had 436 and 437 members, in a weird rule that gave new states 1 voting member until the next census.) The problem is that under current rules each state must have at least one member of Congress, meaning that Liz Cheney in Wyoming represents 578,759 people as the at-large member of Congress from Wyoming, while AOC represents more than 650,000 people, and before the most recent census, Matt Rosendale of Montana represented a district of just over one million people. (Montana was recently given a second seat for the first time in its history.)
So Congress suffers from a series of problems. The members of Congress each are supposed to represent their constituents in their district, but we (constituents) are unequally represented based on where we live. The representatives we do have are bought and paid for by people with far more money than us. More than $14B was spent during the 2020 election cycle JUST on federal election. President Biden spent $1B winning an election. Twice-Impeached Florida-Retiree Trump spent $774M losing an election. Those numbers are just their official campaign numbers. Outside spending added billions more, in a Presidential race that saw more than $5.7B in spending. Then we get to the Senate, where the two races in Georgia saw more than $900M in spending. The Democrats spent $716M on House races, to net exactly one more seat than they held before the 2020 elections. Where did that money come from? If you're Kevin McCarthy you raised $4.5M in your race, but only 22% from in the state of California. Speaker Pelosi didn't do much better, only getting 32% of her $7.1M from in the state of California. Congressman Banks received only 50% of his donations from in the Indiana 3rd District, and 30% of his funding from out of state donors. Can a person receiving that much money from people outside their district actually care about representing their district? No.
So how do we fix this? We take the following steps. First - abolish all political donations. Federal campaigns (House, Senate, President) will be publicly financed a certain amount of dollars for each candidate. Any party who receives at least 5% of the vote in an election will secure campaign funding for their party candidate in the same race the next time it is contested. This will allow for real political discourse between more than two political parties.
Second - reform the number of seats in the United States House of Representatives. I will give you two different reform ideas. One of them isn't mine, the Wyoming Compromise. First discussed in the early 1990s, the Wyoming Compromise would have changed the number of representatives in US House every ten years based on the number being represented by the person with the fewest constituents. Liz Cheney represents the approximately 580,000 people mentioned before. Each state would be give representation based on that number. Under this plan the following occurs: (rounding to the nearest possible 576,851) WY, VT, DC, AK, ND - 1 each (5 total) SD, DE, MT, RI, ME, NH - 2 each (12 on this line, now 17 total) HI, WV, ID, NE - 3 each (12 on this line, 29 between three lines) NM - 4 Representatives (4 on this line, 33 total now) KS, MI, AR, NV - 5 each (20 on this line, 53 total) IA, UT, PR, CT - 6 each (24 on this line, 77 total) OK, OR - 7 each (14 on this line, 91 total) KY, LA - 8 each (16 on this line, 107 total) AL, SC, MN, CO, WI - 10 each (50 on this line, 157 total) MO, MD - 11 each (22 on this line, 179 total) IN, TN, MA, AZ - 12 each (48 on this line, 227 total) WA - 13 (240 total) VA - 15 (255 total) NJ - 16 (271 total) MI - 17 (288 total) NC - 18 (306 total) GA - 19 (325 total) OH - 20 (345 total) IL - 22 (367 total) PA - 23 (390 total) NY - 35 (425 total) FL - 37 (462 total) TX - 51 (513 total) CA - 69 (582 total) The House just lots bigger, yes? But, now people are close to equally represented. I can't take credit for this concept, I actually believe the first time I read about it I was reading a George F Will article.
I have my own idea how to fix this, and it goes back to me believing I know what the framers of the Constitution meant. The upper house (the Senate) was to be made of the responsible adults in government, and would represent the interests of the states in an equally apportioned manner. I don't think there are many adults in the Senate, but I think the equal representation method based on states works for our purposes here. The problem is the House. The framers meant for the House to represent people. People live in states, but are not divided by them, and therefore the lines of a Congressional district should not be bound by the arbitrary lines of state borders. If you want people represented by members of Congress, each member of Congress should be working for the same number of people. The United States is home to about 335 million people. If we keep the same number of districts, 435, then each member of Congress represents about 816,000 Americans. If we decided on a different number, say 750,000 Americans, we would have about 447 seats in the House of Representatives. The number here doesn't matter, and in this space I could make arguments for a larger Congress and a smaller Congress (more responsive to taxpayer needs, more accessible to constituents, versus saves taxpayer money and is more likely to compromise because of smaller numbers). The important thing is splitting Americans into EVENLY populated districts regardless of state borders so that members of Congress represent PEOPLE and not STATES. For this to work we also must remove the human component of districting, so some smart computer programmer can take census data, plug it into a computer, and ask it to draw 447 equally populated districts as compact as possible. Thanks. Let's save this democracy, before we have to watch the end of the American experiment.