We are only represented by pollsters

John Boehner with fingers in his earsYou share your Congressperson with 705,761 neighbors1. How could they possibly represent you?

Article I, Section 2 of the US Constitution states that “The Number of Representatives shall not exceed one for every thirty Thousand2” Clearly, the founding fathers, felt that 30,000 was a pretty good number. Power, true to its nature, was something our Congresses seldom wished to share. Once the House got to 435 members, they kept it that way. Had they stayed with the intent of our fore parents, the next House session would convene with 10,233 members. Wouldn’t that be cool?

The districts would be way too small to require huge campaign spending – now averaging $1,362,239 per winner3. Anyone with a good facebook following could run. Party affiliation wouldn’t have the clout and new political parties could spring up in your block or your college dorm. Candidates would be forced to speak to the mob – and pander to the mob. Instead of representing big bizness, they would have to represent you and your bizness. Candidates would have to address local issues. With an average of only 22,500 of voting age and not in prison in each district, your vote would matter again. Minorities wouldn’t necessarily be minorities in their districts. The House of Representatives could look and sound like us, rather than them. Your representative wouldn’t have to be rich or a career brown-noser to run. And, it would be so much harder for a just say no do nothing Congress to get away with it. Isn’t it pretty to think so?

Other than the obvious out-and-out bribery, lobbyists are represented by the House of Representatives because they know your Congressperson. Lobbyists buy your representatives and their staff meals, take them on trips, pay them to speak at their corporate outings and just hang out with them at the club. We don’t get to do that, because once they go to DC, they only come back for weekends – and they don’t want to hang out with us.

The only way we are represented in Congress is by pollsters. Makes me want to be a bit nicer to them were they to call, but they can’t. Like 26.6% of American households4, I don’t have a landline phone anymore, just my cellphone. In general, little polling is conducted district by district anyway. Most of what my Congressperson knows is what everyone with a landline telephone is thinking, not me and certainly not my neighbors.

In fairness, some Congresspeople have their staff report what people are pissed off about who call their office, email or fax.  Seldom are those reports broken down by voters in their district and none of them account for the wacko robofax, emails or tweets they get from sponsored activism.

We could get together district by district and hire a lobbyist to represent us. Someone who we choose and pay to tell our Congressperson what we are thinking. But that is what we pay our Congressperson to do.

Then there’s that problem with what our representatives are actually doing anyway. Being qualified to serve, no longer requires experience in the complicated machinations of government. No longer do our representatives need an understanding of law, lawmaking and constitutional issues; foreign policy; navigating the bureaucracy; civil service; the workings of the Treasury, or even the difference between the Treasury and the Federal Reserve. No longer do we seek representatives who are curious, smart, resourceful, schooled in history, well-read or well-traveled. Those are skills unnecessary in service to we the people.

These days, Congress is run by professional staffers and lobbyists. The staffers control their schedule, write their speeches and tell them what side of each issue they should be on. Staffers working with lobbyists write all the legislation. If you need something done, best go straight to a staffer, though unelected, there’s a much better chance they’ll represent your issue. That is, if your issue is something that will generate campaign contributions.

1Population based on 2010 Census and after redistricting is completed.
2Slaves were counted as three-fifths of one person.
3 Campaign Finance Institute – By the way, it cost $7,500,0052 per Senate winner. If you took the NY Senate race out of the average, it only averaged $4,737,365 per winner.
4 CDC Survey

2 thoughts on “We are only represented by pollsters

  1. John Hickman

    The sense that there is something seriously wrong with formal and functional representation in America is expressed really well here. That legislators somehow “represent” us according to which strangely shaped subnational unit of government we live in IS absurd. There is a whole menu of good alternatives to First Past the Post electoral systems.

    Reply
  2. glenn overman

    Thanks for this analysis; I plan to steal from it. But, 10233 members of congress? Technology could make it work, and it might be okay until they started voting on and automating their salary increases and benefits; clearly the founding fathers never envisioned 330million people under one government.

    Maybe if you turned the states into federal districts, each with a porportionate national vote…. And you’d have to apply the same logic to the state governments. Hard sell.

    Needs some thought. But it would be nice if we could eschew demockracy* for a truly representative government.

    *Yeah, that’s what I meant to say.

    Reply

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