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There are plenty of process reforms worth considering to make federal government responsive to the people and their rights. Term limits and non-partisan redistricting are not the best way to achieve these goals

Political Reforms to Reject, and Political Reforms to Consider


By —— Bio and Archives--February 28, 2018

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Political Reforms to Reject, and Political Reforms to Consider
There is a populist uprising against the political class in Washington DC. That’s a good thing, in that our power should belong to the federal government, which can decide what they want to do with us.

Our power needs to be restored, and the clear delineation of enumerated powers must be reasserted.

However, one reform suggested by lawmakers on both sides of the aisle will not help our problems in Washington DC.

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Term Limits

Term limits seem like a great idea at first. We have a two-term limit for chief executives, and I think that’s a wise idea, although to my knowledge I don’t know of any governor who served for multiple terms in office.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt got away four terms, and our country suffered greatly. It’s worth keeping metrics and safeguards in place which prevent dictatorships from taking over.

But term limits for Congressmen and US Senators is not a good idea. In fact, the Framers debated this issue in heated fashion during the Constitutional Convention and afterwards. The winning side on this debate decided against this proposal because a naive set of new legislators would not withstand corruption and malfeasance. Neophyte legislators would hurt the proper running of government, and such arbitrary measures could not guarantee the end of aloof, unaccountable representation.

California has term limits, and the state legislature has still become more left-leaning and corrupt with every election cycle. The special interests and bureaucratic legislative class control Sacramento because legislators have little political capital or gravitas of their own. Speakers of the State Assembly lasted only one term or at most two.

It’s very difficult to have checks and balances when legislative leadership has little time or experience. Perhaps term limits on lobbyists would be more effective. But would it be constitutional?

 

Non-partisan Redistricting vs. Gerrymandering

Gerrymandering is a problem. Maryland has some of the worst looking districts in the country, as do Pennsylvania and Illinois. For the 2000s, very few Congressional seats flipped in California, too. The districts were drawn up so tightly and in such partisan fashion that opposing parties wouldn’t bother filing challenges against incumbents. Congressmen who turn into distant kings and aloof princes is not a winning strategy for good governance, that is certain.

But what can be done about it?

Just as the best term limit for an elected official is an election, the best solution to gerrymandering is the set of elections which take place right before the next census and redistricting efforts.

We need to waken the populace to the importance of the voter franchise. Non-partisan redistricting efforts are still very much partisan, in fact, but they are hidden from the public. It’s harder to catch, but the redistricting efforts are still very slanted.

Perhaps the best way would be to have a partisan panel of Republicans and Democrats and let them carve up the districts as equitably as possible. But the idea of non-partisan anything is a full-on canard.

 

 

Other reforms worth considering

1. Repeal the 17th Amendment

We need to repeal the 17th Amendment and restore the power of the state legislatures in Congress.

Senators were never supposed to be elected by popular vote, and the popular franchise is not an effective engine of oversight and accountability for US Senators. They serve for six years each term, and they get away with terrible votes. Only when they are up for re-election do they pay attention to the grassroots and the fervent, activist base of their differing political parties.

US Senators have actually become far more beholden to special interests in Washington DC than the needs of their primary constituents: the states. The proper checks and balances against the federal government have fallen away a great deal because the states as political entities have less power to push back against federal government overreach.

The New Deal would have never happened without direct election of US Senators. Obamacare would have been stymied, as well, since state legislatures would jealously guard their power from the federal government.


2. Increase the number of House Reps

The House of Representatives is supposed to be the popular chamber, responding to the direct interests of the people. Right now, a Congressman represents any district with a staggering population of 700,000+ citizens. By the 2020-2021 census, the average district population will hit at least 750,000 people.

We need more localized, attentive representation. A Congressman should represent at most half that number. The Apportionment Act of 1911 set the number of House seats at 435, but that legislation can be changed to make it 875, an odd number to ensure that there will be few if any ties in the lower chamber of Congress.

The House of Representatives should operate more like the House of Commons, with more spontaneous and immediate debate, plus a full discussion of the issues for all.

 

3. Congressional District Method for Apportionment of Electoral Votes in Presidential Elections

We need the Electoral College. It is an essential part of our republican form of government, ensure that direct democracy, aka mob rule does not become the rule of the day. But there is a way to ensure that Presidential contenders visit more than a handful of swing states.

Maine and Nebraska employ a more equitable method for allocating electoral votes besides winner-take-all. Candidates who win the majority vote in a House district in a state win that one electoral vote. Candidates who win the statewide popular vote win two electoral votes, because of representation the two US Senators.

This electoral apportionment system enabled Barack Obama to win one electoral vote in Nebraska in 2008, and for Trump to win one electoral vote in Maine. California, Texas, and other large states would receive more visits from major party candidates, as would swing Congressional districts in other states.

There are plenty of process reforms worth considering to make federal government responsive to the people and their rights. Term limits and non-partisan redistricting are not the best way to achieve these goals.


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Arthur Christopher Schaper -- Bio and Archives | Comments

Arthur Christopher Schaper is a teacher-turned-writer on topics both timeless and timely; political, cultural, and eternal. A life-long Southern California resident, Arthur currently lives in Torrance.

Twitter—@ArthurCSchaper
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