The longest-serving Congressman in US history proposes a four fixes for American democracy


#1

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2018/12/05/public-election-funding-no-sen.html


#2

Threats like that end up with ironic twists when made against a party who would readily agree to abolish many aspects of government…


#3

Point 3 will get the most attention, and the most pushback from the GOP. There’s little chance the Senate will be completely abolished. The more realistic choice (and the one that reflects the goal of making sure the voice of smaller population states doesn’t get completely drowned out) is not to abolish the Senate but incorporate it into the House and have both vote together as one body.

The Electoral College is a broken relic long overdue for abolition, but if that’s not possible some basic reforms regarding accountability and proportionality could somewhat mitigate the kind of damage it’s now done in two elections.


#4

Unfortunately abolishing the senate is probably impossible without at the least a constitutional convention and more likely a revolution.

The senate is actually an exception to the rules on constitutional amendments: no state may be deprived of its senators without its consent, even by amendment. We would have to rewrite the constitution from scratch. Its basically a non-starter and for sure Rep Dingell knows that. Presumably the point is to both express that the makeup of the senate is wrong and to get attention to the rest of his proposals which are more practical, but alone would not draw the level of press coverage this has gotten.


#5

Far more practical and democratic is to lift the 435 cap on the House of Representatives, bringing the disproportionate voting weight of a Wyomingian over a Californian back into line.

Also, requiring congressional districts to maximize compactness, but that’s a state level problem.


#6

Go for it.


#7

I don’t object, but that is hardly an enormous problem. A representative from California represents about 750k people. Liz Cheney of Wyoming represents about 580k people. There may be some states with 2 congressional districts with slightly fewer constituents due to rounding. So there is some discrepancy but in a list of undemocratic problems with the US it is pretty far down the list after the senate, the electoral college, voting rights and representation for US territories, and probably some other things I am forgetting.


#8

See, this is the sort of thing that is almost calculated to bounce right off the brains that most desperately need to grasp what he’s getting at.

If you’re a Turmp-voting sort, you will just scan that sentence and agree with it as a sort of general “USA #1” platitude. And then you’ll go and vote for something terrible and fascistic that speaks to your worst impulses, because America is Good and therefore nothing you vote for can make it Bad. But the point of the quote is that, insofar as America has been a force for good, it’s because people didn’t vote for Evil, or if they did, it’s only blind luck that has averted the worst outcomes so far. And some folks are pushing their luck hard.


#9

I hate to burst your bubble, but public funding of campaigns will not work. The politicians will loot the US Treasury, the media will hike billing for commercial time, and we will have the same excessive cost problems we now face with college tuitions and medical expenses.

If the candidates are required to fund solely from their own pockets, account for each penny, and deal with advertising sales reps and media on their own, it would demonstrate competence at handling taxpayers’ money.

Furthermore, the FEC and IRS need to be setting valuations for free media time for a good long period in advance of campaign filings. This would evenhandedly compensate for the current disastrous 45 pointed at America’s temple, and prevent a reoccurrence from either party. Sorry Oprah, we love you but we need serious experience and professionalism in the Oval Office and overseas.

I believe we still need bicameral representation, but not as it exists currently. Certainly we do not need a House of Lords, a House of CorpoRATions, or a Senate in the pockets of either.


#10

This is my retired Congressman. His proposed item one will be very close to happening here (Michigan) next year. Voter registration will be automatic with driver’s license and state ID registration or renewal. We’re also getting same-day registration/voting. Not quite as good as automatic-at-18, but steps in the right direction.


#11

How about 2 year terms for senators to keep them on their toes?


#12

Bad idea. Look at the House; representatives spend so much of their time working towards the next election that they can hardly get anything done. I’d sooner make the representative terms longer, three or four years.


#13

What is so different and special about the U.S. that prevents us from doing the same thing other nations have done? Place a cap on the amount each candidate gets and spends.
As far as media costs, it’s easy enough to tie allowing a broadcaster the right to broadcast to it also donating commercial time at no charge for political ads.


#14
  1. Abolish the Senate or incorporate it into the House of Reps to head off the “demographic crisis” that will see 70% of Americans in just 15 states, with 30 Senators between them; the 30% of the US that lives in the depopulated 35 states will get 70 Senators. Also: abolish the Electoral College.

What is he smoking? A constitutional amendment to abolish the Senate / Electoral College would never, ever happen. The whole point of the constitution was to give smaller population states outsized power so they wouldnt feel gobbled up by states of larger populations. Its the only reason it was unanimously ratified in the first place. Why not devote energy to very possible goal of true enfranchisement, free of voter suppression, a 51-state Senate majority, and abolition of the filibuster?

Regarding the Electoral College, the only, slim, possibility at solution is:


#15

Anyway, on the suggestions themselves.

  1. and 4. look very good, and 1. at least should be easy enough to do.

  2. goes, I think, a bit too far. Much tighter control on campaign contributions, more transparency, that sort of thing, yes. And public funding for those who can’t or won’t get those contributions, that’s a good idea too. But a blanket ban seems sort of excessive.

On 3., I’m not an expert on US politics and constitution, but I think you need to do a constitutional amendment to get rid of either the Senate or the Electoral College. And that’s so hard as to make the whole thing a pipe dream, long before we get to whether it’s a good idea or not. (IMO, yes on abolishing / seriously changing the EC, no on abolishing the Senate.)


#16

While we’re spitballing, I think you should be allowed to donate money, goods, and/or services to a political campaign only under the following circumstances:

  1. You are eligible to vote for the candidate the campaign represents, or
  2. You reside in a region where the ballot question the campaign supports or opposes is on the ballot, or
  3. You are “closely related” to the candidate by blood, marriage, or adoption. I would define “closely related” as say no more than 3 steps, where someone is 1 step from you if they are your sibling, spouse, offspring, or parent, or
  4. You are participating in some sort of school or organization civics project (think volunteering as a social studies project or for a Boy Scout / Girl Scout merit badge-type of thing.) In this case you can volunteer your services.

There should also be a limit on the volume of money or goods you can provide to a particular candidate.

If a campaign accepts an illegal donation, that full donation should be forfeit to some government fund (maybe the fund that pays for purchasing and maintaining the equipment and training the personnel required to run the election) and the campaign and/or donor may be fined some additional amount if malice was involved on the part of either party.


#17

Interesting. 1& 2 are “DUH”. 3… no. 4, I agree w/ the idea, but it’s a “be careful what you wish for” if not done right.

I would add my own:

*Eliminate the EC (alluded to in the OP)
*Expand the HOR to about double the size.
*Enact Ranked-Choice voting in all elections.
*Senate is fine, but eliminate all filibusters. The filibuster is inherent in the small state/large state issue that #3 is addressing. Meaning the way the Senate is composed IS the filibuster. I still believe in the idea of a minority being able to check a majority, but as it is now, it’s way too easy.
*All Congressional re-Districting done by Non-Partisan means. (there are a few models out there)
*Expand SCOTUS to 11 seats. There is way toooooo much work as it is for just 9.
*All Judgeships, SCOTUS and down, to be 1 20-year term or to be concluded in the next Congressional session. With exceptions of emergencies, allow 1 appointment per Congressional session. You’d have to work out the math a little, but I think you get the idea.

Bonus:
*Want to reduce the length and likelihood of future wars? Enact a draft.

Edit: brain fart on # of SCOTUS. :slight_smile:


#18

Somehow, I seriously doubt that.


#19

The disproportionate representation in the House is nothing compared to the disproportionate representation of the Senate. An individual voter in Wyoming has 68 times as much influence in the Senate as an individual voter in California. That’s more than three times as big as the discrepancy between any two states at the time the Constitution was ratified.


#20

Looked at from a different angle, this is in fact a near-insurmountable problem for representational democracy; how can it be possible for one person to represent either population? One person might have difficulty representing 50k humans accurately, 10x that is an absurd expectation. And these numbers certainly feed into megaphone problem with private campaign finance. And why legislation only reflects the interest of elites.