Send a Tweet
Most Popular Choices
Share on Facebook 4 Share on Twitter Printer Friendly Page More Sharing
OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 4/21/21

How "Representative" is US Democracy?

By       (Page 1 of 1 pages) (View How Many People Read This)   5 comments
Author 76576
Follow Me on Twitter     Message Thomas Knapp

US Capitol west side.JPG
US Capitol west side.JPG
(Image by Wikipedia (commons.wikimedia.org), Author: Martin Falbisoner  (1978–)   )
  Details   Source   DMCA

American politicians love to boast of their nation's status as the world's premier "representative democracy," and to lecture other, presumably less enlightened, countries on the importance of representative political institutions. Going by the numbers (which admittedly don't tell the whole story), there's good reason to question whether such preening is justified.

Among the world's states, the United States ranks third in population, but 25th in the number of members comprising its national legislative bodies.

The US has more than a thousand times the population of Iceland, but our House and Senate combined have fewer than ten times as many members as its single-house legislature, the Althing. Icelanders get one representative for every 5,037 inhabitants. Americans get one US Representative or US Senator for every 596,060 inhabitants.

In terms of the ratio of legislators to population, only the European Union and India are "less representative." Yes, that's right. The US comes in behind such exemplars of "representative democracy" as China, North Korea, Russia, Syria, Cuba, and Egypt when it comes to representation.

Of course, it's reasonable to question the "democracy" part of the "representative democracy" equation for some of those countries compared to the US. After all, the US would never use authoritarian measures like gerrymandering and restrictive ballot access laws to ensure that only two parties, or even one, have a shot at winning a seat, right? Oh, wait ...

The size of the US Senate is fixed in the Constitution at two Senators per state. But the US House of Representatives is constitutionally only limited to a maximum of one Representative per 30,000 inhabitants. A House based on that number would have 11,000 members.

Why, in its wisdom, has Congress fixed the number of US Representatives at 435 since 1929?

The supposed reason is that a larger legislature has a harder time getting things done. Yet the 24 countries besting the US on raw legislator numbers seem to manage. And even if the excuse was true, it might well be a feature, not a bug.

The real reason is, of course, greed for power. No member of Congress wants to dilute the weight of his or her own vote from one in 435 to one in, say, a thousand. On the other hand, no member of Congress wants to risk being downsized back to private life if that number is reduced.

If we want to really do "representative democracy" instead of just posturing and play-acting, a good starting point would be for Congress to increase the size of the House to 1,000 members, and for the states to end the foul practices of gerrymandering and giving special ballot access privileges to two anointed "major" parties.

Or we could stop pretending our "democracy" is more "representative" than Zimbabwe's or Nicaragua's.

 

Well Said 1   Supported 1   Valuable 1  
Rate It | View Ratings

Thomas Knapp Social Media Pages: Facebook page url on login Profile not filled in       Twitter page url on login Profile not filled in       Linkedin page url on login Profile not filled in       Instagram page url on login Profile not filled in

Thomas L. Knapp is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida.


Go To Commenting
The views expressed herein are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of this website or its editors.
Follow Me on Twitter     Writers Guidelines
Contact AuthorContact Author Contact EditorContact Editor Author PageView Authors' Articles
Support OpEdNews

OpEdNews depends upon can't survive without your help.

If you value this article and the work of OpEdNews, please either Donate or Purchase a premium membership.

STAY IN THE KNOW
If you've enjoyed this, sign up for our daily or weekly newsletter to get lots of great progressive content.
Daily Weekly     OpEdNews Newsletter
Name
Email
   (Opens new browser window)
 

Most Popular Articles by this Author:     (View All Most Popular Articles by this Author)

2020: I'm So Sick of Superlatives

America Doesn't Have Presidential Debates, But It Should

Hypocrisy Alert: Republicans Agreed with Ocasio-Cortez Until About One Minute Ago

Finally, Evidence of Russian Election Meddling ... Oh, Wait

Chickenhawk Donald: A Complete and Total Disgrace

The Nunes Memo Only Partially "Vindicates" Trump, But it Fully Indicts the FBI and the FISA Court

Comments

The time limit for entering new comments on this article has expired.

This limit can be removed. Our paid membership program is designed to give you many benefits, such as removing this time limit. To learn more, please click here.

3 people are discussing this page, with 5 comments


June Genis

Become a Fan
Author 52919
(Member since Aug 31, 2010), 8 fans, 2 articles, 36 quicklinks, 1035 comments (How many times has this commenter been recommended?)
Not paid member and Facebook page url on login Profile not filled in Not paid member and Twitter page url on login Profile not filled in Not paid member and Linkedin page url on login Profile not filled in Not paid member and Instagram page url on login Profile not filled in

  New Content

The best way to deal with getting rid of gerrymandering would be if each representative represents everyone in their state, not just a district. That could be accomplished by by making the state one big multi-member district where the allotted number of representatives are elected by the multi-seat form of Ranked Choice Voting.

That would be no big deal for states with just a couple of allowcated seats. Big states like CA, TX an NY might have to start off smaller by chopping the state into larger districts, say 5 of the old ones. Still room for gerrymandering there but hopefully it would be harder.

Of course, as you said, its not in the interest of any current congress critter to support a move like that. And House reps would have to campaign more like people running for statewide office too. The internet makes that a lot easier now but old dogs don't like learning new tricks. We may have to wait for the next generation who have grown up with the internet as an integral part of their lives to take over control first.

Submitted on Wednesday, Apr 21, 2021 at 2:31:26 PM

Author 0
Add New Comment
  Recommend  (0+)
Flag This
Share Comment More Sharing          
Commenter Blocking?
Indent

Thomas Knapp

Become a Fan
Author 76576
Follow Me on Twitter
(Member since Feb 15, 2012), 10 fans, 643 articles, 982 comments, 2 diaries (How many times has this commenter been recommended?)
Not paid member and Facebook page url on login Profile not filled in Not paid member and Twitter page url on login Profile not filled in Not paid member and Linkedin page url on login Profile not filled in Not paid member and Instagram page url on login Profile not filled in

Reply to June Genis:   New Content

Yes, electing all representatives at large statewide would be one way of getting rid of the gerrymander.

Another way would be for each representative to represent those who voted for him or her. Gather X signatures, you are a representative. Gather X+Y signatures, your vote has more weight. Allow each voter to withdraw his or her votes on a periodic basis, and if they so choose give them to another would-be rep, or "let them ride" on the same one.

Submitted on Wednesday, Apr 21, 2021 at 3:21:22 PM

Author 0
Add New Comment
  Recommend  (0+)
Flag This
Share Comment More Sharing          
Commenter Blocking?
IndentIndent

June Genis

Become a Fan
Author 52919
(Member since Aug 31, 2010), 8 fans, 2 articles, 36 quicklinks, 1035 comments (How many times has this commenter been recommended?)
Not paid member and Facebook page url on login Profile not filled in Not paid member and Twitter page url on login Profile not filled in Not paid member and Linkedin page url on login Profile not filled in Not paid member and Instagram page url on login Profile not filled in

Reply to Thomas Knapp:   New Content

You're reminding me of "The Probability Brouch" again :). So why periodically? Why not dynamically? Preferably just before a vote on something.

Submitted on Wednesday, Apr 21, 2021 at 4:17:09 PM

Author 0
Add New Comment
  Recommend  (0+)
Flag This
Share Comment More Sharing          
Commenter Blocking?
IndentIndentIndent

Thomas Knapp

Become a Fan
Author 76576
Follow Me on Twitter
(Member since Feb 15, 2012), 10 fans, 643 articles, 982 comments, 2 diaries (How many times has this commenter been recommended?)
Not paid member and Facebook page url on login Profile not filled in Not paid member and Twitter page url on login Profile not filled in Not paid member and Linkedin page url on login Profile not filled in Not paid member and Instagram page url on login Profile not filled in

Reply to June Genis:   New Content

Well, I'm a big fan of The Probability Broach. Pity El Neil had a stroke and subsequently, if not necessarily from the stroke, became politically senile.

I was thinking of periodically rather than dynamically to prevent server overloads and such from jokers running scripts that randomly change "their" representatives once per second, or problems calculating voting power on the fly by the second, stuff like that. I don't see any problem with the period being, say, 24 hours, and it being understood that the database clears its cache and updates every 15 minutes or whatever so if you change your representative at 12:01 pm it may be 12:15 pm before the change in weighted voting power takes place.

Submitted on Wednesday, Apr 21, 2021 at 5:16:28 PM

Author 0
Add New Comment
  Recommend  (0+)
Flag This
Share Comment More Sharing          
Commenter Blocking?

David William Pear

Become a Fan
Author 500873
(Member since Nov 29, 2014), 54 fans, 87 articles, 475 quicklinks, 5086 comments (How many times has this commenter been recommended?)
Facebook Page Twitter Page Linkedin page url on login Profile not filled in Instagram page url on login Profile not filled in

  New Content

"People deserve the government they get"--- H. L. Mencken.

Submitted on Thursday, Apr 22, 2021 at 11:42:35 AM

Author 0
Add New Comment
  Recommend  (0+)
Flag This
Share Comment More Sharing          
Commenter Blocking?

 
Want to post your own comment on this Article? Post Comment