The People’s House

by Tiberius Gracchus on January 7, 2014

The House Membership was last increased one hundred years ago, and the constituencies have inflated to abusive levels. Today, 312 million people are represented in the House of Representatives by only 435 voting members. We have the second largest voting districts for lower houses in the world, behind only India. Yet even though every ten years during reapportionment the number of House Members can be increased, the last increase of voting U.S. Representatives was in 1911. The Founding Fathers intended that the number of Representatives should increase proportionately as the population increased. Our heritage demands we follow a fair system of representation for the health of our Republic, and some expansion in the House Membership must occur lest we begin to return to the days of “Taxation Without Representation.”

We fought the revolution for representation in government so it is to be expected that it should be a chief concern for our democracy. Our country was founded by those who were very careful to ensure that government always remain the servant of the citizen, and not the few in power. President George Washington, famous for a reserved style of governing, was a firm supporter of a maximum size for voting districts. James Madison, our fourth President of the United States, authored Federalist paper # 55, which analyzed the House of Representatives. He supported the need for a close relationship between elected Representatives and their constituents so that they could better empathize and serve them. Madison also addressed finding a properly balanced voting district size with the goal to best reflect the will of the populace to the federal government.

The U.S. House represents a more accurate depiction of the present will of the people than any other office. It is not meant to duplicate the same purpose of the Senate, where long oratories occur, and the Members are more entrenched. The Senate acts to balance out the “passions” of the U.S. House. The Senate is meant to offer the utmost and equal value we hold for each state in the Union, whereas the U.S. House correlates and respects population changes and locality. The only exception is that each state is guaranteed a voice through one representative regardless of population.

Responsibility for the disconnect between the people and elected Representatives can be attributed to the ever increasing size of voting districts; the number of citizens represented by one U.S. House Member currently averages about seven hundred thousand. When a Representative has too large a constituency, the voters will be effectively disenfranchised through a shrinking fraction of representation as each House Member has to represent more and more voters in their respective districts. This dilution of personal representation leads to voter apathy as people start to think that their vote doesn’t count and populist upheaval becomes more common as people feel more distant from their government. The multiple schisms within the major political parties and numerous recall attempts can be connected to this disenfranchisement of Americans. The movements to split up states, or even secede from the Union, can be blamed on the washing away of our voice through that strengthening and embedded oligarchy in Washington D.C.

Increasing the number of Representatives will further enfranchise our voters. South Dakota could have two or three U.S. Representatives, from separate districts of our state to carry our people’s will to the halls of Congress. Although it may be more appropriate to have separate districts for each U.S. Representative given the cultural differences between east river and west river, historically our Representatives have been voted in by “district at large.” If our Representatives are voted in by “district at large” then we risk having photocopies of candidates, but we won’t have gerrymandering to fear every reapportionment. Either course of action would result in increased representation for South Dakotans. Because the number of U.S. Representatives would be increased equitably across the country and not just in South Dakota, based on smaller district sizes, the ratio of power between parties in the U.S. House will not change significantly. However, the effect on party power is irrelevant to honest governance and all Americans should be further enfranchised on principle even if the end result was a minor change in the ratio balance of power in the House of Representatives.

The reasons that have been given since the last increase in House Membership in 1911 for limiting the number of Representatives include the challenge of finding space to accommodate new members and the claim of greater difficulty in effectively conducting the orderly business of government in a deliberative way. However, given modern day advances in communications and other technology, the U.S. House can adjust to increase the size of its membership and still remain efficient. A gradual increase in Membership at each reapportionment is preferable to a sudden large increase in the number of U.S. Representatives in order to lessen the shock on all government operations that support the U.S. House. The countless committees, especially the “Committee of Oversight and Government Reform”, and the subcommittees and office support staff will make ready the Congressional chamber for the new members. Eventually, building a larger House chamber with additional office buildings is the only rational course. The additional cost for an increase in the Membership would not be insignificant, but it is money well-spent to ensure that all Americans have a voice in the House of Representatives. In comparison to the wasted dollars in pork barrel legislation, we should consider this upkeep of our free society an honorable burden.

Equitable representation is a keystone in our Republic, and it should be the responsibility of our generation to readjust to the growing population. The lack of government respect shown for our constituencies is visibly apparent with a despondent and enraged people. The infusion of hundreds of new members to the U.S. House over time will entirely unravel establishment politics and allow fresh and invaluable debate. The increased representation will enhance voter participation in politics, and our Republic will benefit through the interest, optimism, and activity. The “People’s House” must open its doors again.


{ 0 comments… add one now }

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: