I have difficulty seeing how the current representation model can be “reformed” into working. Specifically, there are 3 core issues that combine to mandate a truly transformative approach if we desire true, genuine and broad representation:
1) 60/40% issue: If 60% of the active voters in a district elect a representative, who represents the other 40% of the active voters who preferred the other candidate? Who represents the often 40% of potential voters who could stomach neither candidate? If the representative does not appear to advance the interests of the 60%, they will find someone who does.
2) Single issue problem: If I choose a representative based on Issue A because that is most important to me, but disagree with her on Issues B, C and D, who represents me there?
3) Voter expectations: How can voters possibly be expert enough in all the complex policy topics to make intelligent voting decisions, given their own jobs, interests and responsibilities? All that is possible is manipulation, which we see plenty of.
Responding to Thomas Paine’s Common Sense which was exciting a lot of common people after the War for Independence, John Adams explained in his Thoughts on Government the critical importance of solid representation and that his generation would not be providing it:
The principal difficulty lies, and the greatest care should be employed in constituting this Representative Assembly. It should be in miniature, an exact portrait of the people at large. It should think, feel, reason, and act like them. That it may be the interest of this Assembly to do strict justice at all times, it should be an equal representation, or in other words equal interest among the people should have equal interest in it. Great care should be taken to affect this, and to prevent unfair, partial, and corrupt elections. Such regulations, however, may be better made in times of greater tranquility than the present, and they will spring up of themselves naturally, when all the powers of government come to be in the hands of the people’s friends. At present it will be safest to proceed in all established modes to which the people have been familiarized by habit.”
Never has there been a concerted effort to develop a working “government of, for and by the people”… I think it is time we give it a try, that we take up John Adams’s call for a future generation to bring about true representation. From my personal experience, the effort can not only produce the organizations and infrastructure of public policy making that we need (one that people can trust) but can also heal the divides created by our broken system. It is something we can work on together, for us all.
Bryce Johannes is the author of the book When People Unite.
Politics for the People Zoom Call
with Author David Daley
Sunday, May 31st
7 PM EST
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