Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Wanted: More House Members. Must Be Willing To Feel Less Important Than Current House Members

Watching interviews with MP-elects in the Canadian elections, it's striking how normal most of the winners looked. Partly this was a function of the NDP's motley crew of candidates, including four McGill students, a woman who barely speaks French but represents francophone portions of Quebec, and so forth. But another reason for the plainness of Canadian legislators is that being an member of parliament is a much less important job than being a member of the House of Representatives. And the United States is the real outlier here. Let's just take a look at how.many constituents a member of Congress answers to, and compare that to their counterparts in Canada, as well as some other large democratic nations

If Congressional districts were roughly the size of constituencies even in Japan, primary elections would be sized such that a challenger could personally meet every likely voter in a six month time span. House members would be roughly important as your State Senator is today. Large legislative bodies tend to strengthen the hand of the leadership, so we would likely have more cohesive parties. It's win-win all the way around!

Tripling the size of the House would put our districts at a size somewhere between those in Germany and Japan. Capitol Hill architects would have some trouble finding space for 870 new members, but I'm sure there's a way to work it out. Update: as people commenting my twitter feed point out, such a change would likely have salutary effects on D.C. urban planning issues.
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