Thinking Citizen Blog — Fixing Congress and the Exercise of Re-evaluating our Own Past Judgments

Thinking Citizen Blog — Sunday is Political Process, Campaign Strategy, and Candidate Selection Day

Today’s Topic: Fixing Congress and the Exercise of Re-evaluating our Own Past Judgments

Did you ever have a favorite fix for Congress, the Presidency, or the Supreme Court and then change your mind? If so, what was the brilliant idea and why did you in the end reject it? In the past, I have shared many of my ideas on the subject — including my best process improvement idea which is proportional representation, an idea that only came to me about ten years ago but which JS Mill figured out well over 150 years ago. Today, the summary of an article proposing that Congressional terms be lengthened. Experts — please chime in. Correct, elaborate, elucidate.

THE TWO YEAR CONGRESSIONAL TERM: “This is not normal” (NYT, Richard Pildes)

1. “In nearly all other democracies, this is not normal.” The norm? four to five years. Plus, in most other countries there is no such thing as a primary election.

2. “Just a few months into a new administration, as the country grapples with issues of economic recovery and renewal, Congress’s actions are being shaped not by the merits of policy alone but also by the looming midterm elections. It’s not just the fall 2022 election; many incumbents are also calculating how best to position themselves to fend off potential primary challenges.”

3. “A longer, four-year term would facilitate Congress’s ability to once again effectively address major issues that Americans care most about.”

NB: “One of the most difficult aspects of designing democratic institutions is how to give governments incentives to act for the long term rather than the short term. The two-year term for House members does exactly the opposite.”

BEFORE THE CONSTITUTION, ANNUAL ELECTIONS WERE THE NORM

1. “Where annual elections end, tyranny begins.” (quoted in Federalist 53)

2. Eldridge Gerry: “the people of New England will never give up the point of annual elections.”

3. “James Madison urged a three-year term, arguing that annual elections had produced too much “instability” in the states. In the initial vote, the Constitutional Convention approved a three-year term, but with four states objecting, the convention eventually compromised on two years.”

PRIORITIZING PROCESS FIXES: “Mirror, mirror, on the wall, which is the fairest of them all?”

1. Get rid of the electoral college? Let the people decide the election, not swing states.

2. Get rid of the Senate? What principle is more sacred than one person, one vote?

3. Abolish life tenure for federal judges? Most states have mandatory retirement ages. Which system makes more sense?

NB: Proportional representation: “Two very different ideas are usually confounded under the name democracy. The pure idea of democracy, according to its definition, is the government of the whole people by the whole people, equally represented. Democracy as commonly conceived and hitherto practiced, is the government of the whole people by a mere majority of the people, exclusively represented. The former is synonymous with the equality of all citizens; the latter, strangely confounded with it, is a government of privilege, in favor of the numerical majority, who alone possess practically any voice in the State. This is the inevitable consequence of the manner in which the votes are now taken, the complete disenfranchisement of minorities.” (JS Mill)

“In a really equal democracy, every or any section would be represented, not disproportionately, but proportionately. A majority of the electors would always have a majority of the representatives, but a minority of the electors would always have a minority of the representatives. Man for man, they would be as fully represented as the majority. Unless they are, there is not equal government … there is a part whose fair and equal share of influence in the representation is withheld from them, contrary to all just government, but, above all, contrary to the principle of democracy, which professes equality as its very root and foundation.” (JS Mill)

https://www.nytimes.com/2021/07/21/opinion/house-elections-constitution.html

Boston Review | John Stuart Mill on Proportional Representation

Proportional representation

For the last three years of posts, organized thematically:

PDF with headlines — Google Drive

YOUR TURN

Please share the coolest thing you learned in the last week related to political process or campaign strategy or 2020 candidate selection or anything else for that matter.

This is your chance to make some one else’s day or change their thinking. Or to consolidate in your own memory something worth remembering that might otherwise be lost. Or to clarify or deepen your own understanding of something dear to your heart. Continuity is key to depth of thought.

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Passionate about education, thinking citizenship, art, and passing bits on of wisdom of a long lifetime.

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John Muresianu

Passionate about education, thinking citizenship, art, and passing bits on of wisdom of a long lifetime.