1. We have added a Gift Upgrades feature that allows you to gift an account upgrade to another member, just in time for the holiday season. You can see the gift option when going to the Account Upgrades screen, or on any user profile screen.
    Dismiss Notice

Fixing the US Congress, Ideas Thread

Discussion in 'Off-Topic' started by downtown, May 13, 2011.

?

I think the following ideas are good ones

  1. Repeal Citizens United to give less political power to unions and business

    50.9%
  2. Increase the size of the house

    26.4%
  3. remove redistricting power from statehouses

    49.1%
  4. find ways to depoliticize the office of Speaker more

    18.9%
  5. Institute a Merit-Pay system for Congress

    11.3%
  6. Elect a certain number of members "at large", or nationwide

    20.8%
  7. Institute term limits

    35.8%
  8. I have another idea, explained below

    37.7%
  9. I don't think there is anything wrong with Congress

    9.4%
  10. elect downtown, duh.

    41.5%
Multiple votes are allowed.
  1. History_Buff

    History_Buff Knight of Cydonia

    Joined:
    Aug 12, 2001
    Messages:
    6,529
    Location:
    Calgary, Alberta
    Yeah, I know. I really need to move away from this place. Shame I like my current job so much.
     
  2. metatron

    metatron unperson

    Joined:
    Jan 9, 2002
    Messages:
    3,754
    :huh: ... :)

    Dude, i know that. I was humourously paraphrasing one of the common arguments against getting rid of the Senate.

    Spoiler :
     
  3. metatron

    metatron unperson

    Joined:
    Jan 9, 2002
    Messages:
    3,754
    Yeah, but people still talk about their congressman more with other locals than with the rest of the nation (say via the internet). And having big districts makes it harder for groups who are upset about their congressman to get momentum in terms of publicity (or plain and simple talking to a significant fraction of the rest of the constituence).
    I'm sure Bachman would stand out, even in a smaller district.
    And i doubt your whole argument anyway. You seem to be claiming that people monitor their congressman mostly via national media.
    I seriously doubt that local newspapers etc. are that dead. I wouldn't know, though.
    Ok, maybe there 8 and a half representatives who are on par with Rand Paul. I'm not that convinced either.
    That question is somewhat biased by the Senate with its abstructionism being more centrist anyway. In the House every new majority starts of by passing a bunch of polarising bills that don't pass the Senate anyway. Representatives having to justify their votes appear crazy in the process.

    Ah, darn. I'm sorry for the dp.
     
  4. Tahuti

    Tahuti Writing Deity

    Joined:
    Nov 17, 2005
    Messages:
    9,492
    Gender:
    Male
    I'd say the size of the house should be increased, and should be directly and proportionally elected by the US as a whole, which means voting districts will be abolished. The US' federal character will be preserved by the Senate.
    The House Speaker should be less political as well, though I don't think it is as important as abolishing voting districts.
     
  5. Tani Coyote

    Tani Coyote Son of Huehuecoyotl

    Joined:
    May 28, 2007
    Messages:
    15,165
    Gender:
    Male
    The Senate should be one Senator per state, simplify the process. They will represent state interests.

    I would like some PR. The House should be half-PR elected nationwide, with the other half elected by districts, with each state guaranteed at least one seat. This new house will represent both local interests and national interests.

    Alternatively, keep the entire House district-based for local flavor, but then, make the Senate PR-based. Of course, the Senate being PR based would, really, only make it like 98 seats Republican or Democrat with 1 Green and 1 Libertarian. :p Maybe an Independent. Much better to institute PR for the larger groups.

    Term limits would be nice, but how much? I'd support lengthening the term of office for the House to 4 years, with half up for election every 2; this makes it so the person isn't inaugurated and given a few months before working on their next campaign. This decreases politicisation of the branch, I'd imagine.

    After that, maybe 3 terms for Congressmen, 2 terms for Senators, with them being able to run again after 12 years.
     
  6. Glassfan

    Glassfan Mostly harmless

    Joined:
    Sep 17, 2006
    Messages:
    3,952
    Location:
    Kent
    Agree; knife-edge balance produces greater conflict. Also, like Christmas, the election season occurs sooner and sooner. The moment a politician wins office he already begins his next run. In the past, we would bury the hatchet for a few years and get things done - now it's become a never ending struggle.

    - Or the Media portrays it to be.

    Concerning Gerrymandering - the idea that a non-partisan committee could fix that is problematic. It's just a phrase, I don't think there is any such thing as a non-partisan committee (a Democrat, a Republican and a German Shepard?). It's been 200 years and we haven't got rid of Gerrymandering - just give both sides equal opportunity and it balances out.

    Term limits might be one improvement. Say 2 terms for Senators and 6 for Representatives (12 years max) would keep fresh blood flowing through the Congress and avoid the accumulation of power and influence achieved by the likes of Strom Thurmond or Robert Byrd.

    The Filibuster only seems bad if you're on the obstructed side. It a protection from the tyranny of the majority. Keep it.

    A unicameral Parliament (one house?) would be contrary to common sense and the intent of the founding fathers. Why assume getting rid of the Senate? Why not the House? The senate protects smaller state's interests from the large, while the house serves the nation proportional to population. Is that something we really want to change?

    The bottom line here is that we're just going through a phase. In another decade it will be all different and we'll be whining about something else.
     
  7. Tani Coyote

    Tani Coyote Son of Huehuecoyotl

    Joined:
    May 28, 2007
    Messages:
    15,165
    Gender:
    Male
    That line of thought won't work. The people who propose abolishing the Senate generally are fond of majoritarianism, and so, they see no reason giving power to an institution that gives smaller groups disproportionate power.

    At the very least, however, they believe in minority protections. Though the Senate is pretty darned good one!

    And there is no "tyranny of the minority," either - the House prevents that. The idea is a proposal should have to appeal to the majority of interests(Senate) and people alike(House) before getting passed. A fair compromise.

    Sure, there's the filibuster, but it prevents the tyranny of the majority, while the House prevents the tyranny of the minority. Things work well here.

    Better to focus on how each House can work better, rather than trying to get rid of them. We are neither a minoritarian nor a majoritarian state, and it's a beautiful thing.

    Right now, the Senate focuses on each state as a whole and the House on each individual locale. I would like to split the House so we have a nationally-focused segment rather than one entirely devoted to the states.
     
  8. Masada

    Masada Koi-san!

    Joined:
    Dec 29, 2005
    Messages:
    12,518
    Location:
    Osaka
    Australia has an independant electoral commission that sets the electoral divisions here. I'm not familiar with any serious partisan accusations being levelled at it. In short, it works and it works well.
     
  9. Glassfan

    Glassfan Mostly harmless

    Joined:
    Sep 17, 2006
    Messages:
    3,952
    Location:
    Kent
    It sounds like we agree. I'm going to pretend we do, OK?

    Independent in what way? Apolitical? Balanced? How does it work? We here do in fact have non-partisan committees, but they always end up being partisan in the end. And whoever ends up on the losing end screams bloody murder. A few exceptions - The Federal Reserve Board (The Fed) , the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) - anything not having to do with politics.
     
  10. admiral-bell

    admiral-bell Chronic Lurker

    Joined:
    Jul 17, 2005
    Messages:
    730
    You mean the Britain whose electoral map looks like this?
     
  11. admiral-bell

    admiral-bell Chronic Lurker

    Joined:
    Jul 17, 2005
    Messages:
    730
    Ah, in that case, don't worry, Texas will balance California out.
     
  12. Hygro

    Hygro soundcloud.com/hygro/

    Joined:
    Dec 1, 2002
    Messages:
    23,319
    Location:
    Montana
    This, with ranked voting preferences.


    Downtown, you had all these options for fixing Congress and all of them involved minor fixes with the House. The House is fine, given winner-take-all, geography-based representation. The Senate is not. The Senate is a broken body. The winner-take-all, geographic representation is a broken concept as well.

    A unicameral parliament with ranked voting would solve the real problems of our legislature.
     
  13. LucyDuke

    LucyDuke staring at the clock

    Joined:
    Jan 21, 2007
    Messages:
    13,582
    Location:
    where mise
    Good article, read it if you haven't.

    Very enlightening on the gerrymandering. As for solving it, someone in fiftychat said use a damn computer. I don't think it would be that difficult to lay out some criteria that would actually do it legitimately, without partisanship.

    Repeal Citizens United to give less political power to unions and business

    Isn't this one obvious? The numbers alone should prove it. When we're talking about billion-dollar campaigns, it's pretty clear that your $20 donation doesn't mean a damn thing. Maybe it's an inevitable progression but I'm not comfortable with elections that are bought and sold.

    Increase the size of the house

    I don't see how this would actually help anything. I can see how it would make things worse.

    remove redistricting power from statehouses

    Yes. Redistrict with as little human influence as possible.

    find ways to depoliticize the office of Speaker more

    Sounds nice. Not sure how to make it work.

    Institute a Merit-Pay system for Congress

    Sounds nice. Not sure how to make it work.

    Elect a certain number of members "at large", or nationwide

    I don't see how this would help anything.

    Institute term limits

    I've been in favor of this for a long time. Do as much to stop the campaigning cycle as possible. Something between two and four terms seems reasonable to me.

    I have another idea, explained below
    I don't think there is anything wrong with Congress


    Fix the media. MSNBC/Fox kisses blue/red ass and blathers about the Republicans/Democrats ending the world and nobody ever hears anything that might require them to think. Everyone's working for someone and the stories might as well be written by the party chairs.

    Hell, abolish political parties. What good are they doing us?

    elect downtown, duh.

    Duh.
     
  14. Masada

    Masada Koi-san!

    Joined:
    Dec 29, 2005
    Messages:
    12,518
    Location:
    Osaka
    It works well, isn't known to be partisan and doesn't feel the need to get involved in politics? I mean, is it really that hard to imagine or is America just that screwed up. In any case, the composition of the Australian Electoral Commission's (AEC) board might be instructive: it has three members, one of whom must be an active or retired member of the Federal Court of Australia, the Electoral Commissioner and a non-judicial member. The current board is composed of an ex-Federal Court Judge, Peter Heerey, the Australian Statistician, Brian Pink and the Commisioner. The role of the board and the AEC is enshrined in the Commonwealth Electoral Act (1918) which also serves as the originating act for the AEC and the board. The AEC isn't however a government department, it's a statutory authority which means that that in creating it Parliament also de-evolved some of its powers - in this case stuff relating to elections - to the AEC. This also gives it some distance from government. For reference, our Reserve Bank is also a SA, which might give you a metric to compare against. Suffice to say that the arrangement has been entirely satisfactory to everyone including jaded voters like me.
     
  15. Hygro

    Hygro soundcloud.com/hygro/

    Joined:
    Dec 1, 2002
    Messages:
    23,319
    Location:
    Montana
    It makes the elections both more competitive and more likely to produce non-establishment candidates. When your congressional district has over 600 thousand people in it, you're gonna need a lot of money and backing to win elections. But if your district has 100 thousand people in one urban area, anyone who gets the support of the community has a chance at winning. It democratizes the process.
     
  16. LucyDuke

    LucyDuke staring at the clock

    Joined:
    Jan 21, 2007
    Messages:
    13,582
    Location:
    where mise
    Point taken. I'm not sure there's a practical balance we can strike between I-know-my-congressman and congressmen-know-each-other that's a lot better than what we have now. It's already a damn big house, and those 6-instead-of-1 congressmen would have 1/6 the vote.

    If this were to happen, it would become that much more critical to fix the districting.
     
  17. Hygro

    Hygro soundcloud.com/hygro/

    Joined:
    Dec 1, 2002
    Messages:
    23,319
    Location:
    Montana
    Honestly I don't think congresspeople should need to know each other. Crowd wisdom works better without group think, and in theory crowd wisdom is part of the reason to have a congress in the first place.

    But I am not convinced a larger Congress would better handle legislation, organizationally speaking. It might vote on better results, but Washington changes more people than people change Washington, so to speak. If we had 2000 congresspersons running around trying to pass bills they would quickly fall in line to the party breakdowns as it would be unwieldy otherwise. This might or might not be a bad thing, or even a change.

    We might, however, see the emergence of coalition multiparties in that scenario if say small districts in liberal areas elect greens etc so the amount of parties to which the members would fall in line might increase. You could have 6 different agendas instead of 2.
     
  18. Cutlass

    Cutlass The Man Who Wasn't There.

    Joined:
    Jan 13, 2008
    Messages:
    46,667
    Location:
    US of A
    I think Congress does work better when the members do know each other. In fact, one article I read convincingly made the point that it is the failure to know each other, particularly across party lines, which makes the current partisan divide in Congress so bad. While there has always been some level of divisiveness in Congress, the years in which it functioned the best were the years that members socialized more and knew each other- across party- on a personal level. What killed that was the fact that now members are spending all their 'free time' raising money from lobbyists rather than getting to know their coworkers.
     
  19. aelf

    aelf Ashen One

    Joined:
    Sep 16, 2005
    Messages:
    16,750
    Location:
    Tir ná Lia
    I like how people are trying to save the ol' deliberative democracy as if it's some shining beacon of political wisdom. Empowering the legislature at the expense of unions? Well, we all know that would give more power to the average citizen relative to the rich and influential people :crazyeye:

    Representative democracy is broken. Citizen power through civil society and contestation is the way forward.
     
  20. Neonanocyborgasm

    Neonanocyborgasm Deity

    Joined:
    Apr 21, 2004
    Messages:
    4,695
    Gender:
    Male
    Article only circumlocutes around the core problem, which is money. As it rightly pointed out, election campaigns have become so expensive that every legislator focuses on little else but collecting contributions for his next campaign. Less attention is paid to actually governing and even more is paid to furthering the interests of the party, since that offers the best prospect for gathering funding for campaigns. The recent Supreme Court decision only makes it even easier for campaign contributions to happen and to focus the term of a legislator on campaign funding alone.

    The solution is obvious. Eliminate donations for political campaigns entirely. Give every candidate equal time and funding for advertising on news media, and perhaps even limit its scope to a few weeks in advance of the election. Something like this is already done in the UK.

    Money has been the corruptive influence in government since time immemorial and today is no exception.
     

Share This Page