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Subject: Any practical ideas to fix the US congress? rss

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For now it looks like we're in for more status quo:

Surly 2014 electorate poised to 'keep the bums in'
http://apnews.myway.com/article/20140901/us--midterm_electio...


How do we get out of this ditch?

The only thing I can think of is anti-gerrymandering laws, to make districts more competitive, to get moderates in there who might compromise.

Democracy = compromise.

But would congress pass anti-gerrymandering laws? Or do states decide the voting districts?
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Trey Stone
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tesuji wrote:
For now it looks like we're in for more status quo:

Surly 2014 electorate poised to 'keep the bums in'
http://apnews.myway.com/article/20140901/us--midterm_electio...


How do we get out of this ditch?

The only thing I can think of is anti-gerrymandering laws, to make districts more competitive, to get moderates in there who might compromise. Democracy = compromise.

But would congress pass anti-gerrymandering laws? Or do states decide the voting districts?


All this is dependent on a reasonable Congress being in place in the first place, gerrymandering reform, campaign finance reform etc.

Need a whole new crop of politicos and a new attitude before any of it can really happen.

Certainly not impossible but indeed a high mountain to climb.
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Mike Stiles
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tesuji wrote:
For now it looks like we're in for more status quo:

Surly 2014 electorate poised to 'keep the bums in'
http://apnews.myway.com/article/20140901/us--midterm_electio...


How do we get out of this ditch?

The only thing I can think of is anti-gerrymandering laws, to make districts more competitive, to get moderates in there who might compromise. Democracy = compromise.

But would congress pass anti-gerrymandering laws? Or do states decide the voting districts?


States decide. California pushed through an anti-gerrymander redistricting a few years back, and it's been a pretty big success.

I'll look up some links, but a lot of Dems were against it at first too, but it turns out that it only helps the majority party.
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Mike Stiles
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quickie link for CA

http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2013-03-21/californias-...
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Dave G
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Drew1365 wrote:
Hard term limits, redraw all districts to end gerrymandering, outlaw the Democratic Party.


Bizarrely I saw agreement on Facebook between a hard-line tea party righty and a lefty friend who is a lobbyist for the teacher's union in Illinois on one thing: that term limits are bad and we shouldn't change them. It was a surreal moment for me. I get why the lobbyist doesn't want limits, having familiar faces and familiar pockets to line makes his job easier, and the compounding effect of years of--ahem--"support" gives him more and more leverage. I was shocked by the tea partier, though. Apparently he feels it would be a violation of his freedom of choice.

Anyway, I am right on board with Drew for the first two points. Typical masturbatory nonsense on the third, but what else would we expect?
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Dave G
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Drew1365 wrote:
tesuji wrote:
Democracy = compromise.


Possibly, but also gridlock is a feature not a bug.


Asinine. I'll love to see your take on this next time the shoe's on the other foot.
 
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linoleum blownaparte
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1. Public financing of elections. Strict caps on per-candidate contributions. No corporation or union spending.

2. Limit campaign commercials. Instead set aside large blocks of time for candidates to debate or present "infomercials" like Obama 08.

3. Return control of debates to independent non partisan organizations like the LWV, and NOT the campaigns themselves.

4. Citizen commissions for redistricting like what we did here in CA. It works. End gerrymandering.

5. Nation-wide election day holiday. Same day registration. Vote by mail.

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Paul W
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I go back and forth on term limits. My big worry is that it creates a system where lobbyists know the ins and outs of the legislative process far better than the legislators themselves.
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windsagio wrote:


An interesting read, although California is certainly one of the most extreme cases given the incredible population density it has vs most states. I mean...Alaska, Montana, Delaware, North and South Dakota, Vermont, Wyoming...only single representatives each. And those are just the worst-case examples, nearly half the states in the Union don't even have a half-dozen seats to begin with.

While I think we'd all agree that "gerrymandering", conceptually, is bad...what California has found possible, in redrawing the maps for specific seats to represent meaningful local or ethnic concentrations...is just not feasible nationally. There's no district map of Wyoming that you can draw that would give the African-American portion of the state population a distinct voice in Congress.

The idea of having "regional representation" in Congress is useful, but in effect both houses end up being responsible for that 'regional representation', just to varying degrees. IMHO, that's unneeded, anymore.

Best plan would be to leave one house as-is, and switch the other over to straight-national-proportional representation. So the Hispanic 10%-of-the-population in Wyoming don't find themselves largely with no voice at all nationally...although they still won't have one in the regionally-allocated Congressional seats (just not enough density of them), they'd at least have the other side of Congress where they would have a political party or representation allocated by their votes and overall national population percentage. And this would be independent of region (in this cases, their voices most likely heard via the 16% of seats that they might pull representing their votes nationally, given about 16% of the US population is Hispanic*).

* Obviously, this is oversimplifying for purpose of example...it's hardly true that all Hispanics vote the same way, but illustrative of the point that the current districting-by-state/region in both houses of Congress means that SIGNIFICANT minorities in political opinion are being ignored because they don't have enough density in any region to be relevant...although if looked at nationally, certainly make up a large enough part of the population that they should be heard as a distinct voice.
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Maybe a compramise re:term limits.

One term limit per person, but longer terms. We have recalls if an elected official is failing in office.

I like the idea of nixing the career politician, but I think there is still some value in someone who knows the system, and more importantly appreciates it. Firebrands make good sound bytes but generally poor governing choices. Some time to season would be a good thing I think.

Maybe 8-10 yr terms, for both the lower and upper houses. Nuke gerrymandering. Dear god do*not* expand the house. Irrelevance is already a safety net for too many do-nothings and mouth pieces.
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bjlillo wrote:
djgutierrez77 wrote:
Drew1365 wrote:
tesuji wrote:
Democracy = compromise.


Possibly, but also gridlock is a feature not a bug.


Asinine. I'll love to see your take on this next time the shoe's on the other foot.


Of course gridlock is a feature. Passing laws should be hard.


Gridlock is a fail safe, unfortunately we've been running on it for so long we're wearing our system down to the point where functionality may be impaired in the long term sense.
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Convene a Constitutional Convention to change the Constitution to a Parliamentarian system of Government, with the proviso that the States have to adopt a similar system as part of signing up on the 'Second' Constitution. That's about the only way that voting for a third party makes any sense- get enough of a plurality that the one of the other Big Two have to share power with you to get that working majority. This would mean gimping the power of the Senate and putting more power into the House.

I'd also have no problem with expanding the number of representatives; include a proviso that 'sets' the number of citizens to representatives and then after each Census shifting the number of representative slots available.

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Josh
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Drew1365 wrote:
Shadrach wrote:
Dear god do *not* expand the house.


Right now a single House member represents, on average, 700,000 people. But at the founding of the nation, it was one for every 33,000 people.

Quote:
The Constitution stipulated that every 10 years, the House should be reapportioned so that each state had at lease one representative and that no Congressional district contained fewer than 30,000 people. But it was left to Congress to decide how many total House seats there should be.

The original House had 65 representatives, one for every 33,000 people. As the country’s population grew over the next century, so did the size of the House, until it reached 435 in 1911, when each member at that time representing an average of 212,000 people.

But Congress refused to reapportion after the 1920 Census, as a wave of immigration threatened to shift voting power from the South and Midwest to the urban Northeast. Eventually, Congress voted to keep the House at 435 seats regardless of rising population. Except for a brief period when it enlarged to 437 because Alaska and Hawaii had joined the union with one seat each, the House has remained at 435 ever since.

. . .

“We have tripled our population since 1910,” said Jane S. De Lung, president of the Population Resource Center, a nonprofit research organization that sponsored the conference. Members have trouble staying in touch with so many constituents, she said, and the population is only growing further. “If you can’t do it with 700,000, how in the world are you going to do it with 1 million?”


Of course, sitting House members certainly don't want to dilute their power. They're happy keeping it the same.


I thought you were against big government?
 
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Drew1365 wrote:
Oh, also, expand the House of Representatives to 1000.


I am for this as well. It would make representatives more local and reduce the increasing overrepresentation of small states in the House.

Quote:

Maybe 8-10 yr terms, for both the lower and upper houses.


Terrible idea. Re-election rates are already way too high, why would you have fewer elections? (per representative per year served) Senators already know they can do almost anything in the 4 year interregnum between their campaign seasons and get away with it as long as they veer back during campaign season. Arlen Specter governed that way for years.

 
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windsagio wrote:

Good article, and the change has been far more successful than I expected. I'll disagree with the article that the next few elections will mean anything: the test will be the 2020 redistricting. And, I expect that the Dem./Rep. biased nature of the panel will be challenged; it really should have been proportional to party (or independent) registration.

In any case, the results have been very good, even though Democratic super-majorities, well over the 2/3rds needed for a veto override, were elected:
* Senate: 28 Democrats, 12 Republicans (1 R seat now vacant)
* Assembly: 55 Democrats, 25 Republicans
With no one to point the finger at but themselves, the Democrats have been very prudent. The Republicans, with no power but sweet reason, have stopped pitching fits and started pitching ideas, and the Democrats listen and accept some of those ideas: considering the ugly state of national politics, being seen as bipartisan, compromising, and reasonable is a very good thing politically.

We seem (too late, of course) to finally be talking about fixing our water distribution problems seriously. No one is pretending it's going to happen for free, and the funding plan will have to go before the voters. It's going to primarily benefit the big growers, but cheap food is good for everyone.


"Any practical ideas to fix the US congress?"

If practical means, "Without a constitutional amendment," no; unless it's somehow possible for one party to get the Presidency and super-majorities of both houses; and my take is if it were the Republicans, they'd just split into neocon, TP, libertarian, and RINO wings, and keep fighting and bitching and moaning. I'm unsure some of them are capable of not acting like spoiled brats.

With a constitutional amendment, I think the most viable path would be to install a national initiative process since it's very hard for a politician to tell his constituents that he voted against them having a vote. I think the vote requirements should be much like the effective voting requirements existing: 60% for a law, 75% for an amendment. Yes, the initiative process can get messy, but it's still effective. Maybe we could limit initiatives to 100 words to keep things simple; that would prohibit lawyers from writing initiatives: they can't say "Boo!" in only a hundred words. Nice thing for politicians: "It wasn't me, O lobbyists! It was one of those damned initiatives!" CA politicians even use that dodge when they put an initiative on the ballot.
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LeeDambis wrote:

This guy keeps coming to mind.




A pro-catholic theocrat?
 
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Sounds like some great ideas here so far.

Linoleumblownaparte wrote:
1. Public financing of elections. Strict caps on per-candidate contributions. No corporation or union spending.

2. Limit campaign commercials. Instead set aside large blocks of time for candidates to debate or present "infomercials" like Obama 08.

3. Return control of debates to independent non partisan organizations like the LWV, and NOT the campaigns themselves.

4. Citizen commissions for redistricting like what we did here in CA. It works. End gerrymandering.

5. Nation-wide election day holiday. Same day registration. Vote by mail.


I really like this.

This would hit the two main problems that I see:
1) reduce the dominant influence of corporations and one-percenters
2) get the apathetic moderate middle re-engaged in their democracy.

Drew1365 wrote:
tesuji wrote:
Democracy = compromise.


Possibly, but also gridlock is a feature not a bug.

Surely government should do more than it is now. There are problems to be solved, crumbling bridges to fix.

It seems to me our accomplish-nothing congress is shifting the running of the government onto the executive branch. If the president wants to get anything done he has to resort to regulations and executive decrees. A bad precedent for the future. Is that what Republicans really want? Much better to compromise and get democracy working again.
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LeeDambis wrote:

This guy keeps coming to mind.

I really liked the Occupy movement. But what did they actually accomplish besides singing kumbaya and playing hacky sack?
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fizzmore wrote:
I go back and forth on term limits. My big worry is that it creates a system where lobbyists know the ins and outs of the legislative process far better than the legislators themselves.


I think any ban on term limits also needs to come with a ban on lobbying.
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If practical means convincing the current (or near future clones of) Congresscritters to pass it, no.

If the public ever gets fed up enough to call a Constitutional convention, I'd like to see something similar, but eliminate the house of representatives and replace it with weekly (or thereabouts) general online votes of the people. Alternatively, maybe make it twice a year barring emergencies and compile all the bills into a couple big chunks. There'd have to be some safeguards on the voting process and password (or greater) security, etc, but it would be feasible. Keep the Senate roughly the same and return it to its original "cooler heads" purpose.

Another take would be change the house of representatives to anyone who could scrape together 300,000 (or some number) of signatures for support. So people could choose to group across state lines to get representation.

Changes that could possibly be reached from today's situation without nuking the legislature and starting over.

Term limits. If you are in office, you can't run for office.
 
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I like the idea of term limits. Shoot, one term. Maybe extend the term itself to build in some function creep, but one term. I think originally serving a term in office was like serving a term in the military, or jury duty, it was just one citizens civic duty. Wasn't a career.

I think that campaigning is a joke. Only the rich can win. The state should give a campaign fund used for campaigning, and not a single dime can be donated in addition. I haven't worked out how this would keep a deluge of candidates from coming forth and running. But I'm sure there can be a workable process. A congress of the rich is doing nothing for the populace.

Secondary leadership at the state level. Remember when the President and the vice president was the guy who won at top and second seat to the guy who came in second? I kind of like that idea, but somehow at the legislative level. Again, I haven't worked out the details, but I think a primary and secondary representation at the district level would make more people feel like their votes would matter.

Gerrymandering. Geesh how do you fix this? It really is the worst affect on our system today, but it's usually drawn up and voted on by the majority party in control. How is that ever going to be fair?

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djgutierrez77 wrote:
Drew1365 wrote:
Hard term limits, redraw all districts to end gerrymandering, outlaw the Democratic Party.


Bizarrely I saw agreement on Facebook between a hard-line tea party righty and a lefty friend who is a lobbyist for the teacher's union in Illinois on one thing: that term limits are bad and we shouldn't change them. It was a surreal moment for me. I get why the lobbyist doesn't want limits, having familiar faces and familiar pockets to line makes his job easier, and the compounding effect of years of--ahem--"support" gives him more and more leverage. I was shocked by the tea partier, though. Apparently he feels it would be a violation of his freedom of choice.

Anyway, I am right on board with Drew for the first two points. Typical masturbatory nonsense on the third, but what else would we expect?

I'm probably against term limits although I haven't thought too hard about it. Because freedom and stuff. Actually, I just don't like the idea of having to throw out the most experienced people in Congress just like I wouldn't want to have to fire the most experienced people where I work.
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I'm against term limits as kind of a flat, only time-based thing. Term limits assume that you can get someone in who is going to be as knowledgeable and versed in the job as the outgoing person, able to hit the ground running and be as effective the moment they step into office...and I don't think there is much evidence supporting that in almost any skilled job. It takes time to understand the work, develop the relationships, and earn the position and experience to be effective.

What I want is more effective leadership that is accomplishing work.

I want private lobbying out of Washington - part 1. Citizens are afforded the right to representation by their leaders. Corporations are not people, they do not have a vote, and they should not be allowed to control congress through financial backing.

I want lobbying out of Washington - part 2. This also means that I want to bar congress from accepting future positions with private companies upon leaving office. If a member of congress leaves office, they would be barred from taking a lobbying-like, private consulting job with a corporation for 3-5 years.

I want one district for the US as an end to all gerrymandering. One country, one congressional district. It would make the breakdown about 1/3 republican, 1/3 democrat and 1/3 independent.
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Junior McSpiffy
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bjlillo wrote:
djgutierrez77 wrote:
Drew1365 wrote:
tesuji wrote:
Democracy = compromise.


Possibly, but also gridlock is a feature not a bug.


Asinine. I'll love to see your take on this next time the shoe's on the other foot.


Of course gridlock is a feature. Passing laws should be hard.


Gridlock is a feature, but it isn't a tool or a weapon. Or at least, it was never intended to be. But as jeremy is wont to say, the Republicans are the party of innovation.
 
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Quote:
Any practical ideas to fix the US congress?


Lifetime term limit of three terms.
 
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