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The 28th through 51st Amendments to the United States Constitution
August 7, 2010 6:44 PM   Subscribe

A 136-person Senate. A 1,000-strong House. A 12-person Supreme Court. A President with a line-item veto whose one term is six years. Mandatory national service. A balanced budget requirement. Some of the 23 measures that Prof. Larry Sabato proposes be enacted at a Second Constitutional Convention in his 2007 book A More Perfect Constitution. (And readers' suggestions for the 24th measure.)
posted by WCityMike (105 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite

 
So what does a "National Senator" do?
posted by Leon at 6:51 PM on August 7, 2010


I really like the idea of a one-term, six year presidency (a la Mexico). I think not having to run for re-election, and having some proper time to govern would make a huge difference.

However, can you imagine the agendas, presumptions, biases, special interests, lobby groups, and all around shit storm that would accompany a U.S. constitutional convention?

I mean, I can't really imagine a worse time in recent history to open up the question of how the country should be governed. Maybe I'm being present-centric, maybe all periods have had this level of rancour and insanity from the governing class, but still!

Sorry, I guess I'm no longer capable of suspending my disbelief.
posted by dry white toast at 6:54 PM on August 7, 2010 [7 favorites]


How does it "mend" the Electoral College to give more populous states a greater number of electors? Doesn't that make it much more complicated (and unfair)? We need to get rid of that thing altogether.
posted by something something at 6:57 PM on August 7, 2010 [7 favorites]


Man, I've almost reached Equestrian rank and they're gonna go and change it all up on me? Guess I'll have to carpe the diem while it lasts.
posted by cthuljew at 6:59 PM on August 7, 2010 [3 favorites]


As a mexican, I can tell you most people over here wish we had a four year presidential term limit w/reelection. Six years is way too much time if the person in charge is realy innefective.
posted by Omon Ra at 7:00 PM on August 7, 2010


It doesn't seem to me that the most populous states need even more influence on the national and international levels. California and New York, I'm looking at you.
posted by XMLicious at 7:01 PM on August 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


Why would you want a "balanced budget requirement". Recessionary times is when you can get infrastructure work done for the absolute cheapest and simultaneously rescue your economy.

It should be instead a requirement that during economic expansion, you must save X%, and during recessions, you must spend X% over your income.
posted by esprit de l'escalier at 7:05 PM on August 7, 2010 [38 favorites]


Personally, I really like the 'Cast Your Vote' section. The second to last one is hilarious, but I can't believe someone might actually think it's a good idea. Can you imagine half of the House of Reps being made of up of some of the stupidest people in the country? I don't know about anyone else, but I like having my reps being rather intelligent. I just think it'd be scary if some of those whack-jobs out there actually had a serious chance at being able to enact their policies. Part of the reason that our representative democracy works is because the fringe groups don't have any significant impact on policy - their votes don't add up to enough.

I'll agree with the poster above me though - this is way too far out there to be a serious possibility. Too much politicking and lobbying and such would prevent something like this from moving us into the new millennium. Plus, with all that politicking and lobbying, can you imagine what our constitution would look like after this sort of event? Well intentioned, no doubt, but likely to end in disaster.

If we really want to change something that's been ingrained into the US since the beginning, maybe we should look into the rules of the Senate. The New Yorker last week did a great piece about the Senate, how broken it is and how far removed from the original intentions it now is. Senators, according to the article, now spend a lot of time looking for and abusing loopholes instead of debating, or even listening to debate. Too much time and energy wasted on procedures, not enough actually getting anything done. The same likely goes for the House, but I haven't looked into it.

Anyway, interesting idea, but I think there are some things that we could focus on that might actually get done at some point in the next 200 years, like environmental policy, or the economy.
posted by kangasaurus at 7:07 PM on August 7, 2010 [5 favorites]


Why should I believe if there was a 3rd set of documents for a 'union of the states' - that new set of rules would be followed and would protect my human rights over the inhuman rights Corporations now enjoy?

Why not trying enforcing the rules that exist now 1st?
posted by rough ashlar at 7:08 PM on August 7, 2010 [7 favorites]


Similarly, you can't balance the budget in WW2. It's tempting to impose a 10 year moving average balanced budget requirement, but that gets really complicated. There's also the fact that because the US gets loans way cheaper than the rest of the world and cheaper than growth of GDP (the treasury's income base), we can in fact run a structural deficit indefinitely as long as debt /GDP stays ok.

That pretty much summarizes the list. It's full of ideas which are popular, simple, and poorly thought out.
posted by a robot made out of meat at 7:10 PM on August 7, 2010 [2 favorites]


The counter argument is simply to make the Constitution easier to amend. The problem is it will require an amendment to do that and it's just about impossible to imagine a structural amendment passing these days or in the foreseeable future.
posted by warbaby at 7:12 PM on August 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


I am with dry white toast.

A new constitutional convention in this climate might mean
1. America is a Christian nation
2. Only Christians can serve as president, or hold public office
3. Gay marriage shall be illegal.
4. Homosexuality shall be illegal in these United States


etc., etc., etc.

However many of the proposals are good, and can be accomplished via amendments.
posted by xetere at 7:14 PM on August 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


A lot of the ideas seem entirely reasonable on the face of it, but a few thoughts come to mind:

1. The presidential line-item veto, while popular (with presidents especially), might not be tenable in light of the presentment clause of article 1 in the constitution. And the natural-born citizen requirement is also kinda like in the constitution. I didn't see any suggestions to amend the relevant articles. Am I missing something here?
2. It builds upon the electoral college system, which to my mind is not beyond fundamental reconsideration.
3. It doesn't mention anything about ideas like run-off voting, which also probably deserve serious consideration as long as we're talking about big changes.
4. Hey, today is Larry Sabato's birthday how weird
posted by clockzero at 7:23 PM on August 7, 2010


3. Mandate non-partisan redistricting for House elections to enhance electoral competition.

i think this is very necessary - the rest of it, i have my doubts on, although i should point out that

15. Expand the size of the Supreme Court from 9 to 12 to be more representative.

doesn't require a constitutional amendment
posted by pyramid termite at 7:24 PM on August 7, 2010


A lot of this is crazy hacking at a system that barely works right now and is a breath away from Blue vs. Red Screen of Death. The Schwarzenegger Amendment makes sense (he's going to get elected, trust me, it's a glitch in the matrix from 1980).

And line-item vetos sound great but I can think of ways they'd be subverted. How about just letting the judicial system strike down parts of a bill that don't match its primary intent and are obviously padding? Or have we conceded that our two party system will be at permanent war and the only way to make legislation is to slather it with bacon?
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 7:24 PM on August 7, 2010


We have a one term limit for the governor of Virginia and it sucks. Larry Sabato should know this as a Virginian. Of course since the most accurate political observer in Virginia is Not Larry Sabato, that should tell you something. We've had a number of talented people come through the office only to disappear because there was no vacant other office for them afterwards. Frankly the second term for most Presidents has been a terrible wreck because they didn't have another election to stand for, they become a lame duck almost as soon as they are sworn in.

A balanced budget amendment accomplishes nothing. I think we should abandon the whole idea of a unified national budget. The annual budgeting process is one of the many reforms in the 1920s to make government run more like a corporate business, which is foolish. The government isn't a business, its a sovereign entity tasked with securing peace, prosperity and personal liberty.

Non-partisian redistricting serves to disenfranchise minority viewpoints.

Off year elections for house members is the same nonsense as we have with an off cycle election for offices in Virginia. It reduces turnout and allows fringe people to get elected because people get exhausted by the process of continually having to vote on things.

A larger house and senate would make political parties more important. It would also make committee chairs and leadership roles more important since the power of individual voters would be reduced. Also I don't see any evidence that house members arn't particularly accountable to their districts

Line item veto also sucks. It fundamentally unbalances the system between the power of the president and the congress. The president gains the ability to selectively reduce appropriations put through by one congress person, and thus gains the ability to hold the sword of damocles over the each congress persons votes. Don't cross me congressman x, or I'll line item veto the appropriation for the bridge in your district.

15-20 year terms for supreme court positions seem reasonable, or potentially a mandatory retirement age at age 80. Also every Senator, Congressperson, Judge, the President, VP and Cabinet official and Fed Govenor should be required to undergo a cognative function test to screen out dimentia and early onset Alzheimers by a non-partisian board of say 5 physicians. if you fail you should be ineligable to remain in office.

Since we are apparently opening up the constitution for rewrite how about my list:

1) Corporations are not people, but shall be defined and constrained with in the constitution.
2) People are not servants, they are free laborers contracted by employers. No employee will serve "at-will"
3) A national 36 hour workweek will be established for all workers.
4) Insurance will join the postal service as a federal government division. The surgeon genearal will oversee the health care system like the postmaster general oversees the postal service.
5) The Federal Reserve (or other national bank) will be defined as a constitutional entity. Formally joining the Congress, Judiciary and Executive branches.
6) All banks and financial institutions will be subject to national charter and regulation.
posted by humanfont at 7:28 PM on August 7, 2010 [27 favorites]


I mean, I can't really imagine a worse time in recent history to open up the question of how the country should be governed.

I can't really imagine a worse thing than this question ever being closed.
posted by doublehappy at 7:29 PM on August 7, 2010


A President ... whose one term is six years.

I like the idea of allowing only one-term, but I don't think it helps much at the presidential level.

Instead, I'd rather gives members of Congress more time in office (say, put everyone on the Senate's 6 year cycle) but allow for only one term. And I'd severely limit the kind of work/compensation they could take on after serving in office in exchange for higher salaries while in Congress and pensions afterward.

The current setup invites career politicians who see time spent in Congress as a means to generate a personal fortune later on through lobbying and other ways of peddling influence. My suggestion is an attempt to attract people for whom civil service is an end in itself. Ideally the financial rewards for serving would be such that qualified people would be willing to give up their final working years (which are likely the most lucrative) in order to serve their country. I'm thinking of a 50 year old doctor, or lawyer, or teach, or social worker, etc.
posted by mullacc at 7:31 PM on August 7, 2010


In order:

1 -- Dude is missing the point of the Senate. Also, you think the Census is controversial now? Wait until the difference isn't maaaybe getting one extra Rep out of 400-plus, but an extra Senator out of a quarter that many. Lastly, why should DC only get one Senator? It's got more people than Wyoming.

2 -- Even Nixon? Does George H.W. Bush get to be two National Senators, since he was VP and Prez? Would Ford, who no one ever elected to either position, get both? What if a guy was appointed VP under the 25th Amendment and then resigned a day later?

3 -- We're gonna need more info on how you make this non-partisan than "It shall be non-partisan, for I decree it so!"

4 -- Why bother with two Senators at all, if you're electing them at the same time from the same state? And jeez, you think people don't know enough about their politicians now, just wait until a California voter has to decide on seven federal-level candidates at once.

5 -- Not a horrible idea. It seems odd that we're using the same numbers they used before WWII.

6 -- If the Founders wanted "frequent rotation," they'd've written in term limits. And regardless, term limits are a bad idea. It makes the unelected chief of staff and the party bosses into the true powers when every Representative has to go away every eight years or so.

7 -- Meh. There'll just be more accounting tricks. If people had the willpower not to do that, there would already be balanced budgets.

8 -- We already have that for Senators in most states. Also, let's see an actual plan rather than "Let's write a plan!"

9 -- Alllmost had me, but the additional two years is a crap idea. It turns that 18 months a President gets in the middle of his four years into 24 months before he starts campaigning for his extension, and then he's a lame duck anyway.

10 -- Already did that. Didn't seem to take.

11 -- I waver on the line item, I have to admit. On the one hand, I dislike the amount of power the executive branch has already. On the other, it precludes some amount of gamesmanship.

12 -- Works for me. Call it the Granholmenegger Amendment.

13 -- I'd be okay with it.

14 -- Bad idea, especially if there's a term limit anyway.

15 -- And to ensure more tie votes. Meh. Nine seems to be pretty fair -- presidents get to appoint one or two.

16 -- Is pay really ever an issue for them?

17 -- Again again, give me a plan, not "Hey, let's make a plan!"

18 -- Yeah, I like this one, I have to admit.

19 -- Or just kill the Electoral College altogether. Don't try to overgame the system. Just own the popular vote.

20 -- I dunno... people throwing away their own money seems to be a good way to judge commitment (and stupidity). "Partial public financing"? So... everybody gets a little money, and the people who get a huge amount of contributions still have the advantage. The point being...

21 -- Good idea.

22 -- Bleah. The definition of "service to the country" would have to be a lot more precise before I'd sign off on that.

23 -- Way too many moneyed special interests these days for such a thing to work even slightly well.

So that's about four good ideas out of 23. I suppose that ain't bad.
posted by Etrigan at 7:31 PM on August 7, 2010


Huh. It says he teaches at U. Of Virginia, a respected school, so I'm giving him the benefit of the doubt on not being crazy. However, the "23 measures" site kind of comes off that way, from the design and especially the way it's written. Some of the language is just... odd.

Stuff like this:

Establish term limits in the House and Senate to restore the Founders’ principle of frequent rotation in office.

Besides the fact that "frequent rotation in office" sounds like spinning on the wheelie chairs, is that a "Founders’ principle?" What evidence is there of that? If it was such a principle of theirs, why didn't they write it in the Constitution themselves?
posted by drjimmy11 at 7:33 PM on August 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


I've long thought that we need to greatly increase the size of the house of representatives. It would make the practice of gerrymandering pretty much irrelevant and make sure that people had a more personal relationship with the people representing them.

Then again, I also think we should ban corporate campaign donations and just straight up auction off a percentage of Senate seats.

I also think we should eliminate corporate personhood.
posted by empath at 7:33 PM on August 7, 2010


How about permanently outlawing the Republican party?

While that idea may be supported here on the blue, the freepers would have a different idea.

(kind of like how here Bush sucked for various reasons on the blue but when President Obama does similar things he doesn't suck or doesn't even get a FPP about the behavior)
posted by rough ashlar at 7:35 PM on August 7, 2010


How about we make gerrymandering irrelevant by going with proportional representation?
posted by XMLicious at 7:39 PM on August 7, 2010 [2 favorites]


I'm not sure that the problems we are facing are due to an imperfect Constitution that needs a good fixin'.
posted by jabo at 7:40 PM on August 7, 2010


How about allowing representatives to cross state lines, while also (perhaps via some spiffy GIS algorithm) ensuring non-partisan redistricting. hence regions that cross state lines might get better representation in congress.

Most of the state lines are sort of arbitrary anyway, and a representative who is partly in say Memphis and partly in West Memphis (Arkansas) or partly in Staten Island and partly in NJ (especially since most people in the other 4 boroughs think Staten Island really is NJ any way) can help solve regional issues.
posted by xetere at 7:41 PM on August 7, 2010


Having more than two senators per state based on population completely undermines the compromise in the first place. What the hell is wrong with the House being based on population and the Senate based on a state's inclusion in the Union? I can't understand the argument against this. It gives the smaller states power in Congress, otherwise, why belong? Population shouldn't decide a states power in both sides.

I hear, "We Californians have more people than Delaware! Why should we be limited? We're huge! Delaware shouldn't have as much say!"

When instead it should be, "I'm glad Texas has as many senators as Rhode Island, because it prevents Texas from crushing them in D.C."

You're welcome to pit any large pop. state vs. small.

Also, Etrigan's got it right, talk about census problems...
posted by CarlRossi at 7:41 PM on August 7, 2010 [2 favorites]


democracy died in 1963 and there is nothing here to resurrect it. to paraphrase pink floyd, dream on you crazy shitheads.
posted by kitchenrat at 7:42 PM on August 7, 2010


Elections, and re-elections, aren't in of themselves a bad thing. If you're doing a good job, you should be allowed to keep doing it, and if you suck at it you shouldn't.

It's really silly how people keep whining about term limits when democratic election of people is the one part of the political process that isn't completely screwed up. The problem isn't elections; it's campaign financing, gerrymandering of districts, and the glut of pork in the budget acquired through abuse of seniority--seniority that is more often than not based on just that, seniority, other than merit.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 7:44 PM on August 7, 2010 [3 favorites]


Serious question: What are the arguments for preserving the Electoral College in any form?
posted by rollbiz at 7:45 PM on August 7, 2010


democracy died in 1963

Was never alive in the US of A as the US of A is a Republic.
posted by rough ashlar at 7:45 PM on August 7, 2010


I think if we would just disallow a single bill from covering multiple (and unrelated) topics, then the need for a line item veto would be greatly reduced. Several states already have provisions like this from NJ:

"To avoid improper influences which may result from intermixing in one and the same act such things as have no proper relation to each other, every law shall embrace but one object, and that shall be expressed in the title."

Or the state of Washington:
"No bill passed by Congress shall embrace more than one subject, and that shall be expressed in the title."
posted by fings at 7:51 PM on August 7, 2010 [5 favorites]


1. Expand the Senate to 136 members to be more representative: Grant the 10 most populous states 2 additional Senators, the 15 next most populous states 1 additional Senator, and the District of Columbia 1 Senator.

5. Expand the size of the House to approximately 1,000 members (from current 435), so House members can be closer to their constituents, and to level the playing field in House elections.
Yep. Just what we need: more politicians.
posted by resiny at 7:52 PM on August 7, 2010


24. Ice cream for everyone.

25. No bad people allowed to hold office.

26. Constitutional amendment outlining duties of Presidential dog.

27. Congressmen must shave their heads.

28. All Internet content must henceforth be organized in handy list format for easier reading.

29. All Supreme Court cases televised Judge Judy-style.
posted by chasing at 7:56 PM on August 7, 2010 [6 favorites]


15. Expand the size of the Supreme Court from 9 to 12 to be more representative.
Ok. What the hell? From whose ass was this pulled? What, exactly, is it we need more representation of? The ideology of whoever happens to be the sitting president? Also, why would you have an even number? Requiring 7-5 rulings would probably make the court tremendously inefficient.

Also, #s 1 and 5 combined with:
20. Reform campaign financing by preventing wealthy candidates from financing their campaigns, and by mandating partial public financing for House and Senate campaigns.
Would probably end up costing taxpayers billions of dollars. Say you have only two major candidates for each senatorial and house election (a meager estimate). That's still an extra 1130 house campaigns and 72 senate campaigns. Even if the public funding is only partial, that's 1202 campaigns costing probably millions apiece that are going to have to be paid for.
posted by resiny at 7:58 PM on August 7, 2010


Can you imagine half of the House of Reps being made of up of some of the stupidest people in the country?

It's easy if you try.
posted by EarBucket at 8:03 PM on August 7, 2010 [10 favorites]


Here are the changes I'd make:

1) Declare that crimes are not crimes unless there is an injured third party. In other words, unless you damage someone else's property or force someone to do something against their will, there can be no criminal prosecution.
2) Pass an expiration date on laws. If it hasn't been charged as a crime in ten years and is not purposefully renewed, it disappears off the books.
3) Require all laws to be enforced. Officials shall be required to know the laws they enforce, and enforce them fully and equally at all times. Laws which are habitually unenforced must be removed from the books.
4) Outlaw lobbying. Period. Make the punishment for infringement the loss of half all assets or voluntary resignation, the surrender of any gifts or benefits, and an agreement never to hold political office again. Also, any law found to be tainted by third party interference - anyone who is not the elected official or a constituent of that official - shall be declared null and void.
5) Allow every single district the ability to recall their representative with a minimum petition and then a referendum no more than 30 days later.
6) Require the regular publishing of itemized expenses of every public official as well as a list of any visitors to their offices or agents.
7) Require that every piece of legislation address a single subject and come up for an up or down vote. Abstentions will only be allowed if the official is medically incapacitated.
8) Require a nationwide referendum for all deployments of more 5,000 troops for any period more than 30 days. Require renewal referendums at every national election.
9) Hold a national referendum to decide whether to dismantle the CIA.

Allowing people to hold their government accountable through transparency and democratic action... crazy idea, right?
posted by atypicalguy at 8:05 PM on August 7, 2010 [7 favorites]


Oh, and as for #24, I rather like this idea.
posted by rollbiz at 8:12 PM on August 7, 2010 [2 favorites]


The list may have a lot of silly ideas, but the book upon which it is based, while not substantially less silly, is at least better-reasoned. Sabato is deeply conservative— that's conservative with a small C— and all his changes are designed to reënforce the existing system. The true weaknesses of the American constitution in practice, e.g. a directly-elected President, no representation of state governments, single-member districts for the House, etc. all go unaddressed. But the list can't really exist beyond the book, and Sabato at least walks us through his changes; each of the 23 bullets has its own fairly long chapter explaining why he thinks these things are good ideas.
posted by Electrius at 8:12 PM on August 7, 2010


Triplicate presidential and state positions on 3-year terms with annual rotating elections. All Presidential decisions will be made by simple majority vote of the current three presidents. Presidential position winners are elected by simple majority national vote of all citizens. Voting is required to receive social benefits.
posted by five fresh fish at 8:13 PM on August 7, 2010


There are a couple of points in favor of an electoral college:

1. It almost never disagrees with the popular vote and when it does it's because the popular vote was pretty much a tie (Gore may have won the popular vote in 2000, but the voting public pretty much said "Eh. Whichever").

2. Recounts are easier. If a state is close you can recount it. There is no point in recounting a state with a huge margin of victory. If a national popular vote is close you recount... everything?
posted by It's Never Lurgi at 8:13 PM on August 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


Truth is, the current system is broken. It has created a society which is not functioning very well. Something needs changing.
posted by five fresh fish at 8:14 PM on August 7, 2010


Most of the state lines are sort of arbitrary anyway

You know, I've thought about this before.

Presume, for the moment, that we have some rational nonpartisan way of dividing the country into representative districts. What would we actually need states for?
posted by Afroblanco at 8:15 PM on August 7, 2010


Right. I guess these will be passed around the aisles in a Congressional session in paper handouts with two big checkboxes in the back page [y] [n]. But in all seriousness, I think at least we can appreciate the discussion it's bound to create and hope something good can come from it.

I'm inclined to give this guy the benefit of doubt, though.
He probably put a lot of thought in this and definitely goes into more depth and builds a case for it in his book.
I guess someone who has a blurry vision of how politics and culture affect each other could feel a little odd and uncertain about what would actually happen, in the parlance of our times, On The Ground, if these are added to the Constitution. Someone like me.

What I'm saying is, How the Fuck should I know? I do know that nothing about it indicates...

Reminds me of this.

So I guess this comment classifies as a complete and utter waste of anybody's time. Sorry guys.
posted by fantodstic at 8:20 PM on August 7, 2010


Non-partisian redistricting serves to disenfranchise minority viewpoints.

Partisan redistricting results in extreme gerrymandering, polarization of parties and of view points.

15. Expand the size of the Supreme Court from 9 to 12 to be more representative.

Ok. What the hell? From whose ass was this pulled? What, exactly, is it we need more representation of? The ideology of whoever happens to be the sitting president? Also, why would you have an even number? Requiring 7-5 rulings would probably make the court tremendously inefficient.


I wouldn't look forward to 6-6 ties either.
posted by ZeusHumms at 8:21 PM on August 7, 2010


Five year stints, even, with voting every third year. Enough time for noobs to show their value, long enough to get a big plan underway.
posted by five fresh fish at 8:24 PM on August 7, 2010


What the hell is wrong with the House being based on population and the Senate based on a state's inclusion in the Union?

Because the Senators representing 15% of the population are shutting down the agenda of the Senators representing 85% percent of the population.

I'm with General George Thomas. ""No... no mix 'em up, mix 'em up. I'm tired of States rights."

The idea of a sub-soverign state is just a bad one, and it needs to be killed. The idea that just because you happen to be in Utah means you should have as much say as Texas, Illinois, New York, California, or hell, North Carolina is inane, and it has just about destroyed this country.

Fuck this. You want a system that works? Alternative Voting electing the House, President is elected by Alternative Popular Vote, and you know what, the hell with the traditions of the Senate, the hell with the comity of the Senate, the hell with the Senate, and the hell with Senators. Each and every one of them.

And, since we've gotten rid of the senate, we can *get rid of the states.* You move? Change the address on your license, and everything's done. No more new plates, registration, find out what the fucking tax structure is in this nightmare, and by the way, are my friends married here or not.

State's rights? NO. People's rights. To hell with the States.
posted by eriko at 8:24 PM on August 7, 2010 [8 favorites]


Instead of term limits, how about mandatory term breaks, such as one term off after every five terms for Congresspeople, two years off after two consecutive senatorial terms, and one presidential term off after every two terms served (removing the two term limit).

Also I want the idea that a non partisan arm or agency of government should manage elections, including mandating that broadcasters donate a specific amount of time to debates and commercials as part of their license, and/or managing market based caps on ad rates for elections in order to reduce the need for constant fund raising that seems to be a large part of every elected official's day.
posted by ZeusHumms at 8:25 PM on August 7, 2010


(Gore may have won the popular vote in 2000, but the voting public pretty much said "Eh. Whichever").


cite please
posted by dubold at 8:27 PM on August 7, 2010


also, where is everyone getting these non-partisan individuals to run their non-partisan agencies?
posted by dubold at 8:30 PM on August 7, 2010


Took Larry Sabato's class at UVa. Very entertaining class. He is an interesting teacher. I think the point of his ideas are to stir debate on the current state of the system. Does he still have the cheesey pr0n mustache?
posted by JohnnyGunn at 8:38 PM on August 7, 2010


How about we make gerrymandering irrelevant by going with proportional representation?

it's a tempting idea until you look at countries that have it and realize how non-functional their governments can be - but that might be a reflection of a divided electorate

---

I also think we should eliminate corporate personhood.

amen - in fact, this one idea is probably more important than anything else being talked about here
posted by pyramid termite at 8:39 PM on August 7, 2010 [3 favorites]


also, where is everyone getting these non-partisan individuals to run their non-partisan agencies?

perhaps we could have computers do the districting
posted by pyramid termite at 8:41 PM on August 7, 2010


perhaps we could have computers do the districting

Totally. We could replace representatives with high-speed algorithms that compete with each other to pass legislation.
posted by Afroblanco at 8:45 PM on August 7, 2010 [9 favorites]


dubolt: I'm raising 30 orphan children in total isolation devoid of any information about political realities, popular culture, current events, or even shades of red and blue. In 20 years, I am going to cash in by renting them out as the ultimate non partisan decision makers.

Assuming we get rid of that slavery amendment in the mean time. Come on Palin-Paul 2012!
posted by Grimgrin at 8:49 PM on August 7, 2010


All these ideas, but I still don't see "dance-off" in there. I want my fucking dance-off.
posted by emjaybee at 8:53 PM on August 7, 2010 [3 favorites]


Partisan redistricting results in extreme gerrymandering, polarization of parties and of view points.

This turns out not to be true. Well, it might be true that partisan redistricting is more associated with gerrymandering or at least odd district boundaries.

But partisan redistricting is absolutely not related to polarization. This has been pretty thoroughly looked at, and the evidence says that polarization happens because Democrats and Republicans from similar districts behave very differently. I'd need to go look it up, and I'm not going to at midnight on Saturday, but IIRC the research points to polarization in politics generally flowing from the mass level up the political ladder.

(It also doesn't make much sense to connect the two. Partisan gerrymandering implies drafting district lines so that your party wins by a little bit in as many districts as possible, so it should be expected to create almost-competitive districts that tend to elect moderates.)
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 9:10 PM on August 7, 2010


Because the Senators representing 15% of the population are shutting down the agenda of the Senators representing 85% percent of the population.

God forbid the agenda of the majority ever be interfered with or inconvenienced by minorities.
posted by XMLicious at 9:16 PM on August 7, 2010 [2 favorites]


It doesn't seem to me that the most populous states need even more influence on the national and international levels. California and New York, I'm looking at you.

This is probably the dumbest statement I have read in quite a while. In the senate, millions of people in states like New York and California have the same representation as the half-million people in Wyoming. What do you propose? Extra senators for tiny states?
posted by snofoam at 9:19 PM on August 7, 2010


God forbid the agenda of the majority ever be interfered with or inconvenienced by minorities.

Ha, didn't see this comment when I posted. God forbid the government represent the people.
posted by snofoam at 9:25 PM on August 7, 2010


eriko: And, since we've gotten rid of the senate, we can *get rid of the states.* You move? Change the address on your license, and everything's done. No more new plates, registration, find out what the fucking tax structure is in this nightmare, and by the way, are my friends married here or not.

State's rights? NO. People's rights. To hell with the States.


I love it!

It'll never happen in a thousand years, but damn if it isn't the right idea./

kangasaurus: The New Yorker last week did a great piece about the Senate, how broken it is and how far removed from the original intentions it now is. Senators, according to the article, now spend a lot of time looking for and abusing loopholes instead of debating, or even listening to debate.

Yeah, that was a really good article; I read it just today.
posted by paisley henosis at 9:37 PM on August 7, 2010


Presume, for the moment, that we have some rational nonpartisan way of dividing the country into representative districts. What would we actually need states for?

The United States of Roughly Equal Population or representative districts instead of states.
posted by crossoverman at 9:42 PM on August 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


It is not dumb to suggest that states like New York or California already have massively more power, influence, and resources to throw around than small states. The "how could anyone even think that a place like Utah or Wyoming should be relevant or important at all" attitude pretty well demonstrates what would happen if the larger states got even more of a lock on the country than they have now.

I did nothing remotely like suggest that small states should get extra senators; that's pretty obviously a rhetorical gambit on your part, snofoam. How about we just not pretend there's any reason why more senators absolutely have to be added.

Looking at the same-sex marriage debate it seems pretty obvious to me how things would go if California and New York and their superior heavenly mandate controlled all legislative bodies and the courts and were writing the Constitution. At least some of us smaller states could get our shit together and vote same-sex marriage into law.
posted by XMLicious at 10:00 PM on August 7, 2010


Non-partisian redistricting serves to disenfranchise minority viewpoints.

Partisan redistricting results in extreme gerrymandering, polarization of parties and of view points


Not necessarily. For example some of the most polarizing figures in US politics are senators who must run statewide. In fact I would argue that the problem of california is not the districts are drawn in an overly partisan manner, it is that there is a requirement of a super majority to do things like raise taxes, etc. This is the same problem in the US senate where the fillibuster rules have been changed to the point that it now requires a super majority to pass any legislation. I feel as a US citizen that this is clearly a violation of constitutional principles. The constitution clearly states that the rules of the senate shall be passed by a majority There is nothing about supermajorities on the constitution except for amendments to the constitution.

I'm wondering if as a US citizen I have standing to challenge the rules of the senate on constitutional grounds that they deny me my right to elected representation.
posted by humanfont at 10:03 PM on August 7, 2010


Think of this - another major reason why the Senate is screwed up and oppositional is the power that lobbyists wield, even over the Senators from the smaller states. But where do you think the lobbyists are from who are doing all the influencing? It doesn't really look quite so much as though more populous states are getting a raw deal when you take everything into account besides just the numbers of Senators.
posted by XMLicious at 10:07 PM on August 7, 2010


Can you imagine half of the House of Reps being made of up of some of the stupidest people in the country?
Yeah, just imagine....
I don't know about anyone else, but I like having my reps being rather intelligent.
I would like that too! What country do you live in? Because it certainly can't be the U.S.
Instead, I'd rather gives members of Congress more time in office (say, put everyone on the Senate's 6 year cycle) but allow for only one term. And I'd severely limit the kind of work/compensation they could take on after serving in office in exchange for higher salaries while in Congress and pensions afterward.
I think that's the key here, the low sallaries earned by members of congress. They are sourounded by the wealthiest people in the country, yet they earn far less. So networking is going to be a big part of their motivation while in congress. They'll want to make sure they can get a job when they get out, influencing their friends who still work there.

Pay congresspeople a lot more (but don't allow them to use their own money in campaigns, obviously) and have a public funding system that doesn't require them to spend most of their time trying to raise money.
Having more than two senators per state based on population completely undermines the compromise in the first place. What the hell is wrong with the House being based on population and the Senate based on a state's inclusion in the Union? I can't understand the argument against this. It gives the smaller states power in Congress, otherwise, why belong? Population shouldn't decide a states power in both sides.
Why belong? Well, there are lots of benefits to being part of the U.S, first of all. And second of all they can't leave anyway. So what's the problem with giving them less representation?
29. All Supreme Court cases televised Judge Judy-style.
I think that would actually be pretty good.
posted by delmoi at 10:39 PM on August 7, 2010


Reword the 14th to:
"No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of human citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any natural person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any natural person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws."
Which will end this "free speech" for corporations crap, as well their inalieable right to drop a million dollars on legal counsel when they poison someone whose net worth is $5k.

If any of you think that corporations need due process after the Gulf disaster, I've got a gold mine in John Galt's valley to sell you.
posted by clarknova at 10:41 PM on August 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


Anyway, how would I restructure government?

1) Get rid of the senate. Congress is made proportionally representative like Sweden.

2) Split up the job of president among a couple different people. You would have one leader running diplomacy and the military, One managing the universal health care system, one running the financial system and another one managing stuff like NASA, energy policy, and so on.
posted by delmoi at 10:46 PM on August 7, 2010


1. Expand the Senate to 136 members to be more representative: Grant the 10 most populous states 2 additional Senators, the 15 next most populous states 1 additional Senator, and the District of Columbia 1 Senator.

Someone does not seem to understand the basic history of the country...
posted by madajb at 10:54 PM on August 7, 2010


24. kittens for everyone!
posted by misanthropicsarah at 10:54 PM on August 7, 2010


19. Mend the Electoral College by granting more populated states additional electors, to preserve the benefits of the College while minimizing the chances a President will win without a majority of the popular vote.

Or, apparently, how the Electoral College actually works.
posted by madajb at 10:58 PM on August 7, 2010


Personally, I prefer the freedom of the press in the First Amendment to the Rupert-Murdoch-friendly power vacuum implied by his 20th proposal. Likewise the prohibition of involuntary servitude in the Thirteenth Amendment strikes me as an improvement over the mandate of involuntary servitude in his 22nd proposal.

In fact, I think we'd be better off scrapping all 23 proposals. If we must add a big wad of changes to the constitution, could we just add the words "and we're not fucking kidding this time" to amendments 1 through 10?
posted by roystgnr at 11:01 PM on August 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


So what does a "National Senator" do?

Lose to the Phillies.
posted by dirigibleman at 11:13 PM on August 7, 2010 [16 favorites]


What are the arguments for preserving the Electoral College in any form?

Any vaguely crypto-fascist, populist, Palinesque candidate could ride into DC on the very slimmest of a majority vote. At least with the Electoral College, the odds are that the damage that kind of candidate can do to an election and the country is generally limited to states with fewer electoral votes. One hopes.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:15 PM on August 7, 2010


How about we make gerrymandering irrelevant by going with proportional representation?

As pointed out earlier, (some) systems with proportional representation have problems with tremendous gridlock and difficulties in coalition-forming.

I also have more philosophical objections to proportional representation. First, as bad as gerrymandering is, I like the idea of someone representing a geographically-defined constituency in the national realm. Constituent services are an under-reported but important part of Congresspeople's job description.

I also dislike proportional representation because it gives far too much power to parties. Perhaps I don't like most Republicans, but there just happens to be a good Rockefeller Republican running in my district who I'd like to give a try? Needless to say, this also diminishes the power of independent candidates.

I would support Instant-Runoff Voting for the House of Representatives as a way to maintain the advantages (as I perceive them) of single-member districts while somewhat weakening the two-party grip on power.
posted by dhens at 11:45 PM on August 7, 2010


proposals i put forward several years ago:

(1) Implement proportional representation in the House of Representatives and lower state legislative bodies.
http://www.mtholyoke.edu/acad/polit/damy/prlib.htm
http://www.fairvote.org/pr/
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Proportional_representation
http://bostonreview.net/BR23.1/richie.html

(2) Establish office of federal ombudsman.
http://www.abanet.org/adminlaw/ombuds/modellaw.html
http://www.usombudsman.org/References/publicsectorombudsman.htm
http://www.usombudsman.org/AboutUSOA/association.htm#leg
http://www.abanet.org/adminlaw/ombuds/hill1.html


A PLAN FOR REFORMING THE SUPREME COURT AND JUDICIAL NOMINATION PROCESS
By providing regular opportunities for the President to appoint Associate Justices; allowing the size of the Court to be fluid and unfixed; and instituting merit selection of lower court judges.

(3) Revoke portion of law setting size of Supreme Court at nine Justices (Chief Justice plus eight Associate Justices).
http://air.fjc.gov/history/landmark/10b.html

(4) Allow President to appoint one Associate Justice to the Supreme Court per Congressional term (two years), subject to approval by Senate, excepting that if the membership of the Supreme Court should fall below seven Justices the President may appoint such number of Justices as is necessary to fulfill the deficit.

(5) Use principle of seniority on Supreme Court to determine Chief Justice, excepting that the current Chief Justice may serve out remainder of tenure.

(6) Empower Chief Justice to appoint members of Judicial Nomination Committee, subject to approval by Senate, for the purpose of nominating between three and six candidates for each vacancy on lower courts.

(7) Empower President to select judicial candidate for appointment to each vacancy on lower courts, subject to approval by Senate.
posted by Primofex at 12:27 AM on August 8, 2010


24. kittens for everyone!

COMMUNIST! not everyone likes kittens, you know...
posted by crossoverman at 1:17 AM on August 8, 2010


Tuesday national Mac N Cheese night, Wednesday is spaghetti And Friday you may have fish or vegetable, but no other meat. Also 1-230 is nap time. Friday afternoon employers will be required to let their workers have creative personal
time for innovation, profesional development and personal creative projects.
posted by humanfont at 2:17 AM on August 8, 2010


atypicalguy: "36Here are the changes I'd make:

1) Declare that crimes are not crimes unless there is an injured third party. In other words, unless you damage someone else's property or force someone to do something against their will, there can be no criminal prosecution.
2) Pass an expiration date on laws. If it hasn't been charged as a crime in ten years and is not purposefully renewed, it disappears off the books.
3) Require all laws to be enforced. Officials shall be required to know the laws they enforce, and enforce them fully and equally at all times. Laws which are habitually unenforced must be removed from the books.
4) Outlaw lobbying. Period. Make the punishment for infringement the loss of half all assets or voluntary resignation, the surrender of any gifts or benefits, and an agreement never to hold political office again. Also, any law found to be tainted by third party interference - anyone who is not the elected official or a constituent of that official - shall be declared null and void.
5) Allow every single district the ability to recall their representative with a minimum petition and then a referendum no more than 30 days later.
6) Require the regular publishing of itemized expenses of every public official as well as a list of any visitors to their offices or agents.
7) Require that every piece of legislation address a single subject and come up for an up or down vote. Abstentions will only be allowed if the official is medically incapacitated.
8) Require a nationwide referendum for all deployments of more 5,000 troops for any period more than 30 days. Require renewal referendums at every national election.
9) Hold a national referendum to decide whether to dismantle the CIA.

Allowing people to hold their government accountable through transparency and democratic action... crazy idea, right?
"


I know there's etiquette about engaging with crazies on the internet, but I can't resist tonight! Atypical indeed.

1) I guess you'd start by defining 'injury'. Then you'd be hit by a drunk driver.
2) You realise that most laws aren't concerned with crime, right?
3) I don't even know where to start.
4) So, we're outlawing free speech, putting Congressmen in sealed rooms for the duration of their (very short, if 5 is adopted) terms, which is good, because they'd be the only people writing laws, and eliminating the public service?
5) You can already do this every two years. This might also breach rule 1, which forbids forcing someone to do something against their will.
6) I can't comment on the States, but this information isn't difficult to get in many countries, though visitors might have some legitimate privacy concerns.
7) I guess you'd start by defining 'subject'. Then you'd be hit by a drunk driver. Seriously, where does one subject end and another begin. Do you divide by issue or area? For example, if I want comprehensive regulation of certain drugs (ignoring point 1 for a moment), should I be drafting one piece of legislation that covers the health, policing, and sentencing aspects, or should I be amending three different pieces of legislation?
8) This is just ridiculous. How do you know how long a deployment will be? How would you prevent the army from deploying units of 4999 troops to very slightly different geographic locations? How do you expect the public to have the time or skills to analyze and consider the situation and then make an informed decision about deployment? Do you have any idea how difficult and expensive it is to hold a referendum? You won't be able to afford an army.
9) Maybe, I guess.
posted by doublehappy at 3:48 AM on August 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


What are the arguments for preserving the Electoral College in any form?
Any vaguely crypto-fascist, populist, Palinesque candidate could ride into DC on the very slimmest of a majority vote. At least with the Electoral College, the odds are that the damage that kind of candidate can do to an election and the country is generally limited to states with fewer electoral votes. One hopes.


But now any vaguely crypto-fascist populist can ride into DC by stringing along bare majorities in enough states to "win" even though some of the largest states might have voted for crypto-fascist's opponent by a landslide. I think indeed that this happens to some extent and that is why if a large state is"not in play" then it pretty much gets ignored.

I can understand the fears of smaller states if we do away with the senate, however, but as a citizen of a large state, I can tell you that it feels that the Federal institute of .... or whatever always seems to get situated in a smaller state where a senator has a lot of power. How much federal pork is diverted to New York State as opposed to other smaller ones proportionally?

Maybe the key is since most states are arbitrary is to break 'em up. Split California Northern Cal and Southern Cal hate each other anyway. Actually split into 3 states where teh inland empire becomes the state of Tule. New York (City) and environs including New Jersey Suburbs become New York, force the rest of New York State to call itself New Yorkshire. (Take *that* Syracuse!) *but you know old York is a city and its region is Yorkshire so there is precedent.
posted by xetere at 4:23 AM on August 8, 2010


The argument for the Electoral College is the same as keeping the Senate the way it is: I'm in North Dakota, and a greater proportional vote in Congress and a greater proportional vote in the Electoral College means that we can still believe we have some influence as a population. Going by popular vote, we're tossed out; wielding some influence means that more populous states need our help. Even as it is, we can only change the result of a vote in very close elections (as we're reminded every time Presidential candidates cancel local appearances because they realize our state won't change their standings), but if things get reduced to a purely popular vote level, there's a huge difference in influence between 3 electoral votes and 600,000 popular votes. "Hey, ND, how about we only count your votes when the difference is one tenth of one percent? I mean, come on, like you can do anything about it."

And I'm still standing up for it even though my state is a largely Republican, Christian, and Populist state (although lately we've been sending Democrats to represent us in Washington, which is kinda nice). The way things are set up is to reduce the possibility of serfdom for the less populous agrarian states and weaken the influence of big cities. It doesn't change hands of power or give the agrarian states control, either -- somehow that always seems to be the argument, that states like North Dakota will tell California what to do -- it just evens the playing field, and that's more appropriate for a democracy, even if on the face it seems undemocratic.
posted by AzraelBrown at 5:29 AM on August 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


• Elected officials will work for the equivalent of the average US individual income.
• Elected officials will not be provided healthcare coverage under any Federal group plan.
• Elected officials will be required to enter the private market and pay for their own healthcare coverage.
• Elected officials will be required to do the shopping for said healthcare coverage their own damnned selves, on their own damned time, and will be prohibited from shuffling-off the job onto their staff, lackeys, sycophants etc.
posted by Thorzdad at 5:34 AM on August 8, 2010


I wouldn't be happy to see states go. Even states that border each other have different priorities and different laws that reflect them.
posted by drezdn at 6:01 AM on August 8, 2010


Aren't extremely large legislative bodies pretty ineffective? How could you possibly have reasonable debate in an assembly of 1000 persons?

I have been intrigued by the ideas of range voting and shortest splitline districting for a while now. I'm not sure what problems they might present in practice, however. As in the case of mandated balanced budgets, it seems that some flexibility might be desirable in district-making; having no ability to change the results of an algorithm doesn't guarantee fairness after all.

I can get on-board with repealing corporate personhood. In fact, maybe we can institute something like German co-determination.
posted by adoarns at 6:07 AM on August 8, 2010


• Elected officials will work for the equivalent of the average US individual income.

Do you really think that would decrease the amount of corruption? If congresspeople and senators worked for $50k a year they'd be even more susceptible to bribery in the form of job promises after their tenure.

The idea that we need to punish people simply for being members of congress is one of the stupidest impulses imaginable. Its just going to make less and less talented people run, and result in more and more corruption.
posted by delmoi at 6:11 AM on August 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


Thorzdad: • Elected officials will work for the equivalent of the average US individual income.
• Elected officials will not be provided healthcare coverage under any Federal group plan.
• Elected officials will be required to enter the private market and pay for their own healthcare coverage.
• Elected officials will be required to do the shopping for said healthcare coverage their own damnned selves, on their own damned time, and will be prohibited from shuffling-off the job onto their staff, lackeys, sycophants etc.


Meaning that the only people who would be able to do all this would be the idle rich, who seem to be running the show quite enough already.
posted by hangashore at 8:52 AM on August 8, 2010


But I recognize Thorzdad's point about the massive disconnect between the Reps' and Senators' perks and the benefits (or lack thereof) enjoyed by their constituents.
posted by hangashore at 9:08 AM on August 8, 2010


My impression is that the author is not legally trained or even particularly astute, which undermines his ability to figure out what's wrong and more particularly his capacity for prescribing fixes.

More generally, attention-whoring>>>>>>>rigor and reflection.
posted by Clyde Mnestra at 9:09 AM on August 8, 2010


"Going by popular vote, we're tossed out; wielding some influence means that more populous states need our help."

Why do you believe that you have a right for your vote to count significantly more than a person's vote who lives in a more populous state? It seems deeply unfair to me.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 10:34 AM on August 8, 2010


1. Expand the Senate to 136 members to be more representative: Grant the 10 most populous states 2 additional Senators, the 15 next most populous states 1 additional Senator, and the District of Columbia 1 Senator.
This is an ugly kludge that will have to be fixed in the next patch. Better to fix the underlying issue and say "states get a number of senators based on their population".

If part of the issue is the desire that the Senate be no larger than a certain size for issues of human processing limits - cf. Dunbar's number, popularized as "the size of your monkeysphere" - then say "states get a percentage of the pool of N senators based on their percentage of the population of the US", with some finessing for what to do about the .3 of a Senator from Rhode Island and other fractional number). Which would scale up for a redrafting of state lines, or the annexing of more states, up until we get to $monkeyspheresize states...
posted by egypturnash at 1:02 PM on August 8, 2010


It seems deeply unfair to me.

So? Do you think that the residents of the most populous states, or even the most populous cities should control the federal government and run the country in the way most advantageous to them, and to hell with everyone else? I assume you're not against, say, weighted college admissions that give extra benefit to disadvantaged minority groups? Those aren't "fair" either, but, like the Senate and the electoral college, it lets people who would otherwise be steamrolled have some skin in the game.
posted by Snyder at 1:21 PM on August 8, 2010


Going by popular vote, we're tossed out

This is false. Going by popular vote, the 300,000 presidential voters in ND (in 2008) would count exactly the same as 300,000 voters in SD or in rural TX or in Houston or in NYC or anywhere else in the US. Instead of, in the current system, counting the same as 700,000 votes in Texas.

Do you think that the residents of the most populous states, or even the most populous cities should control the federal government and run the country in the way most advantageous to them, and to hell with everyone else?

That's asinine. The idea that the interests of Democrats in populous states and Democrats in small states do not overlap at all but are so diametrically opposed to one another that it makes any sense at all to speak of the country being run "to hell with everyone else" is laughable on its face. Likewise for Republicans, or for liberals or conservatives or anything else. The people in small states do not generally have unique, special interests that distinguish them from populous states.

In any case, a Reasonable Person behind a Rawlsian veil of ignorance would favor a system where their political influence and representation did not vary depending on their location over one where they have a large probability of having incommensurately low representation (by living where others live), but a countervailing very low probability of hitting the representational jackpot by living in Wyoming or Vermont.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 2:08 PM on August 8, 2010


Serious question: What are the arguments for preserving the Electoral College in any form?

Because it allows the states to use whatever form of elective process works for them.
If a state wants proportional representation for their electors, like say Nebraska, they can.
Similarly, if a state wanted to implement Instant Runoff Voting to appoint electors, they could. For that matter, if a state wanted to draw straws to decide a winner, it's all good.

The fact that few states do this is a failure of the states _not_ the Electoral College.
The system is setup to allow differing forms of representation based on what the residents believe is right for them.
posted by madajb at 2:50 PM on August 8, 2010


Can you imagine half of the House of Reps being made of up of some of the stupidest people in the country?

Really, 24 hours later. nobody's made the obvious joke already? Do you know how many current Representatives think the Earth is around 6000 years old? It's a non-zero number.

As for the suggestions, some of them seem, some grind my gears. But I think overall my point is that it's a broken system but nothing else would be better.

As a liberal and a member of a largish state, I'm always going to be annoyed by the electoral college; however, aboloshing it completely means that weren't not the United States of America, but instead something else - I'm not sure what but I don't think people who think about this realize what a big deal that would be (I'm also not sure it would be a bad thing.))
posted by MCMikeNamara at 3:09 PM on August 8, 2010


So? Do you think that the residents of the most populous states, or even the most populous cities should control the federal government and run the country in the way most advantageous to them, and to hell with everyone else?

It's kind of a necessary predicate of a system that even pretends to democratic elements that on an issue open to election, then if 80% of the people vote one way, and 20% vote the other way, then the 80% win it. And not, as the Senate is now, where you can make a majority from the representatives of 19.3% of the population.
posted by kafziel at 3:16 PM on August 8, 2010


1. Expand the Senate to 136 members to be more representative: Grant the 10 most populous states 2 additional Senators, the 15 next most populous states 1 additional Senator, and the District of Columbia 1 Senator.

This ignores the entire purpose (however ignored it may be at this time) of the Senate as the deliberative chamber. It was set-up exactly to negate the advantage proportional representation would have over the proceedings. It's the chamber where states are represented as singular states. It was never meant to be representative of population.

The House is where proportional representation holds sway. That's its job. The idea is that one chamber should balance the other in terms of their deliberations. To also populate the Senate according to population (however you may wish to formulate it) would, in essence, create two House of Representatives. Or one huge House.
posted by Thorzdad at 3:18 PM on August 8, 2010


It was set-up exactly to negate the advantage proportional representation would have over the proceedings. It's the chamber where states are represented as singular states.

The question, then, is what the purpose of such a body would be in a time when only the most deluded of idiots think this is an alliance of individually sovereign states, instead of a single country divided into regions for ease of local governance.

"The United States" stopped being a plural noun in 1865.
posted by kafziel at 3:23 PM on August 8, 2010


Some of the ideas--one six-year presidential term, a line-item veto--were features of the Confederate Constitution.
posted by kirkaracha at 4:37 PM on August 8, 2010


What if a guy was appointed VP under the 25th Amendment and then resigned a day later?

That triggers the multiball bonus round.
posted by krinklyfig at 8:12 PM on August 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


The question, then, is what the purpose of such a body would be in a time when only the most deluded of idiots think this is an alliance of individually sovereign states, instead of a single country divided into regions for ease of local governance.

The point is to counterbalance a tendency towards centralization of government so we don't end up with a national "Permit Raj" constructed by a bunch of myopic city dwellers who love standing in line at the DMV and have simply accepted that it's laboriously complicated and time-consuming to access any government services because there's always a hundred thousand people trying to get into the office to fill in the same form they want to fill in.

And so that groups of hundreds of people living all stacked on top of each other in Manhattan, which sucks in all the food and electricity and fresh water out and warps the paths of roads into its orbit for hundreds of miles in radius clear up to and beyond the Canadian border, aren't the ones who decide what "ease of local governance" means for me here in rural New England.

And so that the denizens of that great perpetual standing traffic jam that is the Los Angeles metropolitan region don't get to look at the Deepwater Horizon spill in the remote, culturally backward, median-population, irrelevant states of Louisiana and Mississippi and shrug dismissively, saying "Well shucks, sucks to be them. But if you're gonna make an omelet you gotta crack a few eggs, no'm say'n? The oil must flow." and let BP get away with purchasing the entire coastal ecosystem, fisheries, and travel industry for a pittance.

§


It's just a cosmetic resemblance, and partly for the fun of screaming COMMUNISTS‼‼‼ like Tea Partiers get to, but crossover's map of The United States of Roughly Equal Population reminds me the most of a map of China with its provinces, province-level municipalities, and Special Administrative Regions. Is that what you want!?!!?11? We'll all be eating rice, you know. And noodles. Noodles for breakfast - could you even handle that? With some stereotypically Asian caffinated beverage to drink instead of a ChocoMochoCrèmeBrûléeLatta from Starbucks.
posted by XMLicious at 11:14 PM on August 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


Federalism has my support. Though it includes some strange possibilities, federal states put lower powers (governors) pitted against higher powers (presidents). This may not always turn out for the best, but it makes a clean sweep of all government under one tyrannical model much more unlikely (unless they go on to dismantle the federalism).

The United States is not a unitary state and I'm still waiting to hear why unitary states are automatically superior. France is a unitary state. Germany is a federal state. Switzerland is a confederate state. Each can work wonderfully in the right environment, and I believe America is a great place for federalism due to the diversity of geography, culture, and economy. Some here were mentioning that the least populous 20% of the population can forever stall legislation, but this doesn't normally happen. The only time I could actually see this happening is if there was an attempt to greatly impact agrarian states for the benefit of more urban states at which case it should be stopped by that 20%. The United States is more than just a collection of people but a collection of groups, towns, communities, cities, regions, and lifestyles. Though you may feel rather cosmopolitan does not mean others in the US do. Anyway, moot point as it would require EVERY state to consent to change the constitution and do away with equal representation. Good luck.

Oh, and if we became a unitary state, we would would have to change the name from the United States of America. I don't have a better name and I certainly don't want to change all those signs.
posted by Lord Chancellor at 1:14 AM on August 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


"America, There Is a Better Way: It’s Called Germany"
posted by Eideteker at 4:01 AM on August 9, 2010


Some here were mentioning that the least populous 20% of the population can forever stall legislation, but this doesn't normally happen. The only time I could actually see this happening is if there was an attempt to greatly impact agrarian states for the benefit of more urban states at which case it should be stopped by that 20%.

You're right in that there is no alliance of small states at the expense of large states. Senators from Vermont and Wyoming rarely vote together in opposition to senators from NY and California.

But, you're wrong in thinking small=agrarian. Delaware and Rhode Island are small states with massively urbanized populations and very few farmers. Wyoming and Alaska are about average in terms of urbanization; while there is a vast hinterland, almost all Alaskans and Wyomingianites are concentrated in the cities. On the other hand, California and Illinois have huge and politically powerful farm sectors in spite of being populous and urbanized, as do Minnesota and Wisconsin at a smaller scale. To a large extent, states with large and active farm interests are also urbanized states.

In any case, the highest percentage of farm residents is all of 7.7% in South Dakota, and the highest contribution of agriculture/forestry/fishing/hunting is only 10.9% in North Dakota. So it would not be unreasonable to say that agrarian states simply no longer exist.

On the one hand, the idea of a small-state cabal is sort of silly given how disparate the interests of small states and their residents are. This also means, as it turns out, that the conservative bias of the Senate is actually small. Real, but small. But on the other hand, thinking that small states have some set of common interests that could be crushed by the large states if not for the protection of the Senate is also silly. Delaware and Montana, Vermont and Wyoming, have little in common except for excess representation.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 6:14 AM on August 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


• Elected officials will not be provided healthcare coverage under any Federal group plan.
• Elected officials will be required to enter the private market and pay for their own healthcare coverage.


The health care reform law requires that in 2014 when the state exchanges are up and running, Members of Congress and their staff purchase their health insurance through the exchanges, rather than from FEHBP.
posted by naoko at 7:48 AM on August 9, 2010


The main problem is that in order to get elected to anything, you need millions of dollars to do it, and in order to get the millions of dollars, you have to pander to Corporations. So Corporations get the final say in everything because they put who they want in whatever office they want, drowning out the voice of the people.

Why not just institue a, say, $10,000 fund for every politician running for every federal office, paid for with tax dollars, that a detailed accounting of every cent is submitted to the public after the votes are tallied? And anyone that goes over gets disqualified. Anyone spending private money gets disqualified. If there's any left over when it's all said and done, it goes back into the fund for the next guy. That way, normal everyday folk can actually stand a chance at getting to represent all the other normal everyday people.

I think it's a shame that our voices and opinions don't matter to any elected chucklehead because in the end, we don't sign the fund-raising checks.

Kurt Vonnegut said something to the effect that in America, there are two groups of people.... the Haves and The Have Nots. And in the group of The Haves, there are two groups.... the Republicans and the Democrats. Neither party gives a shit about the Everyman, unless he donates largely to their campaigns.

Just a random thought.
posted by From the Fortress at 11:30 AM on August 9, 2010


(Gore may have won the popular vote in 2000, but the voting public pretty much said "Eh. Whichever").


cite please


Gore won by around half a million votes (less than 1% of the votes cast). In Florida the vote differential was around 100-200 votes (it's impossible to tell exactly, because that's well below the margin of error for this sort of thing). I'm not happy that Bush won, but the national popular vote was pretty much a tie and, by state, it was the smallest victory margin in history (Wikipedia has some awesome information on this, and other, elections. Hayes v Tilden was pretty wild and I can't imagine that people were happy when John Quincy Adams, who was 10% down in the popular vote, became President).
posted by It's Never Lurgi at 2:12 PM on August 10, 2010


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