Most people understand by now that in United States politics, general dysfunction and disagreement often get in the way of compromise and progress. It’s why I’ve argued in the past that our House of Representatives, in its current form, is not what our Founding Fathers wanted. Not that they didn’t want a branch of our government that represents the people, but 435 representatives? Nobody in their right minds would ever believe a grouping of people that large would ever yield anything efficient.
Just think about how things have been the last few years. How many times has the Senate worked on bipartisan deals President Obama said he would sign, only to have the deals die in the House of Representatives? If it weren’t for the House of Representatives our nation’s credit rating would have never been downgraded, we wouldn’t have had the sequestration cuts, we would have sensible immigration reform and our government would have never shut down.
Those (along with many others) are issues the House of Representatives has specifically been responsible for bungling.
While our Senate is far from perfect (it has its own issues) the upside is it only consists of 100 individuals who much more often actually find ways to govern. Granted, radicals like Rand Paul and Ted Cruz cause issues in the Senate, but they’re usually canceled out by others who are more inclined to compromise with one another because they’re not perpetually running for re-election.
Which is really why people like Cruz and Paul are such a pain in the ass right now. They’re not trying to be United States Senators, they’re campaigning for president.
But think about it. House representatives are almost always in perpetual campaign mode. They serve terms that are only two years long, and many of them spend half of that time gearing up for a primary challenge and general election.
Democrats aren’t innocent here either — both parties do it. Basically, the whole year prior to their next election the House of Representatives is on lockdown. Representatives walk around fearful of voting for or against anything that might hurt them during their next election.
However, with Republicans it’s a much bigger deal. With the tea party threatening to “primary” Republicans who don’t sign over their soul to their ideologies, many conservatives are facing primaries that might be much more challenging than the general election.
For many Republicans, any attempt to do anything besides pander to the radical extreme members of their party might end up in their own defeat at the hands of a tea party-backed Republican opponent. This doesn’t exactly set up the best environment for productive governing.
So when it comes to the House of Representatives, we might get 10 out of 24 months of a term where they might dare to take a risk on a piece of legislation. The rest of the time they’re simply working toward their next campaign.
At least with the Senate they’re locked in for 6 years. Granted, that length of a term has its downside as well. (Seriously, we’re stuck with Ted Cruz and Rand Paul until at least 2018.)
But isn’t the premise of the House of Representatives completely flawed based on our modern society? Originally the House was meant to be the “representative of the people,” but how exactly is it doing that? What it’s really turned into is a giant mess of representatives elected by such a diverse grouping of people that barely anything ever gets accomplished. Because let’s be honest, the people from rural Alabama and metro San Francisco aren’t anything alike. Hell, for all intents and purposes they might as well be from completely different countries.
And that’s the problem — this country is nearly divided in half between liberals and conservatives. What we end up having is what we have now, a split House where a handful of people determine a “majority,” then block everybody else from having any real power.
Right now, Republicans hold 231 House seats while Democrats hold 200. All it would take is seventeen seats to give Democrats back control of the House. That’s it.
Two hundred Democrats, representing the people, essentially have no power. Two hundred districts with no real representation because Republicans who control the House won’t allow anything to come to a vote unless it has the majority of the majority. Meaning that even if seventeen (or more) Republicans would side with Democrats on any given issue (such as immigration reform) it doesn’t matter, because the party in charge of the House won’t allow the measure to be brought up for a vote.
How is that functional?
Do people really believe this is what our Founding Fathers envisioned when they created the House of Representatives? A handful of people determining the fate of the entire nation? Because that’s exactly what we currently have.
If we ever want to fix our government, it starts by fixing the House of Representatives. Gerrymandering has been by far the biggest catalyst to why our House is so problematic. Just think about this for a moment — Democrats won the popular vote in the House last November by over 1.5 million votes, yet don’t hold majority control in the House of Representatives.
That’s a direct result of Republicans gerrymandering districts to weaken the Democratic vote come election time. The whole thing is one giant mess which I don’t see getting any better any time soon.
The only solution I can think of to deal with some of the issues we face is by reducing the number of representatives we assign to each state, followed by appointing a non-partisan third party to assign congressional districts.
Because right now, I think it’s obvious to nearly everyone that our House of Representatives is catastrophically broken.
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