Do You Feel Represented?

by Frank Wycoff

February 16, 2004   


"No one can read our Constitution without concluding that the people who wrote it wanted their government severely limited; the words 'no' and 'not' employed in restraint of government power occur 24 times in the first seven articles of the Constitution and 22 more times in the Bill of Rights."
--Edmund A. Opitz

Why is it every time an election comes around I feel so un-represented? One man, the president, supposedly represents 290 million people; two (mostly white; mostly men) represent millions from each state in the Senate; and then we have the House of Representatives, 435 members representing 667,000 people each. Well, let's leave the president and the senators alone for now -- one does not want to start a revolution -- and talk about the House of Representatives.

Our Founding Fathers may have thought a little about the average Joe when they set up the first House, composed of 65 members, to represent about 60 thousand people per member. How did they reach this ratio? I don't know, but in the first two centuries as population grew so did the House, until the 1920s or thereabout, when the current number of representatives was reached and stopped growing for whatever reasons, possibly due to the Great Depression and the two World Wars (if anyone has a better explanation, feel free to comment). So, in 1920 there were 435 house members representing about 250,000 people each and in 2004, each member represents 667,000 people. I am not a constitutional scholar by any means, but from what I have researched for this article there were no amendments on this issue to the US Constitution either before or after 1920. So what the devil is going on? No wonder all my voting life I have felt so un-represented -- even more so since I have read that representation in European Union (EU) countries is more along the lines of 45,000-70,000 people per representative.

Here again, I know nothing about how the EU country governments are set up but somewhere within each of them is a legislative body that represents the people far better than our own House. What if we received the same representation, one House member for every 60,000 people? Yes, I know, that would be 4,833 representatives, going rapidly on 5,000... So what, just move a few statues out of the way!

Now, here is where my imagination gets going. I could be wrong, but one could see a very diverse group of people in a 5,000-member House. The possibilities of voting for a person that represents you and the area you are from would be far greater. Unheard of, so to speak, a twenty-year-old House member; a single mother of two who has been on welfare; a retired plumber who has been through a layoff; possibly a former homeless person; better yet, someone who earns around $30,000 a year, just your average working, go out on Friday night Joe-six-pack. Throwing these folks into the mix with the wealthy lawyers, doctors, robber barons, and professional politicians might be a bit chaotic for a while, but I assure you it would be interesting and certainly far more representative of the whole country. And what about four, five or six political parties to replace the half a dozen Republicrats or the six Democratans (or Democrétins, if you prefer)? Talk about a changing set of cards!

From my area I could see a small farmer... Just how many farmers have been in the House? Not many, I'm sure, at least not since our slave-holding Founding Fathers. You could do the same thing where you live, be it a college, a manufacturing or hi-tech town, even a residential, suburban area or many of the Indian Nations still surviving across the land. Each area would have its own unique issues, and common ones too, brought to Washington through its representatives. You can bet going off to war somewhere would not be in the top ten issues for a vote!

Whether a good or bad idea, it surely would help many voters (like myself) who struggle every four years to find a presidential candidate that represents their views of the world. I've never come close, always had to settle on the guy who wants to legalize drugs, or, as when Ford and Carter were the "choices," on Mickey Mouse. Better representation would make voting for both president and senators a little less bitter knowing there's someone in the House who is from the same planet.

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Frank Wycoff is a true friend of Swans, literally. Even more, he was one of the five crazies who launched Swans in 1996, and while not contributing his words for several years, he has helped in countless ways, quietly, in the background, to keep the project going. Frank Wycoff used to have a small printing business in California. He and his wife Nancy sold it in 1998 and relocated to Oneonta, New York, where he now works as an independent contractor around the houses, many of them in dire need of his expertise.

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Published February 16, 2004
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