Pack the Congress, not the Supreme Court

There are 435 members of House of Representatives.  Unlike the Senate, the number is not mandated by the Constitution.  It has been that way since 1913, save for one year when it was expanded to 437 to give new states of Alaska and Hawaii representation until the next federal election, whereupon it returned to 435.  When it was established in 1913, each congressman represented about 215,000 constituents.  When the nation entered World War II and America rose to a superpower, that congressman represented about 305,000 people.

Today, that member represents about 760,000 constituents.

As a result, the distance between the people and the elected official who represents them in a republican form of government has become almost unbridgeable.  In a government Lincoln prayerfully, maybe overoptimistically, believed was of, by, and for those people, not only are the people denied reasonable access and pleading to their elected officials, but they are superseded by the donors, lobbyists, interest groups, and media for the ear (and votes) of that official.  Your solicitation will get a computer-generated form letter reply; the CEO will get lunch.

A century ago, your congressman was neighbor John from the same town or county whom you could meet at the Fourth of July parade or Little League opener.  You could ask him about taxes or the highway paving or your worries about wars.  He lived among you.  Now he is a suzerain with a protective entourage who cares little about you or your problems.  He even has a razor wire fence to keep you away.  If he leaves the Congress, he likely will not come home but will settle in the tony Washington suburbs, milking the spoils of his "public service" off the federal teat.

So how do "We the People" regain control of the government that has been transformed into a political oligarchy of less than 500 feudal lords?

We expand the Congress.  A lot.

For today's population to match a ratio near that of the original 435 representatives, we would need 1,069 House members.  Let's round that to maybe 1,000, or 999, just to preclude tie votes for a two-party split.

About the only argument one could make opposing that change would be that there is not enough space for desks and offices.  So expand the space.  Small Statuary Hall in the Capitol was once the House chamber before they added the current wing.  On the other hand, with the new gimmicks like proxy voting and other secretive exploits, do we even need the expanded space?  The chamber is seldom full save for ceremonial functions and, lately, show trials.  Do the State of the Union address by texting.

What about the pros for the expansion?

Even with their deep pockets, the lobbyists and donors would be financially bounded in controlling and bribing so many officials with so many mindsets.  A smaller district in both geography and population would require smaller personal staffs, who have themselves become officious unelected gauleiters.  Key votes of bills that now allow a select few leaders and whips to control the outcomes and laden the pork would be less likely.  Party apparatchiks would have less control and persuasion over so many diversely opinioned members, even within their own party.

Gerrymandering would be less effective, since the smaller district demography would make it hard to contort the boundaries that now make Elbridge Gerry envious.  In the current gerrymandered districts, which statistically guarantee over 90% re-election rates and lifetime incumbencies, up to 45% of the electorate are forever disenfranchised into a politically designed minority.

Pompous, arrogant, imperious Representative Smedley Horntooter from Harvard would be replaced by Mary Smith the restaurant-owner from over on Elm Street and Tom Ramirez the car dealer in nearby Pleasantville.  She and he would be interested in your problems, not those of the Chamber of Commerce or Amazon or the Teamsters Union.  We could end up with a Congress reflecting its voters, not selecting them.

Democrats now want to expand the Supreme Court, not for expanding the diversity of thought and ideology of that Court to better reflect the collective sense and conscience of the American people, but to inflict a narrow ideology and constitutional attrition upon the same.

Their goals are nefarious.  But their specious rationale for expanding the Court should then apply to expanding the Congress, albeit for countervailing reasons, which are to better represent the people as Lincoln, Jefferson, and the 56 signers who pledged, and paid with, their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honors, so desired.

A Republic — res publica — a thing of the people, as Benjamin Franklin cautioned if you could keep it.  How novel.  It could even make America great again.

So, Pack the Court?  No, Pack the Congress.

William Campenni is a retired engineer and Air Force fighter pilot who writes about things that really bug him, of which there is no short supply.