I've solved the government, just tell me how to do it

A lot of people seem disatisfied with the way our government works. I don’t claim to be an expert, nor did I stay in a Holiday Inn Express last night, but I’ve seen various ideas that make a lot of sense. I think we should eliminate the senate (because geographical area should mean nothing for representation), increase the size of the house by 3 or 4 or 10 fold (to make each rep beholden to a smaller constituency), implement proportional representation in the house (to deter a two-party system), and eliminate first-past-the-post voting in favor of preferential voting at all levels (to deter strategic voting, gerrymandering, etc).

Now that my superior vision of government is established, is there any reality where enacting these sorts of major constitutional changes is remotely plausible? Hurdle number 1 is getting the Ds and the Rs to agree to work together to vastly reduce their own power. Hurdle number 2 is convincing the American people that New is Better, and Hurdle number 3 would be figuring out how to actually pull together a constitutional convention to overhaul the thing.

But… could it be done?

That’s hurdles 1 through 1,568, really.

Hurble 1569 is actually coming up with a new system to put to a vote, which you haven’t clearly done, as evidenced by the fact that you contradict yourself in your own explanation of your idea; you say Congresspeople will be beholden to a smaller constituency, but then go for proportional representation, which means they may not have a “constituency.” Or are you going for a mix of the two, which some places do? If it’s proportional representation why is gerrymandering even an issue, anyway?

The thing is that all your fixes are complicating the system more and all will - very correctly, I might add - be perceived as being to someone’s advantage and someone else’s disadvantage. That’s Hurdle 1570; coming up with a system that does not obviously help the party who comes up with the idea. When the Liberals were elected in Canada last October they promised electoral reform but didn’t exactly say what it might be. Then, without apparently consulting anyone, they came up with a great idea; a system that would have allowed them to win the election by an even greater margin than they did. What a coincidence! If put to a referendum, its opponents will quite rightly point out that they appear to be proposing the change solely because it benefits them. But had they proposed, say, proportional representation, that would have meant they wouldn’t have won a majority government, and how the hell do you sell THAT to your own party faithful?

Does your plan permit smaller states to be annexed by larger states adjacent to them? Living in a small state, you would have virtually no voice, and you might want to become part of a larger neighboring state without moving.

If you want to have proportional representation and preferential voting for candidates, you need larger rather than smaller constituencies, electing several members for the same constituency (Single Transferable Vote as in Ireland), or you have two classes of members - one lot elected for constituencies, and a separate set of MPs elected from party lists to make the final result more (but inevitably not wholly) proportional (Additional Member System, as in Germany, and for the Scottish Parliament and the Greater London Assembly).

That’s what I’m picturing, yes. We’d still have districts, but probably larger than current districts so that each one can have 6-12 representatives. I don’t know how the math will need to work, but I feel like people still need someone to write a letter to if they’re upset or pleased; naturally, if their party swept the district, they’d have multiple representatives to choose from.

It may not be, but I think it still might. Better to have preferential voting within the district in case your preferred party is too small to claim a representative slot. I have no idea how that’d work to be honest, but that’s for the academics to figure out. Didn’t I mention the academics? They’ll solve all the details :slight_smile:

Oh, let’s say the minimum representative district size will be set by the state with the smallest population. If American Somoa gets 1, that’s at least 6000 representatives. Too many? Maybe. If Wyoming gets 2, that’s only 600; clearly not enough. So somewhere in that range, and we’ll figure out what to do with our island friends.

Your ideas intrigue me, and I’d like to subscribe to your newsletter.

I can picture a number of incremental changes Americans might try, first being district-level electoral votes (as is the case currently in Maine and Nebraska) followed by the establishment of a nonpartisan federal agency to register voters and draw district lines based solely on data from the census and other government agencies at the state and federal level.

Abolishing the Senate is overreaching, though. Sober second thought is (ideally) the Senate’s function and it’s important, considering how fucked up the House can get.

Why would that matter? What voter expresses himself or his power based on what state he lives in? My representative represents me regardless of how big my state is.

Or if you have true proportional representation, you have no constituencies (House districts) at all.

In such a system, everyone would vote for all of the House members from that state, and they’d be proportioned out by that vote. So if 50% of the voters voted Democrat, half of the seats would go to Democrats, etc.

Dry as the Sahara, this one.

Fairvote lobbies for voting reform: they are currently pushing ranked choice voting. They have had some successes. I’m wondering about how we could get the donor class interested.

Too kind :slight_smile:

If you’re really interested, this was a topic I chose for a sample “information briefing” assignment in my Master’s degree, basically an outline commentary on sources of information for different aspects of the debate over a particular proposal for electoral reform in the UK, including a fair amount of international comparisons. But that was nearly 20 years ago.

But a good overview of the different sorts of systems is at

This looks like a better and more comprehensive overview:


What if 85% of what affects your life is local, not Federal, government? Then, wouldn’t the solution to government be figuring out how to get more people interested in and knowledgeable about their local politics and politicians?

To get hired on as a politician in the Federal government, you at least need to be a little smart. Who’s running your local school board?

I’m not sure what you’re driving at. I merely propose a less radical alteration of the American electoral system than the OP advanced.

-District-level voting (by which I mean a state’s electoral votes are allocated per district and not popular-vote-winner-takes-the-whole-state) already exists in two states.

-A federal agency to register voters and draw electoral lines could be set up - Canada has had one for nearly a century.

-A bicameral legislature, where the “upper” house has fewer members elected to longer terms is (ideally) less prone to short term pressures and (again, ideally) will be able to resist ill-considered legislation passed in the heat of the moment. The U.S. Senate currently is not fulfilling that function, I admit, but I’d still be hesitant to abolish the institution as the OP proposes.

It kind of matters a bit. Gun legislation appropriate for New York City might not be relevant for rural Nebraska.

I’m not sure why “more is better” here. I mean it’s still representative of the same pool of stupid Americans.
You don’t really describe what “problem” of government you are trying to solve. What many people don’t realize is that the inefficiency, bureaucracy and inability of government to “get stuff done” is by design. You know why “got stuff done”? The Nazis.
Indeed, if the current presidential campaigns have demonstrated anything, it’s the a democracy by/of/for the people tends to focus on personality and populist policies regarding social issues that really have little bearing on the country, rather than the more mundane but more effective aspects of government like building roads and effective schools.

Make the lower house proportional and only 99 members plus the VP. However, only 33 members are up for change every year so a party needs at least 3% vote to get a seat, and members will have some time to build up expertise and also a modicum of independence since their term is longer.

Make the upper house have the same duties as the Senate, but double the initial membership to 200 members, cross-state, equal-population constituencies drawn by an independent election commission. The reason for the reduction in members vis a vis the current house is to still have some deliberation and congeniality possible.

Implement term limits such that a 2-term president is unable to run again for any state or national elected office but gets a guaranteed extra seat in the upper house for life. Implement similar term limits on all other national and state positions that are elected by popular vote (as opposed to appointed or PR) based on a formula which weighs time of service versus the importance of the position, so a lowly state rep might have to have 32 years of service before term limit kicks in, however, if they then become governor or elected upper house member, that time of service will still count toward their term limit. Thus we can solve the term limit “issue” inasmuch as it exists, along with the argument that “term limits rob us of needed experience”. Plus we will have a voice in the legislature that is completely unbeholden to anyone except impeachment.

Likewise the UK, and I’d imagine a great many other countries too. It really isn’t that difficult, provided the politicians will (or are made to) let professional civil servants do their job.

(That said, the process of boundary reviews in the UK always produces some interesting arguments from the political parties as to whether the people of Puddleford - who tend on the whole to vote for Party X - naturally consider as their local centre for shopping and services Barchester (which just happens to vote safely for Party X) or Middletown (a marginal constituency mostly held by Party Y with narrow majorities).


I’m not trying to be overly condescending here, but did you pay ANY attention in your history and government classes growing up?

The US is a little different than most European democracies, in that our system didn’t evolve out of an absolutist system that gained democratic features through time like most constitutional monarchies. The US was a loose union of individual more or less sovereign states that chose to unite and delegate a portion of their power to the central Federal government. The states retained a whole lot of powers to themselves- i.e. the Federal government has absolutely no jurisdiction in those matters, except where Federal law or the Constitution trumps the states in those matters.

This is kind of like the underlying spice that flavors pretty much everything with American government- electoral rules, legal decisions, etc…

As such, the states are kind of the operating unit in play in most cases, and the Senate is expressly intended to give smaller states an equal voice in at least one part of government, while the House is intended to give the people a voice in proportion to their numbers.

But we still have a Federal government, meaning that the States send their representatives to the House and Senate, not the people of the US, and without some massive structural change to eliminate the Federal system of government, and some kind of top-down legitimacy structure instead of the more bottom-up one we have, you’re not going to be able to get proportional representation by party at a national level, or get rid of the Senate.

I’d argue that what might actually be useful would be going **back **to having the state legislatures choose the senators, rather than direct popular vote. This would further divorce them from popular vagaries and stupidities, and allow them to better fulfill the stabilizing role that the Senate was intended to fill.

And… the popularity of Trump and Cruz made me realize something; the electoral college could be seen as a theoretical last-resort backstop for preventing a total asshole from actually being elected. Since electors can be faithless, there’s nothing that is forcing them to actually vote for a particular candidate and in theory, if a candidate was odious enough, there might actually be enough faithless electors to make a difference in the election for the better.

A bunch of Republican cunts. Don’t get me started on my local school board elections, but suffice it to say, I don’t think fixing local government and fixing federal government are mutually exclusive tasks. And everything applies to my state, where we also have FPTP voting, a bicameral legislature, a broken 2-party system, and horribly drawn district lines. I suppose I could start there. Same same, but different.

Sure, but why does rural Nebraska get 1/50th of the vote, same as New York City? I meant size of geographical area shouldn’t matter for representation, just population. I’m sure Nebraskans would disagree… one of the many hurdles to change.

ISTM that more representatives are a requirement for proportional representation to work. It’s just the way the numbers work, if district 14 from Pennsylvania is 25% Republican, 10% Tea Party, 15% Libertarian, 10% Green, 35% Democrat, and 10% Socialists, then ideally there’d be 10 representatives from that district proportioned accordingly. That’s a lot of reps for just 1 district, which means a lot more reps in the House. And I’m OK with that.

Strategic voting, the two party system, and gerrymandering. There will still be gridlock under my new system, for sure. But right now the entire Republican party is able to project the power of a much smaller percentage of conservative evangelicals because they’re all on the same team, but if they had to convince 6 other parties to take away gay rights, it would never happen, because libertarians just wouldn’t get on board and they wouldn’t be beholden to that party line. Sure, the Republicans could try to quid pro quo the Libertarians into agreeing with them on something, but with more parties present, it wouldn’t be a sure thing. Libertarians might not want to anger centrist Democrats who might be agreeable to tax cuts at some point in the future, for instance.

But nice job godwinizing the thread :slight_smile:

Yeah, I paid attention and I understand the history, and I’m sure it worked pretty well in the days of a massively disenfranchised electorate and horseback riding, but the times, they have a-changed. I don’t see the need anymore.

Add to the above that when runners are on first and second bases, and the batter hits a pop fly with a trajectory that would have it land either within the infield or less than six feet fron the infield (although still in fair territory), the at-bat will be scored as an OUT, and the baserunners will be entitled to return to their bases, EXCEPT when either baserunner is a second cousin to the pitcher of record at the moment they reached their base, with the proviso that if both runners are pinch runners, and they are second cousins to one another, the at-bat shall be scored as a triple-play, and credited to the bat boy.