Much has been said about the need for the Republican Party to create a “Contract with America 2.0.” It seems hopeful that party officials are thinking about this, particular leaders in the Republican House caucus. Such a Contract should include all of the major areas of interest to the traditional conservative alliance (Social, Financial, and Defense conservatives). I’m of the decided opinion that such a Contract, appealing to these three factions by offering common-sense solutions and ideas to current hot-button issues (abortion, immigration, defense, budget, government spending, etc.) would deliver a majority in the House for the Republican Party. Such a Contract may even deliver a majority in the Senate.
However, I think there is another group of constituents that the Republican Party should try to win over that could offer Republicans a chance at a super-majority in the next two election cycles. This is the group of people, most likely conservative or moderate in sensibilities, who habitually stay at home on Election Day or vote third party simply because they no longer think that the current two parties represent them. This is, I think, a logical outcome of many of the current political realities of our current Republic and the continued disintegration of the form of government our Founders designed the Republic to be.
The last 5 years have shown us that corruption is rampant in both parties. It has also shown us that, while politicians talk strongly about “ethics” and “cleaning up the corruption,” once they get to Washington, very few of them actually do it. There are reasons for this, especially in the election of Representatives: very few incumbents actually face competitive races. In 2008, for example, four (out of 435) Representatives lost their primary reelection bids. Only 19 lost their general election campaigns. This meant that only 5.3% of the House actually turned over because of an incumbent losing his or her reelection bid. In 2006, the year Democrats seized control of the House, only two members lost their primary reelection bids while 22 incumbents lost their reelection bids. Again, this represents only 5.5% of the House membership. In 1994, the year of the Republican Revolution, a whopping 34 incumbents lost reelection, bringing the percentage of incumbents who lost their reelection to an anemic 7.8% of the total membership of the House.
For comparison, in 2006, six incumbent Senators (out of 33 races) lost their reelection bids. This represents an 18.2% of the seats up for reelection in 2006. Five incumbent Senators (out of 35) lost reelection in 2008, representing 14.3% of the seats up for reelection.
The power of incumbency should not work this way. The Founders believed that the House of Representatives should represent the current mood of the populace, whereas the Senate should be a more steady check on the passions of the day. House Members should be more vulnerable to the shifting to the current mood of the country. Unfortunately, a host of small, large, gradual, and sudden changes have chipped away at form of government our Founders gave us.
One of the greatest problems in our Republic right now is that voters simply feel disconnected and frustrated with our elected officials. This is true of registered Republicans, Democrats, and Independents and citizens from all political persuasions: libertarian, liberal, conservative, or moderate. In short, through corruptions of the Founders’ original intentions, the political structure in Washington has become disconnected from the common people. The average citizen, despite the recent Tea Parties and Moveon.org-type organizations, feels that they really have no power over their government.
Our Republic has lost many important elements of Democracy.
I firmly believe that the Republican Party should be able to answer these voters’ concerns. Below are several ideas that I think Republicans should present as ideas for helping to beat corruption and make Congress more accountable to voters. I hope to discuss each one in future diaries.
1. Term Limits – This was in the 1994 Contract with America, and should have been hammered away throughout Republican control of Congress.
2. Outlaw gerrymandering – Both parties have practiced this heavily recently to protect incumbents, thus working against the basic premises that the Founders had that the House should be in a constant state of change.
3. Increase the size of the House – Representatives currently represent anywhere from 544,270 constituents to almost a million, with an average of 650,000 constitutions per Representative. The Founders required 1 Representative for no more than 40,000 constitutions, and George Washington argued that even this was too many for one Representative and wanted it reduced to 30,000. For comparison, most other representative bodies in the West have members who represent between 80,000 and 130,000 constituents.
4. Electoral College Reform – Require States to award votes based on congressional district results instead of the current “winner takes all” approach that we currently have.
5. Require States to cover House Members’ budgets.
6. Pass universal suffrage – Allow minors’ guardians to vote in abstentia for them.
7. Cede the residential areas of DC back to Maryland.
These are not ideas that are Republican v. Democrat or conservative v. liberal. These solutions are sensible solutions to some very real problems that have developed in our Republic.
However, from a pragmatic standpoint, since I feel that the vast majority of Americans are decent, conservative, traditional, hard-working citizens, I believe these changes would represent a long-standing net benefit for the Republican Party, since we are the party that currently represents those types of citizens.
I must emphasize that, while I think most of the above solutions would benefit Republicans in the long-run, that is NOT the reason I am suggesting them. I am suggesting them because they are steps to help return the U.S. government to U.S. citizens.