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Is it Time for the House to Expand?

1:30 PM, Dec 27, 2010 • By JAY COST
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I share Jacoby's sentiment that the House of Representatives is not terribly representative any more, but I think that increasing the size of the chamber might actually end up making it less so. I think the only sure solution for long term change in the House is for the American electorate to start paying more attention to what its members are doing. For too many decades, the story of House elections has been that the incumbent holds the overwhelming advantage -- members who win election to the House are exceedingly likely to win reelection, regardless of whether they deserve it. Is it any wonder, then, that the House of Representatives has become so unresponsive to the people's interests? The battle over Obamacare was a great case in point -- it was almost as if many House Democrats simply couldn't believe that a vote against their constituents on such a salient issue would lead to their defeat. Who can blame them for thinking this way? For decades, House members have essentially been able to do what they have wanted without fear of losing their jobs!

More than anything else, that is what needs to change -- and the best to change this is for people to start paying more attention to what their government is doing, and voting out members who aren't getting the job done. (This includes greater attention to primaries, a lever of power that the public rarely uses. It's high time for parties to start policing the members who have the privilege of carrying the party label in government.) The size of the House won't affect its responsiveness to the needs of the public so long as the public is ready, willing, and able to reelect their members regardless of desert. On the other hand, if members start to realize that voters are watching them carefully, they'll be more responsive to their constituents, even if there are nearly 750,000 of them.

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