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Representation (a Political Issue)


Introduction

The citizens in a democratic society should to be able to lead their own lives the way they want, as long as they are not doing harm, and their lives and interests should be protected by the government. Since we cannot all get involved in every aspect of our government, we must elect individuals who we will authorize to represent honestly us as our delegates or agents in the government. For this to work, we need to have every expectation that they will act in our best interest. The problem is that our Representatives do not always represent all of us. Instead, they often represent their political party, special interests or themselves.

The biggest problem with our current representation is that it takes a lot of money to get elected to political office. Therefore, our Representatives must spend a lot of time, if not the majority of their time, doing fund raising. This means spending a lot of time with individuals and groups that have the money to help their campaigns, while taking time away from the real work that they were elected to do, and leaving them with little time to listen to their average constituent. In addition, this need for money has often led to corruption.

The solution to most of these problems can be found by eliminating the Political Parties and by instituting a New Electoral Process. Once this is done, our Representatives will have more time to concentrate on the job of running our government for us, to listen to us and to keep us informed as to what our government is doing.

Staff

Many of our Representatives need a staff to help with the administrative aspects of their jobs. In general, the more constituents a Representative has, the more staff he or she will need. Currently, whenever the new representative is from a different political party than the previous representative, a whole new staff is usually brought in. This leads to a loss of most or all of the knowledge and experience that the previous staff had accumulated.

In order to maintain persistence of knowledge, most of the staff should remain when a new Representative takes over. Without political parties, there should not be a problem with inheriting partisan staff members. Of course Representatives should be allowed to choose their closest advisors and administrative assistances, but most of the staff should stay in place to help out the new Representative to acclimate to his or her new position. Over time, there would be the normal turnover of personnel, just as it would occur in any business or other office.

The one potential problem with having the same staff for any length of time is that the staff could start to accumulate a lot of power by being able to control access to the Representative. All of a Representative’s constituents should have equal access. Therefore, procedures will need to be in place to prevent the Representative’s staff from exerting too much control over who is allowed to make an appointment. Of course, controls would also need to be in place to prevent certain constituents from wasting or monopolizing a Representative’s time.

Communication

One very important aspect of a Representative’s job should be to communicate with his or her constituents to keep them informed about what is going on in their government. Without the need for fund raising, our Representatives would have much more time available to devote to running the government, to representing us, and to communicating with us.

The first thing to do is to establish a web site or to enhance an existing web site for each local, state or national government that would provide a convenient place to get any information about what is going on in the government. This information should also be available at the government offices. There should be links to all past and present bills and other legislative actions. There should be the complete text of each bill. For past bills, there would be a complete voting record. For present bills, there would be information on when they would be coming up for a vote.

With the exception of some emergency actions, there should be a requirement that the final wording of all bills would need to be posted with enough lead time so that interested parties could review them and comment on them before a vote is taken. Each Representative would also have a site where they would post their comments on each bill and give his or her reasons for voting for or against the bill and where their constituents could post their comments.

In addition, Representatives’ contact information and schedules would be available at their offices and on their public web sites. Part of a Representative’s schedule should be devoted to more regularly scheduled town hall style meetings and office hours for talking to constituents. Anyone could attend one of these town hall meetings or could schedule time during office hours, on a first come first serve basis with special emphasis on talking with new people first.

These face to face meetings would allow a Representative and his or her constituents to talk about the issues and to exchange ideas on what to do in the future. At these meetings, one very important part of a Representative’s job would be to explain what our government was doing and why.

The Majority or Everyone

When voting in a democracy, the majority rules. The person with the most votes will get elected to office. A bill that gets more votes for it than against it will get passed into law. In general, this is better than someone or some small group making the decisions for everyone. In the case of an election, the majority is probably the best that can be done, since we need to elect someone and there will always be differences of opinion as to who would do a better job.

In many cases, majority rule is just not the best way to handle things. Just think about the next time you are in a lunch time meeting and the group sends out for pizza. Should everyone have to get vegetarian or pepperoni just because that is what the majority wanted? No, you want a selection so that everyone can get something that they like.

Another obvious example is religion. In the United States, the majority of the population is Christian. If we were to vote for a national religion, then Christianity would most likely get the majority of the votes. Fortunately, in the United States, this should never happen, because we believe in the freedom of religion. We think it is wrong, even for the majority, to dictate what we believe and how we worship. Unfortunately, in some other countries, this is not always the case.

Currently, there are many laws and regulations that force people to live their lives in a way that is against their beliefs. In some cases, this is good and necessary. For instance, we cannot condone people living their lives as thieves or con artists, because they would end up hurting others. On the other hand, there are many things that the majority of the people may not like other people doing, but these things would not really harm them if others did them. Just because someone does something that goes against other people’s beliefs does not mean it does those other people any real direct or indirect harm, no matter how strongly they disapprove of what that someone else is doing.

Therefore, our Representatives need to remember that we are not all alike and that what is best for the majority may not be best for everyone. Our Representatives must ensure that our laws and regulations give people the option, when it does not harm others, to live their lives with the liberty to pursue their happiness according to their beliefs. An important thing to remember is that none of us is always in the majority on every issue, so if we do not want others to dictate our lifestyles when we are in the minority, then we should not dictate their lifestyles when we are in the majority.

Override

Even with the better representation that would come from changing our electoral process and improving communication, our Representatives still may not always do what we want. Of course, we would still have the option of electing a new representative, but elections may be years off and even a recall may take a significant amount of time. Therefore, elections and recalls would not solve the immediate problem of our Representative voting for an unpopular law, not voting for a popular one or not introducing a bill that we wanted.

What we need is a process to allow us to override our Representative’s vote. Except for bills that were needed to cover some emergency or that passed by some super majority, all votes for or against a bill should remain tentative for some period. This period of time would be long enough for the people to override their Representative’s vote, if needed. However, before a vote could be overridden, there would need to be a process for people to show why overriding the vote would be better than letting the Representative's vote stand. Maybe a petition would need to be made to a special appeals court.

For instance, if an override effort was approved and enough signatures could be obtained within some specified time frame, a special vote could be scheduled to determine how our Representative should have voted. To prevent misuse of this process, this vote would require some super majority (maybe 60%) to override our Representative’s vote. Once it was determined that there would be no overrides, that all overrides had been made or that any outstanding override attempts would not change the outcome, the bill would receive its final status.

Reelection

Before the end of a Representative’s term of office, the electoral Boards would begin the process of taking applications for the next election. When this process starts would be determined by how long it is reasonably expected to get all the applications, to do all the screening and to conduct the campaigning, and no longer. By keeping the process restricted to a narrow window of time, it would cause the least disruption to the Representative’s time on the job, and help keep the public’s interest until Election Day.

During the campaigning, the current Representative, who was up for reelection, would be treated like any other candidate. He or she would go to the same gatherings as all the other candidates and get the same advertising rights. If the Representative still needed to conduct town hall meeting to discuss current legislative issues, then all the other candidates should be invited to participate as well.

Next Section

Economic Issues - Introduction to the Economic Issues affecting Our Future Path.

Last Updated:
Sunday, November 26, 2017
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