Time for a Unicameral Legislature?
Last comment by theflyonthewall 9 months, 2 weeks ago.

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Our present form of government is the product of Enlightenment political theory,the colonial experience,and a weak sense of national identity. The House was designed to represent the interests of the states. The Senate represented the interests of the nation. House and Senate were balanced to insure that the large states did not dominate the small states , and for most of our history the system worked quite well.

Unfortunately, things are not working so well right now. Witness the recent kerfuffle over raising the debt ceiling, the ongoing war against Obamacare, our ongoing political paralysis. Government seemingly cannot respond to immediate crisis let alone chart a course for the for the future ---so we drift and fall further and further behind the rest of the world.

Given the great changes that have overtaken the world in the last two hundred years, perhaps it is time to reassess some basic assumptions. Given the nature of the modern world, the interests of the nation have taken primacy over the interests of the individual states. National defense is a national interest. International trade is a national interest.Interstate commerce is a national interest.Energy policies are national in scope.Tort law should be uniform. Marriage laws need to be uniform. The sales tax , especially in the age of Internet shopping, needs to be uniform.Pollution does not honor state boundaries--- so why do we cling to relics of the eighteenth century?

In a better world the House and the Senate would work together to conduct the nation's business. In practice this has not happened ,and large part of the problem stems from the gerrymandering that has eviscerated the House. The House can no longer claim to be a representative body because representatives stay in power because of support from special interest groups and statistical legerdemain.Congressmen remain in power because districts are carefully drawn to further the interests of a political party or a special interest group. As a result, we have the best political system that money can buy-- never mind the interests of the states or the voter.

The current system seems incapable of reform ,so perhaps it is time for drastic revision. A unicameral system would eliminate gerrymandering because there would be no need to draw and redraw House districts. We would then be left with the Senate which would mean that legislation could be passed in a more expeditious fashion. State interests could be insured if we increased the number of Senators from two for each state to three, meaning that each Senate delegation would represent the majority view of each state.We can soldier on with achingly predictable results or we can take a long hard look at our political system.


Latest Activity: Feb 15, 2014 at 6:30 PM


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Charles_and_Angie_Howell commented on Saturday, Feb 15, 2014 at 23:38 PM

I doubt this plan would receive much support from California, New York, Michigan, or Illinois. This plan would nullify the advantage of their large cities. Surprising, the plan would receive the greatest push back from Red states, who would probably gain the most in reality.

Interesting idea, though.

theflyonthewall commented on Sunday, Feb 16, 2014 at 10:14 AM

Because of the great diversity of interests present in California, Californians have long floated the idea of dividing the state into three separate states. Following the reasoning behind the idea, Texas could reasonably be divided into three separate states. States like Florida, New York, Illinois, and Georgia could be cut in half because North Florida differs greatly from SouthFlorida. North Georgia differs greatly from South Georgia and so on.Such decisions would be left to the voters of the individual states with certain caveats in order to avoid such bizarre creations as the state of Petroleum or the state of Detroit.Another idea might be to assign overseas Americans specific senatorial representation since their votes frequently end up in the dumpster, hanging chads or no.

Bryant commented on Monday, Feb 17, 2014 at 12:27 PM

Fly, I don't know if the current dysfunction is the result of structure, the 24 hour news cycle, or the elevation of personal interest in re-election and party over the needs of the people and the nation. Most likely, a combination of all three.

But, I do believe a unicameral legislature would not solve the problems posed by the other two factors. Mainstream media - liberal and conservative- wants soundbites and controversy. In-depth reporting (unless it's about the death of a celebrity) is no longer fit for their precious airtime. Let's get those ratings and move on to the next subject fit for 90 seconds of broadcast.

And let's not ignore the problem of the minuscule attention span of the American public - once again, unless it's the death of Michael Jackson or Phillip Seymour Hoffman or some other "star". How many people do you know who can knowledgeably discuss the current Syrian situation? Afghanistan and US troop withdrawal? The public on both sides of center seize upon media sound bites, diatribes perpetrated by whichever pundit position they agree with, and -rather than informed discussion of facts- proceeds to engage in loud arguments parroting what they recently heard on TV or radio.

Rather than voter ID rules to address a non-problem perhapes we ought to require a current events test before voting.

theflyonthewall commented on Monday, Feb 17, 2014 at 16:09 PM

Bryant, The whole exercise was really a thought experiment because all of those guys in the House would not be happy about such a change! I would like to believe that the malaise you have described is a temporary aberration or lingering fin de siecle indigestion and not a terminal condition.


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