It is a pretty straight forward question. Do you trust your Congressman? Just to help frame your thought process on this one a little bit. Have you ever trusted someone that you never met? I realize that this answer may be different for other people, but for me, I find it nearly impossible to trust someone that I have never met in person. To look directly into someone’s eyes as I am having a conversation with a person is pretty much required for me to gain full faith that the individual means what he says.
So, if I have never, even for the briefest of moments, met any candidate running for Congress, how can I determine who I trust enough to not just use the office for personal gain once elected? Since each Congressman represents approximately 750,000 people, none of the candidates are going to make any real investment in meeting me, so that I can have that conversation where I look him in the eye to gain my trust. Instead, the candidates will completely abandon this attribute all together and simply try to appeal to me in some other way. At best this will result in getting a Congressman with goals in line with mine. However, if he is just going to use his new position to consolidate power around himself while merely pandering enough to the electorate to keep him in office, I will never know, because I never got to meet the guy.
I feel like this is a real problem that has slowly eroded our government’s ability to properly represent the population, because the voters never get a chance to assess whether or not the candidates for office come off as sleaze balls in person. TV is no substitute for face to face, and a rally where one person is addressing hundreds is no better.
So, having stated my problem with the system, how can we ever overcome this issue? I propose that Congressmen should represent far fewer people than they do today. The original US Constitution states that “The Number of Representatives shall not exceed one for every thirty Thousand.” While this does allow for a single Congressman to represent an infinite number of individuals, I’m not so sure the founders expected it to stretch all the way up to 750,000 from that initial number of 30,000.
There is a website, http://www.thirty-thousand.org/, which gives a little bit of background on how our government came to its current system that allows so few to represent so many. I am not proposing that we necessarily go back to one representative for every 30,000, but it just really needs to be a smaller number than it is today. And to make matters worse, the current system sets a fixed number of Representatives, so the proportion will simply continue to get further out of whack as the population grows.
As time drudges on, I expect the world’s problems to only get more complicated. Having more Congressmen available would go a long way to helping to solve some of these issues, and if it also means that it increases the percentage of voters that get to judge a candidate’s character by meeting him, first hand, then that will also help weed out more of the fakes, who are just interested in using elected office for personal gain.