Saturday, February 23, 2013


The Congress of the United States enjoys a popular approval rating of about 9%.

Which means that nine out of ten Americans do not feel properly represented in the legislative halls of our nation.

Almost sixty years ago, I was the Republican nominee for the United States Congress in the old fifteenth district of Michigan, a slice of the west side of Detroit.

It was a special election to fill a vacancy. There was a newspaper strike during that campaign. Only a fraction of the voters showed up.

I was 26 years old. My Democratic opponent was 29. He won in a walk. His name was John Dingell.

That was in 1955. John Dingell is still in Congress. His 58 year tenure in office is a record. He is the longest serving Member of the House in the history of the nation.

I like John. Always did. He’s a good old boy who takes care of his constituents and sticks by his Rooseveltian liberal principles.

But unhappily, Dingell has become the poster boy for entrenched politicians.

The old fifteenth district is no more. But Dingell survived, and was reelected to represent the new 12th district which stretches in a tortured bit of gerrymandering from Dearborn to Ann Arbor.

The quintessential career politician, Dingell has overseen the reapportioning of his district every ten years to maintain the ethnic and political majorities that have assured his continuation in office.

Now 86 years of age, Dingell is hardly the kind of Representative envisioned by the Founders. He is not likely to knock on anyone’s door or to be an active presence in the communities he represents.

To the three quarters of a million people in his district, Dingell is a distant, largely unknown entity. A Democrat. An incumbent. A politician. Somebody who lives and works in Washington, D.C., cavorts with lobbyists, votes himself benefits, and votes the Party line.

What is missing is the relationship between the representative and the represented.

What is missing is a sense of community, and the conviction that there is a member of Congress who is a part of the community he or she speaks for.

The original scheme of the federal constitution would have assured that Representatives in the Congress would speak for no more than 50,000 people.

If that ratio were in force today, the House of Representatives would be composed of over six thousand people.

Impossible? Impractical? Not necessarily.

Maybe it’s time for a two-tiered House of Representatives in the United States Congress.

Start with 435 seats in the House. That’s what it has been for over a century. There’s a lot of emotional capital and historical baggage in the Capitol Building.

But add this: in every Congressional district there could be a number of subdivisions, call them communities, ridings, wards, whatever. These sub-districts would each contain approximately 50,000 people.

Each sub-district would elect one Congressional Representative every two years.

Each Congressional District would have around 15 of these sub-districts. The Representatives would have to be residents of the sub-district in which they are elected. They would have offices in the district. They would receive a compensation equal to a private in the army.

Every two years, before the convening of a new Congress the Congressional Representatives in each District would designate one of their number to attend sessions of Congress in the Capitol. He or She would receive no additional compensation, but expenses of travel and lodging could be reimbursed.

The Congressional Representative designated to attend sessions of the Congress would be known as a Member of Congress. Members of Congress could be recalled by a vote of two thirds of the Congressional Representatives in the district.

There are many details which would have to be addressed, but the concept of a two-tiered House of Representatives deserves serious consideration.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013


It may seem a little blasphemous, but doggone it, the Father of the Constitution screwed up.

James Madison wrote the first ten amendments, which came to be known as the Bill of Rights.

Actually, there were twelve amendments, but the first two weren’t adopted. At least not right away. Number Two sat there for a couple hundred years until a college student in Texas dug it up and got it ratified as the 27th Amendment. It’s the one that says Congress can’t raise their own salaries during their term of office.

But the original First Amendment never did get adopted. Here’s what it says:

After the first enumeration required by the first article of the Constitution, there shall be one Representative for every thirty thousand, until the number shall amount to one hundred, after which the proportion shall be so regulated by Congress, that there shall be not less than one hundred Representatives, nor "more" than one Representative for every forty thousand persons, until the number of Representatives shall amount to two hundred; after which the proportion shall be so regulated by Congress, that there shall not be less than two hundred Representatives, nor less than one Representative for every fifty thousand persons.

This was where Madison, or his scrivener got confused. When the population got to 3 million, there would be one hundred Representatives, one for every 30,000 people.

But as soon as the population got to be three million and one, there was supposed to be not less than one hundred representatives, but not MORE than one for every 40,000 people.

Sorry, Mr. Madison. It can’t be both. One hundred Representatives IS more than one for every 40,000 people, until the population gets up to four million.

OK, so Madison goofed on phase two. But phase three makes sense. It says that once the population gets to eight million, so that a ratio of one to 40,000 produces a House of Representatives with 200 hundred seats, that number – 200 members – becomes one measure of the minimum size of the House.

The other measure? One for every 50,000 people. So as the population grew from eight to ten million, the House would stay at 200 members. After ten million, the House would have one member for every 50,000 people.

Of course, that amendment never was adopted. The size of the House was left to the Congress and it changed many times over the years until in 1911 a law was enacted specifying that the House of Representatives would have 435 members. Period.

In 1912 the population was around 95 million. Which meant one Representative for every 218,390 people. With today’s 330 million Americans, that’s one Congressman for every 758,620.

And we complain about how much money they raise and spend to get elected and reelected!

No wonder Congress has lost the faith and respect of the American people. They aren’t our neighbors. They don’t come around knocking on our doors. They don’t live in our town

They are distant, detached politicians. In Washington, D.C. Inside the Beltway.

They come to us, if at all, on TV or in bulk mail.

So what can be done about it?

There are lots of ideas being floated on the Internet. Term limits. Restrictions on Congressional compensation and benefits. Recall petitions.

None of them address the real problem that in a Republic, the people must be represented by officials they know and trust. Distant untouchable celebrities won’t do.

One to every 50,000 is about as far as we should have to go.

Don’t scoff. There’s a way to do it. Stay tuned.

Friday, February 8, 2013


Met an interesting fellow a week or so ago. Name is Andrew Joppa. He is a Viet Nam vet, a retired college professor and a defender of the United States Constitution.

The Professor lives in Naples, where he is active in an organization called The Council for Constitutional Principles.

I met him through the good offices of my dear friend and golfing buddy Frank Harris, who spends his winters in Naples and his summers at Birchwood Farms in Michigan.

Joppa is a fiery orator. See a sample below.

He very candidly confesses that until recently he was among those defenders of the constitution who are skeptical about an Article V Amendments Convention. Like many on the far left and the far right, Joppa feared that a convention would somehow “run away” and do violence to our founding document.

Whether it’s free speech, freedom of religion or the right to bear arms, Americans are so possessive of their rights under the federal constitution, that they literally refuse to listen to any suggestion that a convention might be necessary and useful.

Forget about the fact that nobody wants to repeal the bill of rights or mess with any one of them.

Forget about the fact that no proposal which comes out of a convention would need to be ratified by 38 states.

Forget about the fact that only 9% of the American people have confidence in the United States Congress.

The very people who don’t trust the politicians, who complain about the mess in Washington, who crab about lobbyists and public debt and interminable wars and office holders who pay no attention to their oaths to support the constitution, turn their backs on the obvious remedy the Founders provided: a convention under Article V.

Happily, Professor Joppa has come around to realize that Article V is a blessing, and he speaks cogently and passionately on the subject.

I welcome him to the Cause. America needs his enthusiasm and vigor.

Still, I have to wonder.

I have been speaking and writing on this subject for more than thirty years.

I have pretty much walked down every road that beckons our citizens to work for the calling of an Article V Amendments Convention.

And I guess I have become a little jaded.

The function of a constitution is to set down the rules of the game of governance. The purpose of an Article V Amendments Convention is to suggest changes in those rules.

Is it any wonder that the people who have come to power under the existing rules don’t want to see any of those rules changed?

Is it any wonder that Congressmen don’t want to make the House of Representatives more representative of the American people?

Is it any wonder that the Senators aren’t interested in making the United States Senate more representative of the fifty states and less beholden to the powers that be within the Beltway?

Is it any wonder that judges who have received political appointments with lifetime tenure aren’t interested in changing the way judges are chosen or how long they serve?

Professor Joppa and others hope to create a popular groundswell which will induce state legislators to demand a convention.

I wish them well, but my guess is that we will never have a convention if we wait for politicians to act.

The People have a right to an Article V convention. They don't need anyone's permission.

Thomas Jefferson said it very well: When in the course of human events...