In the News
December 9, 2021

One way to reform the House of Representatives? Expand it.

Lee Drutman and Yuval Levin
Washington Post

Lee Drutman is a senior fellow in the Political Reform program at New America. Yuval Levin is director of Social, Cultural and Constitutional Studies at the American Enterprise Institute.

Americans observing the members of the House of Representatives in action generally don’t end up wishing there were more of them. The House is dysfunctional and intensely polarized. Its members often seem like the embodiment of what has gone wrong in our politics, and the institution is deeply unpopular.

And yet, for just that reason, it is time to expand the House. The framers of the Constitution assumed we would do that regularly, but we have now failed to do so for more than a century. In the first Congress, there were just 65 House members, each of whom represented about 30,000 Americans. As the nation grew, the House expanded by statute after every decennial census throughout the 19th century. It reached its current size in 1913, when each of its 435 members represented about 210,000 people. But the number of members has not increased since then, even as the country’s population has more than tripled. Each member now represents about 760,000 Americans. And that has changed the very meaning of representation in Congress.

Today’s vast districts put more distance between members and constituents in ways that tend to impose shallow, polarized, national frameworks on our society’s complex political topography. Members therefore tend to abstract away from their constituents — and those constituents know it.

View full story: Washington Post



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