Mirror in miniature, positive representation--this is a sample of what it looks like!

The first single mother with young children to serve in Congress explained little-known details of how Congress is designed for its members to be rich during an appearance on CNN on Saturday.

…Porter has spoken about her colleagues being “shocked” to hear about the cost of childcare.

“What is that like being — almost like an economic minority in the House?” Jones asked.

…I think I didn’t understand the extent to which Congress is kind of set up for — and run by — the wealthy,” Porter replied. “And I’m certainly not at the bottom of the economic spectrum, I have a good job as a professor,” the tenured University of California, Irvine School of Law professor noted. “Like I’m very, very fortunate and very conscious of that. But some of the things that I’m told really reveal what a privileged institution it is.”“When I was looking for a district office, I said well, you know, how do I pay a security deposit? They said we don’t provide funds for a security deposit,” she revealed. “And they said use your ‘personal funds.’”

“Wow,” Jones said.

“And so, like the healthcare, we start the job January 3, our health care as members doesn’t start until February 1st. So, I said well how do my children and I have insurance — as I’m ethically prohibited from working in another job — how do my kids and I have health insurance in that period? They said go on your husband’s. And I said I don’t have a husband. And then the answer again was ‘personal funds,’” she said.

This is what I am talking about when I stress the importance of absolutely any group, whether we judge them good or bad subjectively, being able, if they can persuade a quota or more of their fellow citizens, organizing on any topics whatsoever, should be able to get a foot in the door of the “mirror in miniature” that any multimember body should be–should voters care for any reason to make it so. It does not mean that every session should be obsessively a perfect demographic sample and should be purged if it is not–it does mean that any deviation from that should be the result of voters exercising judgement, in the strongest freedom feasible to get themselves represented positively, by whatever priorities they have. Are single mothers with young children better represented by randomly chosen ones with no particular training or governmental expertise–or by a woman who has secured herself a tenured (I think, maybe not) position in a nationally prestigious law department of a major university? It clearly depends on whether the more typical young single mothers of young children, with far fewer resources than Rep Porter had, believe she is bringing her talent and privileged, hard won knowledge and skill to bear going to bat for them or not. And maybe in a properly Positively Representative body, Porter’s true constituency might be people who aren’t concerned with the issues of single motherhood at all–instead it might be an issue where she is a unique outlier in her own delegation of allies. But that would actually be good I think–people with quite other issues, who have demonstrated confidence in Professor Porter as being their champion on those matters, hear her speak up for these other people with their other issue.

This is how coalitions get built!

This is how positive representation becomes the foundation of building consensus and more intelligent, unifying general policy. As long as the gauntlet of wealth is unchallenged for election to US Congress, we can hardly expect the majority of persons in the USA to be well represented by it–at best, we can pick and choose between people with far more resources than average as claiming, more often in words than deeds, to stand for us generally. But while such virtual representation might be suitable, and even superior, to just randomly drafting some Joe Sixpack or Jane Pinkcollar, I want Joe and Jane, and Jaime and Jesuitia, to be able to effectively weigh in on the quality of their representation and exercise strong control over it.

I remain highly skeptical that any system that elects single members from separate districts and stops there without going on to round out the whole body to guarantee positive representation, can possibly have the kind of guaranteed openness that an integrative, across the system phase of the election can have, and as @Marylander has shrewdly observed, if we have large numbers of members elected (as we should for a good “mirror” of the whole) this militates against voters choosing to micromanage the whole spectrum of candidates across the system. In fact such methods as Cumulative Voting, when conventionally conceived as a means of voters exercising direct control over their delegation, inherently suffers not only from mass voter fatigue but also major strategic conundrums.

I am told it is offensive to speak in terms of parties, but I think I’ve bent over backwards to offer a “party” system leaving the degree of party control, if any at all, entirely up to that party’s supporters. They can easily refuse to authorize any party authorities to play any role whatsoever in candidate selection (beyond a rule stating unanimous blanket acceptance of each by all, so that every candidate identifying with any alliance is accountable for any objectionable candidates). That would give the candidates considerable power actually–but voters disapproving any choices they make at this phase can switch over to another slate, manufacturing one if they like. So the power is balanced, and candidates and constituency are mutually dependent on each other.

With “Party” very broadly understood in this extremely broad sense, I think it is entirely reasonable to say that “multiple good candidates one wishes to support” shall be found joining to the party-alliance-independents one likes the best. Meanwhile I have also set as baseline that 1) a large number of seats are won by district races–just not all of them–2) the default way of forming the top off seats bringing a “party” up to its full delegation is again dependent entirely on how voters voted in the district races, out of all party control.

With these caveats, I am finding as Marylander notes essentially all objections are based on philosophy–but I am deeply concerned that any philosophy that tries to rule out a voter having the option of in fact choosing parties to back, and talks about the superior virtue of voters having to choose among multiple local candidates only with no integration, or small integration, all suffer badly from features that will in fact make it very easy for elites to put their thumbs on the process by legal (or perhaps illegal, but hard to prove) means, and thereby guarantee a legislature overwhelmingly vetted by the interests of the great and good, which rely on a thousand little barriers against the common people to filter them out, and shut down their self-advocacy.

Some might believe this is essential to prevent the rise of extremism, but I think the historical record shows that is a highly biased filter indeed–right wing extremism arises within systems quite easily, but not so much left-populist, despite the dire predictions of Madison, Hamilton et al in the framer generation.

Who shall watch the watchers?

Only the people as a whole can be trusted with this.

The problem is, you might be part of several groups you want to be represented. For example, what about a disabled veteran, who is also gay, and is an immigrant, and is a hunter…

And how is anything I propose in any way denying individual rights?

A decent representative for me would be someone who values all of these the way I do, as I judge it. It seems pretty amazing that all this SSS stuff seems to assume each representative is some kind of termite like specialized narrow agenda person, and then I get attacked for allegedly violating individual rights and wanting to smother everyone in party groupthink. My party represents me, and people with values like mine, yours represents you and people with values like yours. Hopefully every one of them is capable of processing and considering the position of a disabled veteran, a person of different sexual orientation than themselves, immigrants and even hunters. They might well weigh their priorities differently, but that is what negotiation is all about after all, and empathy as well. Some people will value empathy in their reps and some won’t–we are going to see bad people represented too after all.

That was more of a comment on @NoIRV point. He made the point about intersectionality. The logical conclusion of which is individualism.

The only way you can ensure representation down to the level of the individual in this context, though, is with direct representation. Even then, legislative decisions tend to ultimately be majoritarian…

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Approval Voting on the legislative bills should be simple enough yet capable of spurning majoritarianism for any scale, direct or representative.

I have pointed out that when I parse existing historical numbers of existing elections, generally in FPTP countries like the UK and USA, if we apply any degree of proportionality (at least using the most inclusive methods, Hamilton or that partitioned Huntington-Hill for quota party, remnant or Asset competition for subquota reserving that category some seats) we get independents elected too.

For instance, in the 2016 US House race, we would have
David Walker, Oregon 3, 78,143 votes
Alan LaPolice, Kansas 1, 67,739 votes
Preston Picus, California 12, 64,810 votes. That’s Nancy Pelosi’s district.

Also, depending on whether we used Hamilton or splitting the 435 between 430 quota party seats and the top 5 subquota, in either case the Constitution party would win a seat (in Idaho, District 2, along side Republican Mike Simpson) and with my newfangled seat splitting system, the Republicans only win 213 seats out of 435 and the 5th subquota seat would go to the Legal Marijuana Party of Minnesota. This is alongside 6 Libertarians and 2 Greens.

Mind, this is with just 435 seats, in truth since we cannot strike any plurality winners and the Republicans had an overhang beyond their plurality which ought to get them no more than 214 seats, of 241 seats, at a minimum we’d need to add 54 at large seats, which would raise the number of total seats to 489–with the Republicans only having proportional 213 it would be 56 more seats and 491 total. Taking the latter, a sixth seat would go to a fourth independent, Frederick Mayock of Massachusetts District 1, with a mere 57,504 votes.

As noted, Hamilton’s Rule is very inclusive at the bottom margins, maximizing the number of voters represented versus other fixed systems–asset voting could cast the net even wider and deeper in effect, as bargaining among various parties for extra seats would tend to tie those parties to their benefactors. And if not, the people voting for those outlier tiny candidates will either shift their votes to other candidates, or the candidates will drive a harder bargain next time.

Asset voting would include all subquota parties, and all those with quota seats and a positive remainder of unsatisfied votes, bargaining among themselves to form composite claims to the seats–about 2 quotas worth would belong to a great many independents I did not have occasion to break out on their own, and another to various “other” party and write in candidates, and with 491 seats total the Libertarians and Republicans would have the greatest scope among the 4 quota parties to gain another seat, but there would be as noted 6 in play which might in principle wind up anywhere, depending on deals various candidates and parties strike with each other. Even the Democrats and Greens, who would each be just slightly overrepresented, could perhaps persuade enough of the small fry to come to their aid and give them a seat or two.

These numbers might seem trivial, until you realize that with 491 seats in the House, the Republicans need 446 to control it, and do not have that, being at 441 with no top off seats unless they can negotiate getting them in an asset vote competition. Assuming no asset vote, they can control the House, as the national plurality party, but require the Libertarians to ally with them to do it–also the Constitution seat probably will come to their aid, and perhaps that last independent Mayock–I judge the other three would tend to veer more to aid the Democrats.

So the third parties actually have great leverage really, and that can include independents–in 2012 a similar calculation shows me that a fellow named Phillips, running as an independent in conservative Fresno, California would be crucial to the Democrats getting control of the House, assuming that two Greens also help that party.

All this despite the fact that I am using the real figures from the actual FPTP election of 2016, and so these independents have not cast their electoral net one little bit outside their single district, and these in addition to the ones who manage to get elected FPTP. If we enable electoral reforms to allow voters outside a district to support someone, we can get plenty of maverick individuality.

It is also possible to have an anti-party party. That would be, a framework supporting independents as such, as opposed to them forming de facto parties allied on some constellation of issues. Note that in Ray v Blair, 1952, SCOTUS ruled there was no conflict with any alleged special “12th Amendment” right of electors to be untrammelled by party demands of pledges of fidelity to the party’s choice for Presidential/VP slate, even when that slate was months short of being determined–and Justice Jackson writing the Majority decision added that people who wanted to contend to be their state’s Electors without making such a pledge were free to run on a platform declaring they would not pledge and would cast their EV if elected based on their deliberations at the time the EC for their state met, just as Hamilton recommended. Lo and behold, if you look at Presidential election returns in 1956 and 1960 you will find “unpledged electors” in Alabama, Mississippi and I believe Louisiana. They took the court at its word, ran and won on that platform in other words.

So similarly, with positive representation it is entirely possible to have people running as independents who promise no particular things, but only to bring their character and judgement to the job of legislation and deliberation and the other stuff multibody members do, and ask voters to vote for them on that basis. Go for it.

Personally, I want a better idea of what my representative actually proposes to do, and call me crazy, but it seems that entrusting them with office makes sense if I think they share my values–and I have definite ideas about what should and should not be done. I want to know the one I back agrees with me on this important stuff. But maybe YMMV; you want to support someone just on their character as you judge it without even asking them what they’d do in a given situation, you have that right.