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.