Saturday, December 15, 2007

So, I emailed Larry Sabato

Having spent a few threads discussing the amendment ideas he'd brought up in his book A More Perfect Constitution, I decided on a whim to email Mr. Sabato and offer my alternative suggestion regarding the representation in Congress for both the House and Senate. I wrote as politely as possible, noted I had seen the threads on Moderate Voice, added that I was waiting for a copy of my own of his book (waiting via Interlibrary Loan), then offered up my suggestion and sent in the email. Here's a copy of it:

I had spotted the Moderate Voice's overview of your book A More Perfect Constitution. As someone interested in reform, especially the type of reform only constitutional amendments could achieve, I gave the entry a good look, and I am attempting to get the book through my library for a more thorough reading.

I did have a few issues with some of your suggestions. For one, the need to expand the number of representatives and senators. To expand the House to an even 1,000 may improve the ratio of representation, but it does not guarantee *effective* representation. As of now, given the nature of the political beast, expanding to 1,000 congresspersons is simply giving lobbyists and deep pockets more targets to bribe with billion-dollar campaign warchests. I understand the desire to improve representation, to give voters better opportunities to meet and confront their representatives. But first, get rid of the current lobbying system that perpetuates corruption, then maybe we can see about expanding the number of representatives.

I also have issue with the suggestion of having the number of senators expand by giving the most populous states 2 more senators, and the next tier of populous states 1 extra senator. I'm sorry, but that defeats the purpose of the Great Compromise to have the small states get equal representation in the Senate. I think, if you want to expand representation in the Senate, there is a simpler method: just bump the number of Senators from 2 to 3. Right now that gives you 50 extra Senators. You get the benefit of having the states now vote every election cycle (2 years) a new Senator instead of skipping one cycle.

With regards to expanding the number of House representatives, if possible they could bump the small states with one lone representative up to the same number of Senators (right now at 2, with my suggested boost it would be 3). Having only one representative for the smallest states seem so... lonely.

Also, about having ex-Presidents serve as "national" senators seems a flippant way of trying to solve the age-old question of what to do with them. I don't think there are going to be a lot of people who would be thrilled to see Carter, Clinton or Dubya serve in government like that. After all, not every ex-President is going to be a Harry Truman or Herbert Hoover post-term. Though I'm still partial to one politician's suggestion that ex-Presidents be sent in exile to small islands. ;-) Or maybe the Disney President's Ride...

I do support your overall suggestion about our need to reform government via constitutional amendments, and I would love to see at the state level more active attempts to get a convention (or at least pressure on Congress) going on the matters that need to be addressed.

I do await getting your book so I can read it in greater detail.

I do admit, I did get a little snarky in that email.

Having tried for years to get short stories published, I didn't expect much back: I've rarely gotten replies, and of the rejections that did come back they were along the lines of "Gosh, we're impressed you can read and write." I was pretty sure Sabato, a public figure in political punditry, was someone swamped with messages, complaints, hassles, half-baked amendment proposals, and Viagra offers (hey, even my sister gets those!).

However, I did get a reply. It was, pretty much, a "Gosh" reply, sent by a colleague of Mr. Sabato's who apparently had to answer the mail this week:

Mr. Wartenberg,

Thank you for your e-mail last week to Dr. Sabato regarding A More Perfect Constitution. I am glad you are taking an interest in the subject. Dr. Sabato has been out of town on book tour but send his best. I think most of the questions you have presented here are addressed in detail in the text of the book. Please let me know if you have further questions once you have looked into it.



Didn't exactly read like he/they had viewed the whole email, nor that there were any qualms or rebuttals of the issues I had with Sabato's push for increased numbers of representatives. Just a simple cookie-cutter response. At least it was a reply, I hadn't been expecting one. Wasn't expecting anything like a C-SPAN debate or anything, although that would have been nice...

So anyway, here I am, thinking up a Christmas wish list of constitutional amendments for the holidays. Coming soon!

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