Drutman at hearing: Reforming the House could “short-circuit some of the destructive hyper-partisan polarization that is undermining our system of government”
“If we had proportional multimember districts…we would have less of this binary zero sum that is really destroying the ability of Congress and our government to work.”
“I see this decade as a potential moment of transformation. The status quo is broken.”
Washington, DC – Today, Fix Our House co-founder Lee Drutman testified at a hearing of the Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress on innovative approaches to fixing Congress. Alongside other expert witnesses discussing new ideas to strengthen representational government and the policy process, Lee was invited by Chairman Derek Kilmer to lay out some ways to make the House of Representatives more representative and break through the current gridlock and dysfunction.
In addition to discussing his case for expanding the House of Representatives, Drutman called attention to the need for Congress to move to multimember districts to expand “the diversity of perspectives in Congress…beyond the highly polarized binaries of solid Republican vs solid Democratic districts” and open up “new possibilities for creative problem solving and a more committee-oriented Congress.”
Excerpts from Drutman’s testimony (full remarks here)
“All this could shake things up a bit for sure, but given how stuck and dysfunctional things are right now, a little shake-up might bring some new creativity and energy to Congress, and could even help to short-circuit some of the destructive hyper-partisan polarization that is undermining our system of government.
“On that front, I do think that pairing an increased House with another of the Academy’s recommendations, multimember districts, would go a long way. With multimember districts, the diversity of perspectives in Congress would expand beyond the highly polarized binaries of solid Republican vs solid Democratic districts, and new possibilities for creative problem solving and a more committee-oriented congress I think would emerge.
“Even more broadly, as a scholar of history, I see this decade as a potential moment of transformation. The status quo is broken. There are those who want to burn it all to the ground. But I, at least, want to restore and renew the promise of liberal, republican democracy in America, and I am 100% convinced we are going to need some big bold ideas to innovate and modernize towards a brighter future for this country."
Excerpts from Drutman’s response to Chairman Kilmer asking for his thoughts on moving to multimember districts:
“I think one of the challenges in this moment of our politics is, things have become so deeply divided. Hyper-partisan polarization is real. It's a tremendous problem. And there's just a tremendous amount of gamesmanship that is going on in trying to crush the other side.
“I'm watching in horror as I see the DCCC spending money to elect the most extreme Republicans, but within the single member district with a zero sum winner-take-all action, you win by disqualifying the other side. And one way to disqualify the other side is to have their side be the most extreme. Now, that's, I think, an incredibly dangerous and dumb game. But it is the logic of our single member system, and the binary choice that it forces.
“Now imagine, with three or five member districts, it's not zero sum, it's not winner-take-all anymore. You have a diversity of representatives who represent the larger diversity of that district. You all represent very diverse districts. And I know you work very hard to try to represent all your constituents, but ideologically, values-wise, demographically, there's some constituents who it's hard for you all to represent. Even if we did increase the size of the house and thus reduce the size of the district.
“So I think if we had proportional multimember districts where three or five members represented a district and we split up the district and represented different constituents and different perspectives, we would have less of this binary zero sum that is really destroying the ability of Congress and our government to work. You’d see more conservative Democrats, more liberal Republicans, maybe some new parties, new perspectives represented.
“...I think you create a Congress that is just much more representative of the diversity and pluralism in this country. And I think it is much better able to work out some complex compromises because everything is not, you know, ‘we've got to crush the other side because they're evil.’ And that's the mindset that I think is really overwhelming the ability of this Congress to function. And it's terrifying where this is leading.”