California legislators are out of touch for a very good reason: they represent too many people.
Our state possesses the dubious distinction of being the least democratic and representative of any state in the union. So when a free-thinking voice in the Capitol is bullied, stifled or silenced by either Republican or Democratic party leadership, Californians living in those districts are disenfranchised in massive numbers. Each Senator represents about 847,000 Californians; each Assemblymember 423,500 constituents.
To put this in perspective, Senators in other states represent a rough ballpark average of 120,000 — anywhere from 16,459 (Wyoming) to as many as 672,000 (Texas). For Assemblymembers in the rest of the nation, it’s an average of about 47,000 — from 3,089 (New Hampshire, which has 400 Assemblymembers) to 139,00 (Texas).
The Blue Dog pulled this data from the National Conference of State Legislatures; it is a real eye opener because California’s numbers are so grotesquely out of whack in comparison –even with large states like New York, Texas, Florida, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Massachusetts, Washington and Minnesota.
So here’s an idea the Blue Dog wants to put out for discussion: Californians should consider more legislators in the Capitol as a solution to gridlock. Yes, you read correctly. More of those same people who have crippled and disgraced our government? The Blue Dog realizes this sounds crazy and counterintuitive. After all, how can more of a bad thing be good?
One word: accountability.
More legislators would mean smaller districts. Smaller districts would mean our elected officials would be responsible for smaller geographic areas and fewer constituents. We might even know who they are and be able to recognize them so we could bend their ears at a Home Depot or Safeway or Olive Garden. Smaller regions could mean more affordable campaigns. More affordable campaigns would likely result in a larger pool of candidates less beholden to the parties.
The millions of moderate California Republicans and Democrats — and smaller parties themselves, like Green, Libertarian, Independents and Peace & Freedom Parties — deserve a voice more in line with their numbers. Micro legislative districts could be part of the answer if they diluted the polarized party political power and gave Centrists more representation, greater leverage and the ability to play a role in influential coalitions.
Sure this is a simple concept. But it has some merit. So why isn’t this reform idea in play? Splitting California into three states sounds intriguing, but is really a pipe dream. Redistricting is a necessary reform that needs to happen. But changing boundaries doesn’t get at the root problem. We know the banking system got too big for its own good. The Blue Dog wonders if the same isn’t true for the California Legislature. He’s going to have a cigar now and chew on this bone some more. What do you think?