We face a constitutional moment — a point in time when deep-seated flaws of a constitutional system are revealed for all to see and when the work of reform, renewal, reconstitution must begin.The experience of the entire Trump Presidency, a presidency that has brought a neo-confederate, White Redeemer to the White House, demands the completion of work left unfinished for 156 years — Reconstruction. This Reconstruction, our third, must entail the defense, renewal, and completion of a majoritarian-Madisonian multi-racial democracy with free, fair, and open elections.
We must also realize that we live in a divided nation and must lay the groundwork for a system that can operate in divided times and relieve division itself. We cannot allow unity-for-sake-of-unity — the short-lived hollow unity of concession — to prevail over unity-under-justice. Unit-for-the-sake-of-unity is appeasement, and it cannot last. Unity must be forged around common principles and a common purpose. We must speak loudly and clearly for the embrace of political equality, small “r” small “d” republican democracy, civil rights, and equal justice — anything less is unacceptable and un-American.
We must reconstitute and renew our system of government. Embrace the strengths of our system — which has weathered storm after storm — but take steps to innovate and improve where it has failed and faltered. Chief amongst these failures is a withered Congress and engorged Executive and Judiciary. The balance and separation power in our political system is dangerously out of alignment. The balance and separation of power does not dictate that all branches are equal in power. The legislature must be the most powerful and most active branch of government because it is the only branch that can represent the people from whom all powers of just government are derived. Our problems start with Congress, and they can only end with Congress.
Congress must not only be renewed, it must also be united. United by establishing imperfect and functional bicameralism and a pan-Congressional leader, a chief legislator. Congress is current a 540-member stand-off of prisoner’s dilemmas and collective action problems. The power and functions of the legislative branches must be divided between the two chambers, the House and Senate, not equally but by function. In short — a Wyoming-Rule superior MMP House that legislates, a degressively apportioned inferior RCV Senate that oversees, and a chief legislator to oversee and lead both.
The House would be the legislative chamber — the legislature — and the center of gravity of American government and governance. It should be elected not by first past the post, but mixed-member proportional. This House must introduce all budget (combining Appropriations and Authorizations) bills, programmatic bills (flagship election promises, think ACA or AHCA) and can, of course, introduce other personal legislation. Further, the House would hold the confidence of the Chief Legislator and vote to convict in trials of impeachment. Representatives would serve for three-year terms, with the entire House up every cycle.
The Senate would be the overseeing chamber — the overslature — so that it might finally become the apocryphal “cooling saucer.” Its primary tasks are to review bills and review conduct. It would be elected by a modified form of ranked-choice voting and may only introduce personal bills. And most importantly, be inferior to the House. If the Senate approves legislation by a simple majority, the legislation is approved. If the Senate rejects legislation by a 3/5th majority, the legislation is defeated. If the Senate rejects a bill by a simple majority, the legislation is suspended for one year or until the House overrules the Senate with an affirmative 3/5th majority vote. The Senate should be a chamber that does not require a 3/5th majority to enact legislation but instead requires a 3/5th majority to defeat legislation. Otherwise, the Senate would still confirm presidential executive and judicial appointees, and ratify treaties, but also impeach officers of the United States. Senators would serve six-year terms with half of the Senate up every cycle.
Not only must the Senate’s powers be limited, but its mandate must also be weakened so that it cannot easily or idly challenge the House; that is why a modified form of ranked-choice voting — ballot-slate voting is crucial. Not everyone would be able to run for the Senate, only those currently serving in their respective state legislature, currently in state-wide offices, or formerly in state-wide offices. From that number, there would be the “slate” of Senate candidates, and then those candidates would ranked by voters, leading to instant run offs until a candidate gains a majority of the vote. This change would likely improve the quality of Senators and improve the quality of state leaders as members of the House must go back and work in their state capitol before proceeding to the Senate.
As for the apportionment of both Houses, there would be some considerable change. First, territories must have fully empowered representation with one Representative and One Senator even if they do not wish to become states (and if they wish to become states, that must be granted). Next, there must be some consideration of formal federal representation for indigenous peoples of the United States, recognizing the inherent and constitutional sovereignty of native tribes; this could include indigenous statehood or an electoral mechanism in the vein of the Maori electorates. Further, the House would no longer have a fixed number but instead follow the “Wyoming Rule” to fix seat per capita to the size of the smallest state. Finally, and most significantly, the Senate will be considerably altered with a degressive apportionment — with the top 10 most populous states having four senators, the next 20 states having three senators, and the remainder having two senators.
These reformed chambers require leadership, united leadership — a true equal to the President of the United States, a chief legislator. Think of this role as a Speaker of Both Houses or a non-executive Prime Minister, a unitary legislative leader. Someone who has the sole mandate to herd congressional cats and ensure that the buck stops at the top of Congress — someone who is truly a doorkeeper, a Chancellor of the United States. The two greatest powers of this chance are to the control of the floor — by accelerating bills out of committee and initiating overrides of Senate suspensions — and to call snap elections after a Congress fails to pass critical legislation. To ensure a Chancellor does not become a one-person legislature much of their power must be invest in collective leadership —the High Table of Congress that can serve as both a negiotating platform between the Majority and Minority leaderships and as majority leadership committee.
The Chancellor’s election is by necessity direct and indirect as they must have a direct popular mandate and have a working majority in the House. That is why the primary vote for a Chancellor should be the “party vote” of the vote for the House of Representatives. So, whichever party gains the plurality of voters, their designated candidate (whose name must appear next to the party’s name on the ballot) must attempt to form a majority in the House of Representatives. If the designated candidate cannot, the second-largest party’s candidate may attempt to form a majority — if they cannot, then any member of Congress may put forward a candidate for a week, and if there is no majority, there must be new elections. This is similar to most forms of parliamentary democracy, but is different in one crucial vote it formally transforms the “party vote” into a direct vote for Congressional leadership.
A functioning republic requires a majoritarian Congress and an institutional Congress. A Congress that can act, but one that can also be defeated. A Senate united can defeat the House. A House divided can bring down a chief legislator and be brought down itself to be renewed by a general election. Most importantly, duly elected majorities that seek to implement their promised agendas will be able to do so. We can end the era of graveyard government Congress will have leadership that is both nationally accountable and nationally oriented. MMP will also allow the coalitional reality of every congressional majority to be represented with clarity and brought out into the light of day. These reforms are but one proposal for a majoritarian and revitalized American republic — a shot at a new birth of freedom. We can end the era of graveyard governance. We should not allow ourselves to be chained to the corpses of the past forever. To do so would be to ensure that our still young republic is wither bound. We need not wither — We can reconstitute ourselves into a more perfect union. A union that finally upholds the promise of our principles.