The significance of James Madison’s contributions to creating our representative democracy cannot be overstated. He saw the troubles of the first union as a member of the Congress of the Confederation. He was a major player at the Constitutional Convention, and wrote the Federalist Papers to get the new federal charter ratified. Subsequently, Madison helped get the new government up and running by serving in the House of Representatives in the First and Second Congresses. Later, he twice was elected president.
So how did he think about elections to Congress, the first branch of government? To answer this question, I turned to my colleague Jay Cost. He is the Gerald R. Ford nonresident senior fellow at AEI and the author of the superb book, James Madison: America’s First Politician (2021)…. (Read more)
Almost inevitably, the president’s party loses congressional seats during a midterm. Between 1934 and 2018, there were 22 of these elections and the incumbent party shed House seats in 19 of the 22 and Senate seats in 16 of them. The average loss per chamber was 28 in the House and 4 in the Senate.
All of this should have the Democrats in utter panic. Democrats have incredibly slim majorities today: eight in the House and one in the Senate (if you count Vice President Kamala Harris as a tiebreaker). Their president and party leader, Joe Biden, has a high disapproval rating — 53 percent, far worse than Barack Obama had in 2010 when voters threw out 63 members of Team Donkey…. (Read more)
Recently, I conducted an informal survey. I asked 10 friends and professional colleagues whether they had ever visited the office of their member of Congress. Not a single one of them had. I was not surprised: Until I went to work for Congress in my early 30s, I had not visited a legislator or his staff. Despite being a student of politics, despite the fact that representatives and senators have district and home state offices within reach. It simply had never occurred to me to approach the people I had voted for or against and share my views…. (Read more)
The siege of the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021, and the effort to subvert the counting of all states’ lawfully submitted electoral slates appeared to validate the narrative of democracy’s impending demise. The incident sent shock waves through all three branches of government, and the day will live in infamy. Yet, for all the awfulness of January 6th, the day ended positively: The democratic norm of Congress respecting states’ certified elections endured. Remarkably, this norm of deference was subsequently upheld a few months later when the House of Representatives chose to let the result of a disputed Iowa election stand, despite an obvious partisan incentive to overrule it….
In 2021 the United States Postal Service booked a $4.9 billion net loss. The USPS also reports that it has more than $120 billion in unfunded liabilities in pensions, retiree health benefits and other debts. To conserve cash, the agency has quit making payments on some of these obligations, and its perennial deficits likely portend a default…. (Read more)
Various reports indicate that congressional Democrats intend to bring back earmarks. Politico quoted Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) as saying they will return, and that House Appropriations Chair Rosa DeLauro “is working through the details of a reformed process.” This news is not a bolt out of the blue. Last week, an AEI report by Professor Zachary Courser of Claremont McKenna College and I noted that talk of reviving earmarks has been percolating for years. Many legislators lamented losing the ability to fix crumbling roads and renovate public parks in their home districts. Our study found legislative gridlock rose after the earmark moratorium….(Read more)