The Potter Metaphor
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone is the first in a series of books that are metaphorical of the central theme of politics and society in the Western world. Voldemort represents purity of race and racism, the good Witches and Wizards of Hogwarts represent the struggle of self aware consensus around the idea of fairness. The key protagonists -- Harry Potter, Hermione Granger, and Ron Weasley, together with a few others -- succeed because of the diversity in ability they collectively represent.
One of the key moments in J. K. Rowling’s book is the solution of the potions challenge on the way to the hidden room containing the Sorcerer’s stone. There are several challenges and problems, and each one is met by a different protagonist. Harry has the ability to make Hagrid reveal his poorly kept secrets, so among other things the three students find out how to control Fuffy, the giant three-headed hound. He is also a skilled Seeker, and can thus grab the flying key. Hermione is the one that notices the trap door. Ron for all his failings is a master at Wizard Chess. The theme here is obvious. The three students often fail to understand each other and often do not see eye to eye, but by combining their different strengths and working together, they accomplish what no individual Witch or Wizard could do. The part about the potions challenge is a notably extreme case of this.
Voldemort and his death eaters, and the Slytherin such as Draco Malfoy and his father, as well as Snape, resent the half breeds and muggle-born. They wish to see those who are not pure removed from their society, by any means. The historical fact that Voldemort himself is a halfbreed, a thinly veiled reference to Hitler’s Jewish connections, is beside the point. But it is the muggle-born Hermione who solves the potions puzzle using a Muggle capacity rarely found in Wizards. Wizards, we are told by Rowling, have magical minds, not logical minds. Among the Muggles we find those like Hermione, who probably spent hours with brain teaser books as an eight year old, who are capable of solving complex logical problems, problems that seem impossible but in fact have only one solution. When Hermione and Harry reach the potions challenge, where drinking all of the liquids but one will cause a horrible outcome, but that one potion will open the next door, her Muggle mind comes into play. Harry does not understand how Hermione has solved the problem, but he trusts her with his life.
It is very unfortunate that this scene was left out of the movie version of the story, even though it is alluded to after the fact. As far as I can tell, the scene was never shot (correct me if I am wrong). To me, this is a key message in Rowling’s book. The fact that it was not transferred into the movie version, and that commentary on the book vs. movie differences tend note it but do not lament it, is a bit disappointing.
Death Eaters, Good Witches and Wizards, Republicans, and Democrats
Ask yourself, what is the message of Voldemort and the Death Eaters, other than racial purity and a high degree of intolerance? There is only one, revealed by Voldemort himself, and others including the Sorting Hat, in a few places throughout the story. The only thing that really counts is power. There is no good and evil. Just power.
That is a simple message, easy to understand. You don’t have to be smart, or learned, or thoughtful, to get this point. It may be untrue, but if you say it enough times, and live by it, it becomes true to the faithful. Professor Quirinus Quirrell is a prescient example of how this can play out, that character written almost as though Rowlings had a crystal ball allowing her to see the future of politics in the four largest Anglophone countries. Quirrell is like a working class Tea Party faithful. It does not matter how much pain he will suffer to serve his master, he will remain faithful, and he will keep repeating the message, and in this way, he will continue to believe the message.
Now ask yourself, what is the central theme for the the rest of the Witches and Wizards? There really isn’t one. I’ve alluded to consensus, and there is that. Fairness too, a theme we see played out, naturally, in the sports related manifestation of the greater metaphor, on the Quidditch field. But really, they are all over the place. They vary greatly in approach, what they think is important, what they are good at, and what they like to do. They are like Democrats.
Rowling’s three main protagonists, Harry, Hermione, and Ron, have differences that could and occasionally did interfere with their camaraderie. They couldn’t be much more different in background, proclivities, and abilities. Harry is rich, Ron is poor. Harry and Ron are not particularly intellectual, Hermione is an egghead. Harry throws himself into danger, the others are more cautious. And so on. Often, they annoy each other. This is seen in the early days of their relationship and comes to a head later in the series more than once. But when a task that requires multiple approaches is set before them, they manage to succeed by using these differences. Their power does not come merely from fetishizing power, it comes from piecing together a battery that is stronger as a whole than the sum of its parts. Again, they are like Democrats.
The 2014 Election
During the 2014 election, and this has happened before, many Democrats ran against their leader, President Obama. A Republican strategy would have been different. Keep the message clear; our leader is the greatest ever and we are all on the same page.
A large scale, if imperfect, overhaul of the country’s health care insurance system was badly needed and totally undoable, yet President Obama did it. Democrats fell into the trap of over acknowledging the imperfection, and many with other important agendas (like addressing climate change) decried the health care reform effort as a distraction. Well, the Affordable Care Act certainly is imperfect, and climate change action may have suffered from the distraction, but Republicans would not have used these points a razor to cut their own wrists. Democrats did. Democrats acted like Harry, Hermione and Ron over-bickering and failing to get through the challenges set to keep them from the Sorcerer’s Stone. Had the three young wizards acted like Democrats usually act, Voldemort would have succeeded in his plan to seize power before the second book was written. Had Democrats, in the 2014 election cycle, acted like Rowling’s characters actually did (fictionally) act, this may not have been a midterm washout.
What Democrats Need To Do
Democrats need to be more thoughtful about when they go about the important business of eating their own young. American politics has a two-stage configuration, conveniently divided by Primary Day. Before Primary Day we fight within parties, and after Primary Day we fight between parties. Or at least, that is the theory. But that is not how Democrats often do it. With a simple message that is usually not muddled at any stage during this process, Republicans can be in lockstep as they advance their political agenda (gaining power). Democrats see this as a deficit. There is no real conversation in the Republican party. A small number of loudmouths yell out the marching orders and everyone marches. The few who do not are fallen upon and devoured quickly. Democrats recognize that this approach does not solve problems. Republicans recognize that this approach wins elections.
What Democrats need to do is to take a page -- one page -- from the Republican playbook. They need to recognize what it takes to win elections, and go win some. This does not mean failing to have the conversation, failing to try to solve problems. It can be accomplished, rather, by doing a better job at dividing up the process into its proper stages. Democrats have compensated for their failure to come together the day after Primary Day by getting very good at the technical aspects of getting out the vote, that sort of thing. But Democrats who don’t think the Republicans won’t figure this out and get just as good at it are deluded. Having a great database and a great call center to get out the vote is necessary but not sufficient over the long term. Democrats have refined the medium, now they must refine the message.
Today is the day after election day, and we see Democrats already fighting about what went wrong. That is probably helpful, that is an important conversation to have. Democrats need to shift quickly into fighting about the solutions to our nation’s and our world’s real problems (at the local level too) and pretty quickly start fighting about who to put up for election next term. Fight and bicker and whinge but try to keep the conversation productive. Then, on Primary Day, put on the marching boots and the big girl and boy pants and all head in the same direction and act like a team. No, don’t act like a team, be a team. If your favorite candidate and your favorite issue failed to emerge as everyone else’s favorite, acknowledge that you are not the only person on the planet, suck it up, and get on board. It only seems like our election cycles go on forever. In truth, it is only a few months between Primary Day and Election Day. Everything you do that is off course during those months is self harm. Stop doing that.
Then, start up again with the bickering and consternation, conversing and cajoling, until the next cycle. Rinse, repeat. The Democratic Party represents a larger share of the American Public than does the Republican Party, yet it is not in the majority. This is not because Republicans win more. It is because Democrats lose more. Stop doing that.
Alas, I have no idea what you're talking about. Is this in the Bible?
We found one!
(someone who has not read the books/seen the movies!)
Very thoughtful. Sent the link to my 16-year-old, who grew up reading the series.
I wonder whether "winning" should be the primary goal, though. Or, should we rethink what "winning" means? Maybe it means working across party lines to get meaningful things done. It doesn't help much to win an election if you can't govern.
I would welcome leadership from anyone willing to start by finding some common ground on any of of the important issues (immigration), then building a political consensus and popular support around that.
Thanks. I'm afraid working across party lines is no longer an option, and I truly believe this is because the GOP has made it so.
But within the Democratic Party there is plenty of "working across lines" to be done. Also, it might be nice to have more candidates from other non Democratic progressive parties actually running and winning. Then there would be some actual party lines to work across!
Correction: Voldemort was not separated at birth from Mitch McConnell, but from Rick Scott. (Seriously! Google the guy's picture. It's hard not to see.)
I agree about the politics, don't know about that Potter stuff (because I don't know much about that Potter stuff).
Perhaps it is a fine line between smart politics and the literal embracing of the tribalistic policies that bode Conservatives so well, so often.
I would agree there has been a bad psychological vibe around democrats and Obama for a while, a failure to embrace Obama and progressivism more generally. Part of me wants to claim that if democrats had run as strong, unapologetic progressives, had Obama signed the immigration thing in August and been at the front of all campaigns, and then democrats got drummed like last night, it would have looked better, felt better. But that is probably wrong. Certainly the base would have been more enthused. In such a case we just may have found that people really do dislike Obama in overwhelming numbers and that people really are crazy on the immigration thing.
Though it feels like only Democrats would be that alienating of a party leader and their president, I was wondering if Republicans ran as far away from Bush in 2006 as Democrats did from Obama this time? I was not as astute back in those days.
Lastly, Democrats have looked good every four years and there is reason to believe they will be next time. On the house front they are getting screwed by city-intense support and gerrymandering. They should, in time, be getting screwed on the senate side by demographics and the fact that a shift is still settling in. I mean take WV. It would not surprise me if Manchin switches to Republican. How can he possibly win as a Democrat again? He is also the reason we should be wary of what is going to happen in the senate now.
As bad a form as it seems Democrats have as far as campaigning and messaging, there are other head winds.
I was wondering about Bush repellant in 2006, and there was definitely some of that, but that was nothing like four years of keeping back and then widespread stepping back farther at election time, IIRC.
Greg this is a massively good observation not to mention understanding of the Potter series. Well done
Good article and Potter analogy thanks! Even if you did get the title for the first book wrong - its supposed to be 'HP & the Philosophers Stone.' * ;-)
Three questions if I may ask & get answers please :
1) First, what's the deal with mid-term elections anyway? As a baffled Aussie, I seriously want to know why you have them, what good are supposed to do?
Aren't there enough elections in the US of A already? Don't Americans spend at least a full year if not longer on the main Presidential elections and have Congress elected then too? Isn't the term limit already making Obama - or any POTUS in their second term - a so-called "lame duck" bad enough already without making things worse?
2) Secondly, following on from that, would it perhaps be a good reform to scrap the mid-term elections and maybe think about scrapping presidential term limits too given that obvious issue? Its not like there aren't plenty of checks and balances and I was schooled by other Americans years ago** that the US president is actually less powerful a figure really than I used to think.
Is there anyone in the US who thinks that and any appetite for such political reforms to your political system because as an outsider, sorry but to be blunt it really seems messed up to me and I think a lot of others.***
3) Finally, have you seen Cenk Uygur's angry, mocking full on analysis here :
of what went wrong and more? What do you think of what he says there? Too harsh? About right? Reasonable but issues?
* Yeah I know, there's the US title versus global one that I'm used to. Joking.
** In a discussion on the Bad Astronomy blog a few years ago where I was criticising Obama post cancellation of 'Constellation' for not just making manned space exploration happen as the buck stopped with him. A discussion, I, um, kinda lost.
*** FWIW. The US of A is far from alone in this &, yeah, I know our own system isn't perfect either! There are things I'd love to see changed about the Aussie electoral system too starting with scrapping the safe electorates system where I live in a seat that is always going to elect an Member of Parliament I hate. Finding a political system that's ideal is really tough and I don't think any nation really has one yet.
The midterms happen because the members of the House of Representatives are up for election every 2 years, and the President every 4, on specific years. So the house election that happens in between presidential is called the midterm. It happens that various governors and senators are also up for election in any given year so those running in the mid term year happen to get caught up in all this.
I don't think anyone will go for scrapping the term limit for POTUS. There didn't used to be one but it was considered rude to run for more than two terms. But then FDR came along and ran for more terms becasue the war was on and the Republicans were idiots and he didn't want to see the end of Civilization As We Know It. But then people got mad because his time in office was so long. So that term limit was only recently made law (relatively speaking) and I think people are still sore about it
I've got a just-went-to-sleep toddler in the next room, I'll try to watch the mocking YouTube video tomorrow!
BTW, I don't think they needed to change the name of the book for the US. Nor did they have to call a jumper a sweater or a dustbin a trash can. They were way overdoing the vocab adjustment.
Thanks Doug. It just happens that I read the book and saw the movie just now so (reread/resaw) so it was fresh in my mind while I was thinking about what to write about the election. Then it all came to me in a flash. Abracadabra!
Astrostevo, Sorcerer's stone is the American title for the book. I have no idea how many young fantasy buffs would know what the Philosopher's Stone was, or why it would be necessary to change the reference. Maybe because Americans are dumb?
Your analysis here is what some scientists would describe, if it were about their own areas of expertise, as a falling afoul of being "not even wrong."
First, yes, I grant that anyone, scientist as much as anyone else, is entitled to pronounce on the affairs of nation and government and on electoral politics. But, just as there is in science, there is a range which runs the gamut in analysis and, here, you're making an elementary mistake at the very outset by taking for granted a system which is, by design, a fraud upon democratic government and urging readers to engage in it as though it were not a fraud upon their good-faith efforts.
Nothing serious or important actually changed from Monday to Wednesday last. The government remains just as it was--the bought and corrupt creature of organized money, playing an obscenely expensive and cynical game of pretend democratic elections. In actual fact, the U.S. electoral and political sysytems are not significantly better than those in China or in Putin's Russia.
When people are being played for suckers, one of first and best things you can do for them is to focus on that fact before moving on to others. You'd already written an extremely astute post on the topic of our living, whether we're aware of it or not, in what amounts to a police-state. I thought it was one of your best and most important and there was nothing I could think of to add to it in the way of an improvement.
Here, you've undermined that valauble effort by leaving a strong impression that there is something meaningful to be gained by playing the sincere, faithful and dutiful participant in U.S. (or, substitute any other Western nation here) electoral politics. Monied interests welcome such unsolicited support for their crooked casino's operation. But you're smarter than that and so you can and should look deeper and see better into what is going on.
Tuesday, at outrageous national expense, the electoral crank was turned one more meaningless notch and, other than the production of a charade played by power-interests and intended to dupe the innocent, nothing effective or useful was accomplished.
Slight Potter nitpick- while I appreciate that "Muggle versus magical minds" would be a difference between Hermione and Ron (a pure-blooded wizard raised in a magical household), I'm not sure if it applies to Harry, who has a Muggle-born parent and was raised (badly) by Muggles. I think it's just that Hermione is, as you say later, a lot smarter than Harry.
On the other hand, are there any particularly smart pure-blooded student characters in HP? I can't think of any off-hand. And if there was one, how would they do on the puzzle?
I just include this link to give you a little hope beyond the sordid local politics -a beautiful infra-red image of young planetary sytem just one million years old.
"Birth of planets revealed in astonishing detail in ALMA's 'best image ever' http://phys.org/news/2014-11-birth-planets-revealed-astonishing-alma.ht…
Let the republicans try screw this one up!
@11. Greg Laden : "The midterms happen because the members of the House of Representatives are up for election every 2 years, and the President every 4, on specific years. So the house election that happens in between presidential is called the midterm. It happens that various governors and senators are also up for election in any given year so those running in the mid term year happen to get caught up in all this."
Okay - but why? What's the reason they do it that way? How is it a good idea?
@Alphagamma : Professor McGonagall,maybe? Not sure - do we know anything of her background?
I have both a book and DVD that say Philosopher's Stone. I bought the Raintree editions of the books, and chanced upon the DVD in a bin (!) at a highway service station. Also, I have to plug the fanfic, HP and the Methods of Rationality. www.hpmor.com, because I like it even more than Rowling's books.
As far as your general thesis, I'm reading that a lot of would-be voters, particularly younger ones, declined to pull levers this time out. I remember the great excitement when BO was running for Prez the first time, and I've watched my friends swallow disappointment and make excuses on issue after issue since. I suspect that the Dems will have a hard time ever energizing these same young voters again. We hoped for TR charging up the hill, but got WH Taft standing pat. BO did push through an industry-friendly ACA, and occasionally makes some pleasant liberal noises, but never actually rocks the oligarchs boats.
@Astrostevo: The US Constitution was originally set up with terms of those lengths. State governments are free to do what they want, but in most cases state legislators have two-year terms and governors have four-year terms (the exceptions to the latter are New Hampshire and Vermont, where the governor is elected every two years). Most states follow the Federal calendar on elections, but at least two (New Jersey and Virginia) elect their governors and state legislators in odd-numbered years. In some states there are additional elections at the local level: where I live, municipal and school board elections occur every year in March (again, there are historical reasons for that timing). And every four years we get the circus we call a Presidential campaign, with primary elections and caucuses ranging from January to June depending on state.
Why was it set up that way? I'm sure it seemed like a good idea at the time (the people who wrote the US Constitution didn't have a lot of examples to use for templates).
They chose two year terms for the House because they wanted one side of the legislative body to be responsive to short-term changes in public opinion. We elect a brand new House every two years,
They felt that balancing this with a Senate with six-year terms, staggered so only 1/3 is re-elected every election, would dampen the rather wild swings of opinion represented in the short-term House.
You also don't have to be as old to run for the House. So, brash young loud voices in a House that turns over rapidly balanced by sober, older voices in the Senate with Senators who don't have to constantly run for re-election but can sit above the fray for four or so years was more or less the notion.
Orginally, the Senate was not directly elected by the people, either, but typically by state legislators (states could choose how their Senators were appointed), making them likely to be members of "the establishment", further balancing the wild swings of public opinion seen in the House.
Does it work? More or less, I think. Look at the effect of the Tea Party. Brash radicals dominating the House - wanting to tear the entire edifice down, in many ways. Even Republicans in the Senate have been appalled. The Ted Cruz faction in the Senate's going to be much less dominate than the far-right Tea Party faction in the House, and the Senate will continue to have its dampening effect. People are predicting a lot of vetoes by Obama. I predict a lot of stalled Republican efforts, as are experienced Repubican Senators, I think (there are already efforts to pull the "party of no" label off of Republicans and to pin it on Dem Senators, and the new Congress won't even be seated for a couple of months).
Alphagamma 15: You may be right, but the point still stands. Rowling was explicit in her book. The author herself makes the point that Hermione was able to figure this out because of her muggle background. She does not exclude the possibility that Harry could do it, and I agree completely with you (and state in the essay) that it isn't just Hermione being a muggle, but also, being Hermione, that allowed for this.
It would be interesting to see if we find purebloods being highly logical, or variation among them somewhere along in the series.
"Okay – but why? What’s the reason they do it that way? How is it a good idea?"
Good question. The idea is to have different kinds of elements in the government. The Senate is ponderous and has continuity, and there are fewer of them. They are in office for six years, with about a third being replaced every two years, so elections never cause wholesale change, and in fact, very little change. In this manner they are like the House of Lords, something the writers of the constitution were both familiar with and suspicious of. The don't inherit office, but they get to be the experienced wise elders,etc.
The house is more like the house of commons, and a clue here is that it is called the "house"... They turn over more quickly (supposedly) and an entirely new house (but including the re-elected ones) is generated all at once instead of part by part in a staggered fashion. Just as there are separate but roughly equal powers between the executive, the legislature, and the judicial, there is built in diversity within the legislative branch (considered the most important branch in many ways) by having the two separate electoral patterns.
By the way, the President is actually elected by a set of representatives (electors) sent by each state, the number of electors being equal to the number of members of the house plus senators (so house reps plus 2). Those electors are of course appointed on the basis of the state's popular vote, but the details are not specified in the Constitution.
Astrostevo: McGonagall is the dauther of Robert McGonagall, a Muggle Presbyterian minister, and his wife, Isobel Ross, a witch, according to The Internet. So she's a half blood.
Donal: ". I suspect that the Dems will have a hard time ever energizing these same young voters again. " They are all old now, there are new young ones!
Just to provide more evidence of the complexity of it all: Judges.
In Minnesota state judges are picked by the Governor from a short list provoked by a commission. Then, next election, they have to run to keep their seat.
That's actually kinda cool. Or really strange. Maybe both.
Regarding the electoral college described in message 23, for the Aussie questioner: note that it is therefore possible here for a candidate to win a plurality or even an absolute majority of the popular vote and yet lose the election. In both instances when that has happened, the victims have belonged to the Democratic Party; hence the Republicans do not see it as being in their interest to change it. (The Republican Party is increasingly hostile to the idea that certain segments of the population should be voting at all, much less that everyone's vote should have an equal weight, but that's another story.)
I think few people recognize the extent of the injustice baked into the modern electoral college. A state with a very small population, which gets the minimum one seat in the House, gets three electoral votes, while a huge state with enough people for, say, 40 seats in the House - which may have more than 40 times as many people - gets 42 electoral votes. Thus, the vote of a person from the former state - either a very rural state or a dinky New England statelet - counts almost three times as much as the vote of a person from the latter. As a libertarian (small-L - no longer a member of the Polluting Plutocrats' Party), I find this relative disenfranchisement of individuals residing in larger states appalling.
I agree that I don't like the system, but was designed the way it was for a reason. We would need to have a discussion of the reason.
The way the system actually works is a corruption, though. The electors are generally bound to follow the popular vote, and typically (maybe all, not sure if that transition is complete) all the electors go with the candidate that won the state. And, the electors are basically political operatives from the party that won. None of this is specified in the Constitution.
It would be interesting to clearly state all of the ways in which the government, including elections but also the activities of Congress, etc., operate that are deeply built into the system but not specified in the Constitution, and run that by a bunch of people to see what they think. There are a lot of features like this. For instance, I'm pretty sure there is no binding reason to have House Congressional districts in a state. The state simply sends the right number of house members duly elected. One of those Rogue states like Alabama should try electing their House members some other way to see what happens!
That's another good point. There have been electors in my lifetime who jumped ship and voted for protest candidates.
The Constitution still says that we should be using gold and silver money. That could have caused serious problems during the past century of constant growth, so it's as well that it was ignored. Still, the excuse-making claims that the wording regarding coinage has no possible meaning whatsoever don't give our founding fathers much credit for the ability to write.
Harry is rich...
??? IIRC, he went to Hogwarts on scholarship as a penniless orphan.
Greg Laden @ # 22: It would be interesting to see if we find purebloods being highly logical, or variation among them somewhere along in the series.
Surely Dumbledore was pure wizard, or the whole battle over "halfbreeds" would have been worked out a generation earlier...
Pierce, no, not at all. The very first thing Harry does, with Hagrid, is to go to Gringots Bank and grab a handful of gold Wizard Coins from his parent's vault, which is stuffed with money. One of the tension elements in the story is the contrast between Harry having money and the Wesley's not.
Both of Dumbledore's parents were magical, but one of his paternal grandparents was probably a muggle, and both of his maternal grandparents were muggles. So he was way muggle.
"That’s another good point. There have been electors in my lifetime who jumped ship and voted for protest candidates.
That has happened, and in some cases, state law was changed to make that illegal, or at least, an attempt was made to do so. Don't recall the details.
@GregLaden #23 & 24. Okay thanks.
@ 20. Eric Lund & #21. dhogaza : Thanks for that info too - much appreciated and I kinda see what they were thinking no although I'm still not so sure its really worked. O'course as earlier noted almost every system of governance has its flaws and we're still to find I think a truly ideal one.
Also my impression from HP is that very few if any wizarding families were really "pure blood" and that the best of them were certainly hybrids so yeah - and thanks again for all the extra stuff I've learned just now. :-)
".. what they were thinking no" no = now. Typio, natch. I cannot type for merde, sorry.
Especially when I'm really tired and tipsy after work, a few beers and stuff all sleep which is, well most days really and today no exception, sigh.
Hmmm - Obviously, I'm due for some re-reading of The Scriptures.
Maybe it'll be included in the curricula for the FEMA reeducation camps...
The House of Representatives' proportional representation (a.k.a "one perosn, one vote") is an essential feature of democracy ( which the Senate violates; and yes, that's just wrong, democratically speaking) and established in both the Constitution's Article 1, Section 2, clause 3 and in case law from state and federal courts as well as acts of Congress.
So, even in the U.S., states aren't supposed to be free to just arrange their election of U.S. House representative any old way they may like to see fit. Of course, organized money has learned to simply buy out the entire weapon of democratic electoral politics and make it its own property--"lock, stock and barrel."
@17: Okay – but why? What’s the reason they do it that way? How is it a good idea?
Your question could be interpreted in either of two ways:
1) Why did the original drafters decide as they did?
2) Why do we continue to do things (when we do them) the same way today. Others above have offered answers to 2). As for 1), see below, in James Madison's Notes on the Debates of the Convention. E.g. @ June 19 - 21.
Text of James Madison's
Notes of Debates in the Federal Convention of 1787
Links : June 19th: http://avalon.law.yale.edu/18th_century/debates_619.asp
................... 20th: http://avalon.law.yale.edu/18th_century/debates_620.asp
.................... 21st: http://avalon.law.yale.edu/18th_century/debates_621.asp
proximity1 I don't think that speaks to districts.
@proximity1 : Thanks for that info & links.
Guess my question was kinda both those really.
Greg, Now I see the point you were making about districts. You're right on that point, then and, apparently there's no (Contitutionally-based) reason why states--even some subset of them--couldn't elect all their House of Rep. members "at large" and still keep a correspondence between number of voters per representative--as long as every state has a total population of at least one representative's worth of voters.
There's at least one practical consequence if that method was adopted: we lose "not only" in "fact" but also in "theory" the idea that a particular representative is accountable to a defined set of voters--IOW, there'd be only statewide "constituencies", leaving each representative open toan even easier and more flagrant defiance of any minority's particular needs as long as, over the state as a whole, enough voters find that representative's votes not so terrible as to warrant getting rid of him or her. At this point in our democratic degradation, its hard to imagine how our present system could actually be worse. But, here, by diluting representation across a state--think of California, for example--elected officials wouldn't even have to pretend to cater to voters' (other than corporate donors-as-ersatz-voters) interests. And, if those Reps. still bothered to respond to letters of complaint from a minority interest which couldn't afford expensive lobbyists, all he or she would have to do is offer a cynical, "Don't lilke it? So, vote me out of office next time."
Exactly which is why at large would be better. This almost falls into the category of "ideas so good THEY don't want you to know about them"
If reps were at large, constituencies, or SIGs, would grow to support them. The strength of the SIG would be exactly proportionate to the number of voters. If a SIG had a reasonable amount of internal loyalty and consistence, it could be a very powerful voting block. It would be true democracy.
Any individual could chose vote with any SIG so of course they would have to compete for ideas and loyalty (since the vote is secret).