Editorial | America Needs a Bigger House – The New York Times

By The Editorial Board
The editorial board represents the opinions of the board, its editor and the publisher. It is separate from the newsroom and the Op-Ed section.

“We’re nearly two decades into the 21st century, so why is America still operating with a House of Representatives built for the start of the 20th?

The House’s current size — 435 representatives — was set in 1911, when there were fewer than one-third as many people living in the United States as there are now. At the time, each member of Congress represented an average of about 200,000 people. In 2018, that number is almost 750,000.

This would shock the Constitution’s framers, who set a baseline of 30,000 constituents per representative and intended for the House to grow along with the population. The possibility that it might not — that Congress would fail to add new seats and that district populations would expand out of control — led James Madison to propose what would have been the original First Amendment: a formula explicitly tying the size of the House to the total number of Americans.

The amendment failed, but Congress still expanded the House throughout the first half of the nation’s existence. The House of Representatives had 65 members when it was first seated in 1789, and it grew in every decade but one until 1920, when it became frozen in time.”

“. . . . . There’s a better solution, which involves bringing America into line with other mature democracies, where national legislatures naturally conform to a clear pattern: Their size is roughly the cube root of the country’s population. Denmark, for instance, has a population of 5.77 million. The cube root of that is 179, which happens to be the size of the Folketing, Denmark’s parliament.

For all countries other than the United States, the size of the national legislature is calculated using only the larger chamber. For the United States, the number refers to the combined size of the House and the Senate. This is because the United States Senate is a more significant lawmaking body than the smaller chambers of other countries. Source: O.E.C.D.

This isn’t some crazy Scandinavian notion. In fact, the House of Representatives adhered fairly well to the so-called cube-root law throughout American history — until 1911. Applying that law to America’s estimated population in 2020 would expand the House to 593 members, after subtracting the 100 members of the Senate.

That would mean adding 158 members. To some, this might sound like 158 too many. But it’s an essential first step in making the “People’s House” — and American government broadly — more reflective of American society today.”

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Opinion | Let the People Vote – By David Leonhardt – The New York Times

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Voters waiting in a long line to vote in the 2018 midterm general election, outside a polling station located at Robious Middle School in Midlothian, Virginia. CreditMichael Reynolds/EPA, via Shutterstock

By David Leonhardt
Opinion Columnist, Nov. 11, 2018, 197
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Voters waiting in a long line to vote in the 2018 midterm general election, outside a polling station located at Robious Middle School in Midlothian, Virginia. CreditMichael Reynolds/EPA, via Shutterstock

“The United States finally has the pro-democracy movement that it needs.

Last week, ballot initiatives to improve the functioning of democracy fared very well. In Florida — a state divided nearly equally between right and left — more than 64 percent of voters approved restoring the franchise to 1.4 million people with felony convictions. In Colorado, Michigan and Missouri, measures to reduce gerrymandering passed. In Maryland, Michigan and Nevada, measures to simplify voter registration passed. “In red states as well as blue states,” Chiraag Bains of the think tank Demos says, “voters overwhelmingly sent the message: We’re taking our democracy back.” “

Opinion | Trump’s Appointment of the Acting Attorney General Is Unconstitutional -By Neal K. Katyal and George T. Conway III – The New York Times

By Neal K. Katyal and George T. Conway III
Mr. Katyal and Mr. Conway are lawyers.

Nov. 8, 2018, 34
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Matthew Whitaker, named acting attorney general on Wednesday after the forced resignation of Jeff Sessions, was Mr. Sessions’s chief of staff.CreditCreditCharlie Neibergall/Associated Press

“What now seems an eternity ago, the conservative law professor Steven Calabresi published an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal in May arguing that Robert Mueller’s appointment as special counsel was unconstitutional. His article got a lot of attention, and it wasn’t long before President Trump picked up the argument, tweeting that “the Appointment of the Special Counsel is totally UNCONSTITUTIONAL!”

Professor Calabresi’s article was based on the Appointments Clause of the Constitution, Article II, Section 2, Clause 2. Under that provision, so-called principal officers of the United States must be nominated by the president and confirmed by the Senate under its “Advice and Consent” powers.

He argued that Mr. Mueller was a principal officer because he is exercising significant law enforcement authority and that since he has not been confirmed by the Senate, his appointment was unconstitutional. As one of us argued at the time, he was wrong. What makes an officer a principal officer is that he or she reports only to the president. No one else in government is that person’s boss. But Mr. Mueller reports to Rod Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general. So, Mr. Mueller is what is known as an inferior officer, not a principal one, and his appointment without Senate approval was valid.

But Professor Calabresi and the president were right about the core principle. A principal officer must be confirmed by the Senate. And that has a very, very significant consequence today.”

Opinion | Last Exit Off the Road to Autocracy – by Paul Krugman – NYT

“Whatever happens in the midterms, the aftermath will be ugly. But the elections are nonetheless a fork in the road. If we take one path, it will offer at least a chance for political redemption, for recovering America’s democratic values. If we take the other, we’ll be on the road to autocracy, with no obvious way to get off.

It’s a near-certainty that Democrats will receive more votes than Republicans, with polling suggesting a margin in votes cast for the House of Representatives of seven or more percentage points — which would make it the biggest landslide of modern times. However, gerrymandering and other factors have severely tilted the playing field, so that even this might not be enough to bring control of the chamber.

And even if Democrats do climb that tilted slope, anyone expecting Republicans to accept the result with good grace hasn’t been paying attention. Remember, Donald Trump claimed — falsely, of course — that millions of immigrants voted illegally in an election he won. Imagine what he’ll say if he loses, and what his supporters will do in response. And if and when a Democratic House tries to exercise its powers, you can be sure it will be met with defiance, never mind what the Constitution says.

But ugly as the scene will be if Democrats win, it will be far worse if they lose. In fact, it’s not hyperbole to say that if the G.O.P. holds the line on Tuesday, it may be the last even halfway fair elections we’ll ever have.

Opinion | Why Americans Don’t Vote (and What to Do About It) – By ALEX CEQUEA – NYT

Video by Alex Cequea Nov. 5, 201810Video00:003:363:36Why Americans Don’t Vote (and What to Do About It)If Didn’t Vote had been a candidate in the 2016 election, it would have won by a landslide.Published OnNov. 5, 2018CreditCreditAssociated PressThe United States ranks 26th out of the 32 developed countries in the world in terms of voter turnout. In the video above, we explain some of the reasons and argue that there are simple measures that would increase the number of people who show up at the polls.

Opinion | A Slow-Motion Coup in Tennessee – by Margaret Renkle – NYT

“NASHVILLE — Emblazoned on the front page of the website for Vote.org, which was founded in 2008 to increase voter turnout, there’s a quotation from Ronald Reagan: “For this Nation to remain true to its principles, we cannot allow any American’s vote to be denied, diluted, or defiled. The right to vote is the crown jewel of American liberties, and we will not see its luster diminished.”The Party of Reagan no longer shares this particular ideal, at least not here in the South. In Tennessee, transparent voter suppression efforts have included an array of tactics:Confiscating the driver’s licenses of citizens who can’t afford to pay traffic fines. This onerous law prevents the impoverished not only from voting but also from working — 93.4 percent of working Tennesseans need cars to get to their jobs — and being unable to work prevents them from paying their fines. “Since 2012, at least 250,000 driver’s licenses have been suspended for nonpayment of traffic fines and costs,” according to a class-action lawsuit filed against the state. Last month, a federal judge issued a preliminary injunction in the case, ordering Tennessee to stop the practice of revoking licenses and requiring the state to allow people to apply to get their licenses back. The state is appealing the decision.Effectively disenfranchising college students. It’s not permissible to mail in a ballot in Tennessee unless you registered to vote in person before an election commission official, or have voted in a previous election. This law makes it extremely difficult for students to vote in national elections, which are, of course, held in November and thus in the middle of a school term. The rules about voting by mail in Tennessee are so complicated that the campaign staff of United States Representative Jim Cooper, a Democrat, created a graphic to help explain it. Even the graphic is complicated.NASHVILLE — Emblazoned on the front page of the website for Vote.org, which was founded in 2008 to increase voter turnout, there’s a quotation from Ronald Reagan: “For this Nation to remain true to its principles, we cannot allow any American’s vote to be denied, diluted, or defiled. The right to vote is the crown jewel of American liberties, and we will not see its luster diminished.”

The Party of Reagan no longer shares this particular ideal, at least not here in the South. In Tennessee, transparent voter suppression efforts have included an array of tactics:

Confiscating the driver’s licenses of citizens who can’t afford to pay traffic fines. This onerous law prevents the impoverished not only from voting but also from working — 93.4 percent of working Tennesseans need cars to get to their jobs — and being unable to work prevents them from paying their fines. “Since 2012, at least 250,000 driver’s licenses have been suspended for nonpayment of traffic fines and costs,” according to a class-action lawsuit filed against the state. Last month, a federal judge issued a preliminary injunction in the case, ordering Tennessee to stop the practice of revoking licenses and requiring the state to allow people to apply to get their licenses back. The state is appealing the decision.

Effectively disenfranchising college students. It’s not permissible to mail in a ballot in Tennessee unless you registered to vote in person before an election commission official, or have voted in a previous election. This law makes it extremely difficult for students to vote in national elections, which are, of course, held in November and thus in the middle of a school term. The rules about voting by mail in Tennessee are so complicated that the campaign staff of United States Representative Jim Cooper, a Democrat, created a graphic to help explain it. Even the graphic is complicated.”

Opinion | It’s Time To Talk About the N.R.A. – by Nicholas Kristof – NYT

“The massacre of 11 people at a Pittsburgh synagogue on Saturday, allegedly by a man with 21 guns registered to his name, was terrifyingly predictable. Every day in America, about 104 people die from guns, while in Japan it takes about a decade for that many to die from gun violence.

Equally predictable was the response. President Trump and members of Congress denounced the violence but show no signs of actually doing anything to stop it: So Americans will continue to die from guns at a rate of one every 15 minutes.

Why do we Americans kill each other, and ourselves, with guns at such rates? One answer as it relates to the Pittsburgh attack is a toxic brew of hate and bigotry, but the ubiquity of guns leverages hatred into murder. And let’s be blunt: One reason for our country’s paralysis on meaningful action on guns is the National Rifle Association. If we want to learn the lessons of this latest rampage, and try to prevent another one, then let’s understand that saving lives is not just about universal background checks and red flag laws, but also about defanging the N.R.A.”

Young People Are Suing the Trump Administration Over Climate Change. She’s Their Lawyer. – By John Schwartz – NYT

By John Schwartz
Oct. 23, 2018 29 comments

“EUGENE, Ore. — Julia Olson climbed the slope of Spencer Butte, taking the steeper of the two paths. Near the summit, shrouding pines suddenly gave way to a vista of the Cascades. On this day, summer wildfires, their season lengthened by climate change, put a haze in the sky.

The climb and return, which she can power through in an hour, is a head-clearing ritual for Ms. Olson, an environmental attorney. It is also a place to compose the soaring language of opening and closing arguments. “I do my legal thinking here,” she said.

If all goes as planned, Ms. Olson will deliver her opening argument on Monday in a landmark federal lawsuit against the Trump administration on behalf of 21 plaintiffs, ages 11 to 22, who are demanding that the government fight climate change. It is a case that could test whether the judicial branch has major role to play in dealing with global warming, and whether there is a constitutional right to a stable and safe climate.

The young plaintiffs claim that the government’s actions, and inaction, in the face of global warming violate their “fundamental constitutional rights to freedom from deprivation of life, liberty, and property.” Their age is central to their argument: For older Americans, the potentially catastrophic effects of climate change are somebody else’s problem. But today’s children will be dealing with disaster within their lifetimes; the youngest of the plaintiffs, Levi Draheim, will be just 33 in 2040, the year by which a United Nations scientific panel now expects some of the biggest crises to begin.”

Christine Hallquist Would Like to Talk About the Power Grid – The New York Times

By Liam Stack Oct. 17, 2018

“BARRE, Vt. — Christine Hallquist is the first transgender person to be nominated for governor by a major party, and she knows people are interested in hearing her life story.

She is more than happy to tell it, but the thing she really wants to talk about is the electric grid.

“The foundation of all humanity, way back to the beginning, has been energy,” she said, walking outside the Washington County Treatment Court, a drug-treatment program, on a brisk fall day. “The rise and fall of empires has been based on energy.”

Ms. Hallquist, 62, a plain-spoken Democrat who spent more than a decade running an electric utility company, has been enthralled by science and engineering ever since she was young, when classmates mocked her for being feminine and the nuns at school beat her and recommended her parents treat her nonconformity with an exorcism.”

“. . . .  And in an age when Democratic politicians stake positions around terms like “socialist” — one of many labels for which she has little use — Ms. Hallquist has made the electric grid central to her political identity.

“We can grow the hell out of this rural economy if we connect every home and business to fiber optic cable” strung alongside power lines, which could bring high-speed internet to the state’s many remote towns, she said. And by moving electricity production away from fossil fuel she believes “the electric grid could be the tool to solve climate change.” “

Opinion | The Supreme Court’s Legitimacy Crisis – By Michael Tomasky – NYT

By Michael Tomasky
Mr. Tomasky is editor of Democracy: A Journal of Ideas and a contributing opinion writer. Oct. 5, 2018

The United States Supreme Court.CreditCreditGabriella Demczuk for The New York Times
Test your Supreme Court knowledge: In the entire history of the court, exactly one justice has been

a) nominated by a president who didn’t win the popular vote and

b) confirmed by a majority of senators who collectively won fewer votes in their last election than did the senators who voted against that justice’s confirmation.

Who was it?

If you’re like me, your mind started leapfrogging back to the 19th century. After all, this sounds like one of those oddities that was far more likely to have happened when our democracy was still in formation.

So let’s see … John Quincy Adams lost the popular vote in 1824. Someone he named to the Court? Or Rutherford B. Hayes — lost to Samuel J. Tilden in 1876, then was named president by a rigged commission. Maybe him?”