The Most Interesting Man in the World


James Madison wrote in Federalist 52 that the House of Representatives “should have an immediate dependence on, and an intimate sympathy with, the people.”

Don’t make too much of this, but as I was reading the news today, it occurred to me that in spite of such longstanding assumptions, public approval of congress as an institution is consistently low (currently at 21 percent, according to the latest Gallup poll.)

As a 2014 study by researchers at Princeton and Northwestern (Testing Theories of American Politics: Elites, Interest Groups, and Average Citizens) serves to remind us:

One very old question posed by a modern republic involves how elected representatives should behave once sworn into office.

Who governs? Who really rules? To what extent is the broad body of U.S. citizens sovereign, semi-sovereign, or largely powerless?

One may end-up wondering (like I was - it's a legitimate question) whether voters can recall a member of the United States Congress, in the same way citizens can attempt to remove an elected official from office in one of those 19 States that allow recall elections.

You know:

That sort of thing.

I had to look it up—I am just an interested layman, not a political science expert. The answer is they cannot.

There are no circumstances allowed by the Federal Constitution under which the people can recall a member of Congress.

But, even if it were possible, would the threat of being recalled make members of congress more accountable to the people who elected them? I doubt it. As the authors of the Cambridge study (who are political scientists) summarize it:

Given the nature of the beast, it seems doubtful, whether the power to recall a member of congress (or for that matter, any other solutions that have been thus far suggested by political scientists, such as campaign finance reform, open primaries or ranked-voting) is ever likely to fix the issue. If you ask me, it will only compound the problem and just make things worse.

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