The New York Times reported today that according to a recent poll there has been a surge in anti-incumbent sentiment among voters, of the kind we have not seen in a decade or so. An overwhelming majority, i.e., 77% of Americans said that they were disenchanted with Congress. They think Congress is aligned with special interests, and that their representatives do not understand the needs and problems of average voters. Such a reading of the political climate resonates with Kevin O'Leary's new book, Saving Democracy: A Plan for Real Representation in America .
O'Leary sees the ills of our democracy as a problem of scale in many ways. In 1776 there was one congressional representative for every 30,000 people. 300 years later, as the US population has grown, that number is 650,000 (per representative). The book proposes the clever solution of a virtual assembly, a national townhall, where 100 people from each district would come together--on the internet and face-to-face--to deliberate on major issues of the day such as social security reform, prescription drug benefits, and the war in Iraq. One can even imagine a network like C-SPAN covering the proceedings! Even if the Assembly does not have any legislative authority, public attention and scrutiny would ensure that Congress pay attentionto the recommendations of the assembly.