Document Type

Book Review


Making Representative Democracy Work, Book Review (The Concept of Constituency: Political Representation, Democratic Legitimacy, and Institutional Design, by Andrew Rehfeld; Saving Democracy: A Plan for Real Representation in America, by Kevin O’Leary), 37 Pol. Theory 838 (2009)


Andrew Rehfeld examines familiar questions in democratic theory through the unusual lens of constituency. He grounds his analysis in a concrete recommendation (cautiously characterized as a thought experiment): we should randomly assign Americans to permanent, nonterritorial districts. Rehfeld recognizes that such an approach will produce a politically homogenous House, but he thinks that is mostly to the good, as the House will produce legislation that enjoys majority support. Whether one is ultimately convinced by Rehfeld’s argument, he offers a fresh take on well-worn debates.

Kevin O’Leary’s Saving Democracy is, happily, more modest than its title suggests. While Rehfeld blames the composition of our constituencies for our democratic woes, O’Leary faults their size. Because districts for the House of Representatives are enormous when compared to the Founding (650,000 people instead of 30,000), O’Leary claims there is too much distance between constituent and representative, resulting in a decline in participation and a weakening of democratic ties.

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