[Author's Note: Turns out my math was wrong, as pointed out by several people. I dropped a "0;" the real number is .00017. However, if I change the title of the piece the links will break!]
Today is the Ides of March, an anniversary of sorts for me. Exactly two years ago today I began my attempt to chase Glenn Beck (and others like him) out of our political conversation by taking a stab at someone I saw as a self-proclaimed Emperor. My pathetically naïve attempts were noted by just a few, but they did produce a book I’m proud of, and they led me to my current status as An Incredibly Minor Public Figure.
One of the things an IMPF does is point out the little absurdities that often plant themselves as mental seeds and then grow without warning like triffids on the rampage. Today my mental sod houses numbers, and, more specifically, percentages.
Over the past score of months we’ve heard a lot of different percentages echo through the media: we’ve had the 1%, the 99%, the 47%, the top 2%, the other 98%, as well as various percentages attached to the unemployed, the underemployed, the number of foreclosures, the number of uninsured, and the number of gun owners in America. Most of us have heard about these percentages so often that we don’t even need context: when we hear one we immediately get the reference.
And yet the single most important percentage is one we never, ever hear about. It’s this one: .00017%.
That’s right. Point-zero-zero-zero-one-seven. An incredibly small number. So small that most people wouldn’t even waste time with it; they’d just round it down to zero and move on. But it’s the number that controls us. Controls you.
Where does this number come from? The current population of the United States is, according to this site (at this moment), 315,495,531. The tiny, tiny subset of that population that we elect to represent us in Congress is 535. That’s it. .00017% of the population represents us. Represents U.S.
Given the infinitesimal fraction of people on whom we bestow this honor and responsibility, you’d think they’d handle the job a bit better than they do. Instead of realizing that each one of them is fractionally responsible to nearly 600,000 people—all of whom are real human beings with real concerns—they instead spend large chunks of their time ignoring what we want and working instead for special interests.
Those special interests are fueled—quite powerfully, as we know—by the Citizens United decision, which opened up pipelines of oily dark money in an effort to spread influence across those 535, those very, very few….
There are various organizations that keep an eye on these 535, and a recent initiative from Coffee Party USA promises to have an interesting take on that oversight. The group (of which I’m a board member) has recently begun The 535 Campaign, an initiative designed to get every single member of Congress on record. If they have a position on Citizens United (or, more generally, the corrupting influence of money in politics, the plan is for you to know about it. And, if they don't... well, you'll know about that, too.
The group is currently looking for volunteers—they hope to have two or three in every congressional district—and they’ve provided tools and templates for reaching out to our senators and representatives in order to find out their positions.
Propelled by a fervently motivated team (and a hashtag, #535Campaign) the group has as its goal the providing of information on every single member of Congress so that people can have this information in time for the 2014 mid-term elections.
.00017%. It’s a tiny enough number to begin with, representing a membership that’s supposed to be representing us. When it doesn’t—when so few perform so poorly—we should and must work to force improvement. Republican or Democrat, Liberal or Conservative, it doesn’t matter. So take heed, all of you whom we’ve sent to Washington: When we elect you we expect you to work for us and not for the special interests or a small cadre of wealthy and influential donors. If you don’t pay attention to those who elected you… well, then you’d better watch your back. The Coffee Party USA plans to hold you accountable.