As we swing into an American Congressional election year, I cannot help but wonder if perhaps there is a better way to run things. Of course, as a Canadian civilian, my political clout in this matter is absolutely non-existent, but I thought I might field some ideas for the sake of it. There are two problems I would like to address; the most pressing one is that upon election House Representatives and, to a lesser extent, Senators must immediately begin devoting considerable time and resources to the project of re-election rather than focusing on their ostensible job of legislating in the interest of the people they represent. Secondly, election campaigns themselves tend to revolve around non-issues and are primarily decided by monetary input from special-interest lobbies and large corporations.
In order to try and minimize these problems, I thought that perhaps it would make sense to expand the judicial branch of the government in the following manner: create a body of judges and constitutional lawyers (hereafter simply referred to as judges) who are randomly assigned in sets of three or five to each Congressman two months (or some other appropriate time frame) before the election cycle is set to begin. The judges will be responsible for reviewing the Congressman's job performance, specifically with regard to whether the Congressman actually participated in the legislative process and whether or not there was evidence of some sort of justification and thought put into that Congressman's contribution, as well as whether any conflicts of interest from special-interest campaign contributors compromised the Congressman's votes and proposals. If the judges deem the Congressman's to have been adequate with minimal ethical issues, then the Congressman need not run for re-election. If there is a serious lack of engagement on the part of the Congressman or ethical breaches such as voting solely on the basis of campaign contributors' wishes, then the judges can call for an election in that district.
It is important that these judges be randomly assigned, as there should be no opportunity for the Congressman to use his legislative powers to further the agendas of any of the judges (thereby corrupting their votes). Likewise, in the same manner that the judicial branch is expected to function as ethically and impartially as possible, so too must these performance evaluations be done. The enquiries should be open, and any challenges to the impartiality of the judges should be evaluated by a judicial ethics board.
The point of all of this is to make Congressmen more accountable to their actual records in office, while also easing much of the burden of campaigning (thereby leaving them more time and resources to devote to their legislative tasks). When Congressmen are called for re-election, the election campaigns themselves should likewise be more focused on their actual performances since the judges will have performed the detailed scrutiny of their records that no voter could possibly have the time to compile (unless they happen to be independently wealthy, really into politics, and very well connected). Since the evaluations will be conducted in an open manner, any reasons for calling the election will immediately be at the forefront of the campaign and open for debate.