William F. Buckley, Jr. once quipped, "I'd rather entrust the government of the United States to the first 400 people listed in the Boston telephone directory than to the faculty of Harvard University." Given that Congress currently has an approval rating of a mere 14% (76% disapprove!), we can bet Mr. Buckley would prefer those 400 Bostonians to the current Congress as well. I know I would. I don't think I could feel less represented by our representatives than I do now.
Even if the system were working well, either a large minority or even a majority of people still wouldn't be well represented. If, for example, you're a Democrat living in a majority Republican district, it's very possible that you'll go your whole life without having a representative that has views similar to yours. The same goes, of course, for a Republican in a majority Democrat district.
So I think we should adopt a variant of Buckley's approach.
Instead of the first 400 names in the phone, let's have our representatives be chosen at random from the adult population. The selection process would be sort of like jury duty for a very long trial.
There are some details to be worked out, but I think it could be quite straight-forward. I would propose something like four-year terms with one-quarter of the representatives cycled in and out each year. I believe that we would want more representatives, perhaps five times as many, to provide better representation of a wider cross section of the population.
This approach has a huge number of advantages. No more disruptive and divisive elections for representatives. No more election fraud. Since there are no more campaigns to fund, it weakens the lobbyist and big money connections to the representatives. Representatives will have less conflict of interest between their career and representing their constituents since after their four-year term, it's time to go back home. More people will have a representative that reflects their beliefs, even those who are of minority political persuasions in their district. A wider range of skills from far more professions will be available when debating legislation: scientists, doctors, engineers, economists, etc.
Are there any downsides? I don't think so. At first I was thinking that there might be to many undesirable representatives, but given the crazy (Pelosi), stupid (Boxer), and unscrupulous (Dodd) politicians we have now, I don't think we'd do much worse. It would clearly be disruptive for those chosen to be representatives, but I'm sure insurance companies would come up with products to help them.
To start, I would only do this for the House of Representatives. I would keep everything else (Senate, etc.) the same.
The ancient Greeks did this sort of thing at one point and it worked reasonably well. There's no reason it wouldn't work for us.