Isn't it remarkable that in a country this size (geographically, culturally, population) that there has been no rise of third parties? Far smaller countries, like Italy, dwarf our two-party system.
So when did the House of Representatives get fixed at 435? I didn't know either, and was shocked to realize it wasn't by amendment. In 1913 the US Census fixed it at 435. The U.S. Census Bureau?
[Ed. note: The Federal Reserve System sprung into being in 1913. Surely just a coincidence. I wonder what G. Edward Griffin thinks of that.]
The original ratio at the beginning of the Republic was 30,000:1. Now, in most cases, it is 700,000:1. In some places it is worse. The Wyoming Rule proposal would make the smallest unit currently represented the standard representation ratio (with Wyoming having the smallest ratio).
This would change the House's membership to 569 (e.g. California would go from 53 to 69).
But if smaller districts were brought back, and thus more representation, I argue that the two party system would come under attack. There are no national interests. Polls are demonstrating convincingly that Americans are against the Iraq/Afghanistan War (national defense). We're also against globalization. We're not too keen on Washington D.C. stripping away individual and states rights. And if the ratio were lowered to pre-Civil War (60,000:1), then we'd start electing people who had the same views as their constituents. And while they might start off with traditional party labels, I think that would devolve into splinter groups, and then into completely separate parties. And then all hell would break loose.
[Ed. note: I could devolve, myself, into gerrymandering as another example of locking into place our current Representatives, but that's a different posting.]
And the Republic had no say in apportionment. Washington D.C. unilaterally decided, back in 1913, to fix it at 435.
So, with rigged elections and evaporating rights, what's a citizen to do? Secede, of course! After all, that's what got this crazy party started: a bunch of coast-hugging Brits opting out of the British Empire.
UPDATE: This site, Population Resource Center has a timeline on House of Representatives membership.