Washington hyper-partisanship, industry control and gridlock are corrupting America. And the majority of us want change, esp. the 150 million who are disenfranchised by our politics and less politically engaged, often not voting.
61% of Americans say significant changes to the fundamental design and structure of government are needed to make it work for the current time, according to Pew Research. More importantly, 71% of Americans alienated by our current politics, and therefore less likely to engage and vote, believe we need significant change (up to 80% of Americans don’t vote in primaries). Minorites, younger and less educated Americans are also more likely to see the need for change than their white, older, better educated counterparts.
This initial discussion on reforming Washington is the first in a 5-part series that reviews potential solutions to change the course of our Democracy, toward high national alignment and contentment that also drives high economic growth. The series reviews ideas for a unifying national vision to address our most pressing problems; Washington, income inequality (including healthcare and immigration), natural disasters, physical infrastructure and education.
How do we reform Washington to better reflect the will of the people and get things done for the good of the country? Here are just a few ideas:
- Electoral reforms that encourage voting and more moderate political candidates.
- What if voting was a civic duty, like jury duty? The Brookings Institute argues that “universal voting (think opt out vs. opt in) would enhance the legitimacy of our governing institutions, greatly increasing turnout and the diversity of the American voter base, and easing the intense partisan polarization that weakens our governing capacity”.“The addition of less partisan voters in the electorate would force candidates to shift their focus from mobilizing partisan bases to persuading moderates and less committed voters. Reducing partisan rhetoric would help ease polarization and increase prospects for compromise” and getting things done.
And if voting is a civic duty, it has to be made much easier for everyone, with automated voter registration, say in the driver’s license or ID process, with an election day holiday or time off for voting (e.g., jury duty) and with a strong emphasis on voting by mail to make things even easier, more cost-effective and paper trail secure.
- Nonpartisan redistricting commissions in place of partisan gerrymandering. 71% of Americans, including 65% of Republicans, favor new rules that end blatant partisan gerrymandering.
- National popular vote for President. A PRRI poll found that 68% of Americans would prefer electing presidents on the basis of the national popular vote, making every vote in every state just as valuable, as opposed to the electoral college, which generally comes down to about 5 battleground states being all that matters.
- Campaign finance reform, including repealing Citizens United. Campaign spending doubled in the five years after the Citizens United decision in 2010, which gave corporations and unions permission to spend unlimited sums of anonymous and untraceable cash via super-PACs. 88% of Americans want to reduce the influence large campaign donors have over lawmakers, and ¾, including 66% of Republicans, support a constitutional amendment to reverse Citizens United, according to a University of Maryland poll. All campaign contributions, including those to independent groups, should be disclosed.
- Term limits and retirement age for Congress and the Supreme Court. Congressional incumbents are reelected 95% of the time, since they can typically raise more money than challengers. No other constitutional court in the West guarantees jobs for life. Polls find that 74% of voters support congressional term limits and 61% support Supreme Court term limits, including 58% of Republicans?
American’s trust in Washington is free-falling as a result of hyper-partisanship, gridlock and special interest control. We’re caught in a self-reinforcing cycle that needs a catalyst to restore some balance. Any of the reforms mentioned here that engage less active, centrist voters, end gerrymandering, create a national popular vote, limit and disclose campaign contributions and impose term limits would provide a positive jolt to the system that most Americans want and our democracy desperately needs. Do any of these ideas appeal to you? Would you be willing to get behind a grassroots effort to change Washington? Be the change.
- Join wethepeople.org. Get in on the ground floor of our crowdsourced democracy movement to bring together Democrats, Independents and Republicans to represent the common interest of all citizens. Your contribution helps empower Americans to propose, refine and vote on common-sense political solutions and compete with special interests for political influence.