6/01/2009

The Cure for Our Broken Political Process: My Suggestions

Over a month without posting...shameful.

In my last post, a review of The Cure for Our Broken Political Process, I mentioned that I would offer my own thoughts on the current state of politics and suggestions for improvement. This is not a comprehensive list, but I've boiled it down to some essentials.

- Establish term limits in Congress now. This is huge. Presidential term limits were established to prevent the president from becoming a monarch. Term limits on Congress would help eliminate the ruling class of career politicians. It would also bring fresh ideas, break the stranglehold incumbents have on the political process and, hopefully, bring representation that more closely reflects the common man/woman. Think "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington". The sad thing is that those affected by term limits are the ones we need to pass them.

- Overturn the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 (aka McCain-Feingold). Like many pieces of legislation given flowery names, it is not what it appears. A more apt name would have been the Incumbent Protection Act. There is too much to go into here, but McCain-Feingold is, quite simply, bad law and harms our political process by contributing to the ignorance of voters, violating our 1st Amendment rights and making it all the more difficult for reformers to challenge the status quo.

- Seek quality votes not quantity. Now, before you accuse me of being elitist or some such nonsense, let me explain.

The Cure for Our Broken Political Process suggests that our current political process suffers from voter apathy. That is clearly true, to an extent, and part of the reason we have such low voter turnout. An even greater problem, however, is voter ignorance. (For some eye-opening research on this issue, read “When Ignorance Isn’t Bliss: How Political Ignorance Threatens Democracy”.) What does it matter if someone votes if they don't know the issues, where the candidates stand on the issues and what they themselves think about the issues? I'd be happy with 10% voter turnout if those people were actually informed voters.

Rather than looking for quantity for political expediency, as groups like Rock the Vote and ACORN do and politicians have done through "Motor Voter" laws, let's aim for quality, informed votes. There is no virtue in voting for the sake of voting. I don't believe anyone should have to jump through undue hoops to register to vote and some individuals may require special considerations, but requiring some small effort on the part of the voter would be wise. And, rather than parties targeting demographics most likely to vote for them and registering them, how about educating the population as a whole where candidates stand and let the battle of ideas determine who governs.

- Shrink the federal government whenever possible. Though this is generally a conservative perspective, my reasoning is not based on ideological bent. Simply put, not even the President of the United States has a handle on the federal government. Even the Congressmen who've been in office since the '50s cannot grasp the breadth of this government.
How in the world is a voter supposed to have some understanding of how he or she is being governed and how his/her tax dollars are being spent?

Many (probably most) in Congress don't even read the legislation that comes across their desks in its entirety. What kind of oversight are they providing? How can we possibly hold them accountable?

The tendency of those in power is always to expand that power. Our responsibility as the electorate is to be a check to that power whenever possible. Only when we begin to shrink the federal government will we have any hope of eliminating the waste and corruption that is so easily hidden from the public eye because of the sheer enormity of the institution and its inner workings.

- Get over the knee-jerk aversion to lobbyists and special interests. The NRA has lobbyists. So does PETA. So does the ACLU, the UAW and the National Right to Life Committee. This is not a bad thing.

President Obama vowed to keep lobbyist influences out of the White House, but he's reversed himself on that one. Aside from the disingenuousness of his initial claims, it's probably a good thing.

No one wants to think that their government is beholden to Big Oil or a teacher's union or other entity. It seems undemocratic somehow, and is to a degree. But the fact of the matter is that lobbyists and special interests go to bat for the issues you hold dear, the industry in which you work and the people groups for which you're burdened.

Simply shunning lobbyists is a good way for a politician to remain ignorant on a great many issues and to turn a deaf ear to a great many people in need. Saying that you're closing the door on lobbyists and special interests is simply political grandstanding and voters need to recognize this so they won't be hoodwinked by the next smooth wordsmith to come asking for their vote.

Other suggestions?

1 comment:

Our Family said...

YES on Congressional term limits! Those guys are like an untouchable monarcy of sorts... a very helpless feeling. And yay for lobbyists! Did that in '98 and always felt like the staffers I met with were glad to get a better handle on a bill. They have so many to keep track of. Nothing sinister in that.