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How To Get Congress To Play Nice or Restoring Democracy to our Democracy

Was pointed to an article in Atlantic Monthly by Mickey Edwards, and ex Republican Representative from Utah on how we can start to get a truly representative government again. one that does not put all of it’s time and effort into playing vicious games of party upmanship and is in campaign mode 24/7. He lists some ideas that may work and includes some examples of where this is already being tried.

Break the power of partisans to keep candidates off the general-election ballot.

State and local governments have abdicated their responsibility to oversee America’s election process. Not only have they turned the job over to political parties, but they take money from taxpayers to pay for these party functions. Because activists who demand loyalty and see compromising as selling out dominate party primaries and conventions, candidates who seek their permission to be on the November ballot find themselves under great pressure to take hard-line positions. This tendency toward rigidity—and the party system that enables it—is at the root of today’s political dysfunction.

What we currently have is the old party boss system updated for the current technology. Where a few people choose who we can choose from. One from column R and one from column D.  And unfortunately far too many people wind up staying home and choosing None of the above.

Turn over the process of redrawing congressional districts to independent, nonpartisan commissions.

YES YES YES….this bit of trying to get political advantage by corralling voters in any district to one party or another has got to stop.   It forces representatives to vote party line rather than what their constituency wants.  As Edwards point out,  how can someone from a non-farming area represent the interests of farmers ? And vise-a-vers-a.

Allow members of any party to offer amendments to any House bill and—with rare exceptions—put those amendments to a vote.
In recent years, however, to be in the minority is essentially to be made a nonfactor in the legislative process. Leaders of both chambers have embraced the strategy of precluding minority amendments, out of fear that even members of the majority party might vote for them, because they believe either that it is the right thing to do or that it is what the people they represent prefer. Such “closed” rules, preventing members from offering amendments, simply tell citizens their preferences don’t matter. 

Heaven forbid that a member of the minority party should actually have a good idea and that someone from the majority party would actually agree and vote for it.   Why it’s almost un-democratic. </snark>

Change the leadership structure of congressional committees.

In our current system, in which a small majority may have all the power and a large minority none, the chair of a congressional committee or subcommittee (always a majority-party member) decides whether a proposal will be considered and whose views will be solicited. We should change congressional rules to provide for a chairman from the majority party and a vice chairman from the minority (no such position exists in today’s Congress, except on certain special non-legislating committees);

The way the system is functioning now gives the majority part almost dictatorial rule in the committees and prevents most minority involvement.  No wonder we have such rancor and partisan posturing.

Fill committee vacancies by lot.
Choose committee staff solely on the basis of professional qualifications.

Absolutely.  Those on a committee should be chosen not by party affiliation but by how much they actually know about the subject.  Think about it. How well would a business work if people on certain projects were chosen because of their allegiance to one another even though they know squat about the project. Not very well, I can tell you.

This is the way a democratic government should work. Right now it resembles a bunch of spoiled kids on a playground vying for the best swing.

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cmaukonen

cmaukonen

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