12 February 2010

LAT: Turley: Real Reform needs to go beyond Campaign Finance Reform

I agree 100% with this article by Jonathan Turley:
Real political reform should go beyond campaign finance

There are ways to ease the two-party stranglehold on our political system, but they require taking a broader approach.

By Jonathan Turley

February 11 2010

For decades, political reform in the United States has largely meant campaign finance reform. It is a focus the political mainstream prefers, despite the fact that it is akin to addressing an engine with a design defect by regulating the fuel.

The complete article can be viewed at:
http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/commentary/la-oe-turley11-2010feb11,0,457747.story   [Visit latimes.com at http://www.latimes.com]

Key points:
  • Our current problems are either largely caused the stranglehold the two parties have on our political system. This needs to be changed structurally. 
  • A constitutional amendment to undo Citizens United v. FEC is not enough; at best it would return us to the status quo of a month ago; but our problems with electoral dysfunction run much deeper.
Turleys' proposals:
  • Remove barriers to third parties. Change registration, financing and qualification rules to encourage third party candidates to run.

  • End the practice of gerrymandering. We need a constitutional amendment to end gerrymandering (I have discussed this before, see this, from 2005).
  • Change the primary system. The principal reason incumbents are returned to power is that voters have little choice in the general election. Move top two votegetters to general election (Federal and State offices), regardless of party; have automatic runoff.
  • Abolish the electoral college. This one's a no-brainer at this point.
  • Require a majority for presidents to be elected. If no outright majority, two top votegetters in runoff. Controversial, but it would ensure more democracy and make candidates really seek honest support from independents. This procedure works well in many countries around the world.
Turley acknowledges that Congress won't vote to implement such sweeping changes, and a constitutional amendment or set of them are thus pretty much DOA. 

I'd add: 
  • End filibuster and other abuses. Remove the authority of Congress to make its own rules, to some extent. End filibustering, holds, and some other tools of obstructionists to block the effective enactment of what the people vote for, by constitutional provision.
There is a danger in utilizing the nuclear option of a Constitutional Convention to try to effect these changes; because it could so easily by hijacked by the malevolent forces of plutocracy, which will spend money on propaganda to gin up the Knownothings and the Teapartiers to focus on issues that don't even belong in the constitution, like same-sex marriage. But with continued effort, and goodwill, we could change our system. 

It seems to me the danger of being hijacked is worth the risk, because as things stand now, our government isn't really working at all. We have to work very hard to bring about change, and to correctly frame the issues so that the people understand what's at stake. Ultimately, if we can't rely on the people to do the right thing, democracy will not work anyway.

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