Friday, November 23, 2012

Here's What's Wrong With America And How To Fix It

There are three things destroying America.

1) Our Primary Election System
2) The way we draw congressional districts
3) The Bastardized Filibuster


Primary elections are driven by the extremists on both sides. The people who are most motivated to work for or against a Primary candidate, the ones who will spend their own time, money and energy to support or defeat a candidate, are the ones on the far right and the far left.

The folks in the majority middle who just want government to work don't have that partisan fire in their belly to give a shit either way. They don't give a shit about Primary politics. They barely give a shit about General politics. They just want both sides to figure out a way to get along and get shit done.

So what happens is candidates on both sides have to appeal to the extremes of their parties during the Primaries if they want to be nominated as their party's candidate in the General election. Your party's base will not nominate you unless they are confidant you will represent their extreme point of view. If the nominee is lucky enough to get elected in the General election, they go in with a prohibition on any movement to the center or any any ability to compromise. Because they know if they do, their party will Primary them in the next election cycle. The only way to keep their job is to pander to the extremes in the party base.

Why does this work? It's because of the way we draw our congressional districts.


State Congressional Districts are drawn by the political party in power in that state based on Census data collected every 10 years.

So if the Republicans are in power in a state after the last Census, they are going to create Congressional Districts that contain a majority of Republican voters. The Democrats do the same thing.

Most voters probably think Congressional Districts are based on geography. Nothing could be further from the truth! Here are some of the more convoluted and bizarre Congressional Districts.

Every 10 years, the party in power gerrymanders Congressional Districts to make it impossible for a candidate from the party out of power to field a viable Primary candidate in that District. So every decade, we become more divided, more partisan, and the job of governing this country becomes more impossible.


The California Primary System

"Thanks to Proposition 14, the ballot measure that Californians approved in June 2010, candidates running for U.S. Congress, the state legislature, or other statewide offices now compete in a non-partisan open primary. Whether Republican or Democrat, Independent or Libertarian, Tea Party or Green Party, everyone's in the same contest. Only the top-two vote-getters will compete in November. Subsequently, two candidates from the same party could end up running against each other in the general election..." 

This is brilliant. This means that candidates in the Primary election need to appeal to the same electorate they will face in the General election rather than the extremists in their own parties. So everyone goes into the same election, regardless of party affiliation. The Primary voters pick their two favorites, regardless of party affiliation. Those two candidates square off against each other in the General election, even if they are from the same party.

Independent Redistricting Commissions

Rather than having the party in power having complete and total control over drawing Congressional Districts, Arizona passed Proposition 106 in 2000 which delegated the power to draw congressional and legislative boundaries to a bipartisan independent commission.  The Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission (AIRC) comprises two Democrats, two Republicans, and one independent chair.

If every state took this approach, combined with the California Primary system, what we would see is every 10 years, we would become less partisan and less divided and our Congressional Districts would more closely resemble the actual electorate. The country would, over time, come closer together instead of farther apart and our elected officials would actually have an incentive to work together to get shit done!

The Bastardized Filibuster

"Senate rules permit a senator, or a series of senators, to speak for as long as they wish and on any topic they choose, unless "three-fifths of the Senators duly chosen and sworn" (usually 60 out of 100 senators) brings debate to a close by invoking cloture under Senate Rule XXII"

This was a method of allowing a minority Senator to block a vote on a bill before the Senate by standing in the well of the Senate, with or without an audience, and speechifying.

A Senator might talk about his childhood, or read the phone book, or recite a month's worth of grocery lists, or talk about his favorite hunting trip. It didn't matter. As long as he kept talking, no vote could take place unless 60% of the Senate voted to shut him up.

Which they were loathe to do lest the same treatment be given to them during one of their filibusters!

Due to some modern arcane changes in Senate rules which I'm having a hard time isolating, every single Senate bill is presumed to have a legislative Filibuster requiring a 60% majority to pass even though no Senator is required to conduct an actual speaking Filibuster.

That's fucked up.

We need to reinstate the old rules and require a Senator who wants to Filibuster to actually stand in the well of the Senate and speak continuously without taking breaks to eat, sleep or go to the restroom.

Then we can watch their obstructionist shenanigans on C-Span and repost it on YouTube. Email it to their constituents. Include it in campaign commercials. Then we'll see how many Filibusters we have.

 Maybe then we can get shit done.


Craig said...

Well done. I would add public financing of campaigns to the list.

Anonymous said...

XO how about you making a run this next time around and start the shake down?

Xavier Onassis said...

Superdave - If nominated, I will not run. If elected, I will not serve. Too many skeletons.