By Jack E. Lohman
We wonder why the current crop of politicians keep getting re-elected, even when they fail to put the public interest first.
There’s a reason. The deck is stacked against newcomers.
The battle between Jim Burkee and Jim Sensenbrenner, two Republicans, is just one example. Sensenbrenner won 78% of the vote even though he has voted against the public’s best interest on numerous occasions. But he has mastered the skill of making people believe him even when he’s insincere, and the taxpayer-funded mailing privileges and free townhall meetings certainly haven’t hurt his cause.
But would he survive the following two reforms?
- We need a “None of the Above” option in the polling booth. If NOTA wins the race, a new election must be held for that district with all new candidates. This is the only way voters can affect a complete turnover in a district, even if there is only one candidate the majority does not support. Conflicted incumbents will not survive such a vote (see nota.org)
- We need Independent Redistricting. Redistricting is now controlled by the two major parties to the detriment of third-party challengers. This allows politicians to stack the deck by selecting the voters rather than the other way around. In a carefully crafted conspiracy they jury-rig the districts to have mostly Republicans or mostly Democrats, which essentially locks out challengers, helps preserve incumbents’ 95% re-election rate, and reduces the (badly needed) political turnover.
I don’t like term limits, though they are sometimes good but too often are bad. Yes, guys like US Rep Robert Byrd would be (and should be) forced out, but so would have been former Senator Bill Proxmire who spent a total of $500 on his last two elections and was beholden only to the voters.
As well, with term limits, politicians always face a “last term” where they cannot be reelected and are not accountable to the electorate. They also give the unelected legislative staff too much influence, which is not a good deal at all.
Nor do I like the line item veto that gives the governor or president and party greater access to campaign cash. It also circumvents the balance of power that works to the benefit of voters.
The biggest reform would be getting private cash out of our public electoral system with public funding of campaigns, and maybe we should have term limits until that happens. We can start that process in November! 🙂
See other reform issues:
Health care reform