The Tyranny of Partisanship

What a sad spectacle the country is witnessing out of Washington today. A small portion of Republicans is holding their party hostage to a very narrow and even mean spirited agenda. Now, the Democratic leadership in the Senate is striking out on its own in blocking important trade legislation proposed by the President.

Unspoken, but controlling most of the process, is the “need” of most of our elected legislators to [1] insure control of their body in Congress [PERKS]and [2] protect themselves from primary opposition simply to stay in office at all costs [PAYCHECK].

Their ability to free themselves from the bondage of partisanship and address the substance of the many issues that need to be dealt with has been so diminished that there are moments when one wonders if we might be better off with either no Congress or an all-volunteer group who have no dependency on those jobs?

In a completely rational moment (difficult to find or hold) it is indeed obvious that those people are also normal people in important ways–they have a deep seated need to keep their jobs. Sadly an all-volunteer Congress would be unwise because we should not be governed only by people who do not have to make a living.

So the consuming question should be not how to stop gridlock, BUT how to change incentives for all representatives that would discourage gridlock, and encourage a process of dissipating the tyranny of partisanship.

There is a worthy group working on expanding a group of members from both houses using a No Labels banner. It could become a kind of supra third party bound together by independent nonpartisan thinking and efforts. So far they have been unable to address any BIG issues under their tent. More power to them!

There are several states – and it is the states themselves that have sole jurisdiction under the Constitution over all voting processes -that have OPEN primaries so that allvoters can vote in all primaries. Therein lays an idea that could help cure one of the big problems which is fear of primaries dominated by small groups of super partisan voters. Why not let both parties have a say in the selection of both parties’ representatives.

All those representatives speak for ALL the people in their states-districts. That would also lessen the adverse impact of badly motivated gerrymandering of districts. Today about 80% of the 435 House seats are a 60/40 split between one or the other major parties which also contributes to the tyranny of partisanship. Open primaries might, just might, begin to break down that schism which is at the root of gridlock.

Another idea, that should certainly appeal to folks who favor term limits, would be to limit any Senator to two terms and House Member to 6 terms but they could continue to stand for reelection to serve thereafter without pay. That would discourage people from hanging on simply for the pay. Those members however, would be qualified to start collecting their pensions and keep their health benefits.

A lot of the country sits around and bemoans the gridlock. BUT there has been very little thought given to what gives rise to it and what might be done about that.

I know that most of the time ideas like these never get anywhere.

Does that mean we should all sit quietly and simply moan privately?

So I am moaning publicly! Sorry!


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