Political Bipartisanship Needs to be Rescued

OP ED | By: US Renew Democracy News | March 06, 2024
Featured Illustration by Ben Wiseman, www.time.com


From the end of WWII to the conclusion of the Johnson presidency, Republicans and Democrats were able to find common ground on many issues. A great deal of bipartisan legislation was passed. As is all too obvious that no longer is the case. A deep polarization now exists between the two political parties. It’s caused  by Republican efforts to appeal to an alienated  base, the presence of dark money in politics, gerrymandering,  and a fragmented media environment that allows every interest group to hear and watch news that supports their point of view.

The absence of bipartisanship and the polarization of politics gives many Americans the impression that government doesn’t work. It explains whuy some Americans are disillusioned with democracy, and have a misguided interest in authoritarian, more “decisive approaches” to decision-making. If we don’t want this trend  to continue, we need to take steps   to reform our political system, and revive opportunities for bipartisan policy-making.

1. Enact Term Limits:

Many members of Congress  have made their service in the legislature a career. The problem, though, is that good performance alone isn’t what gives them the best chance of keeping their jobs. What is required to win office and stay in office is often at odds with what would be best for the general public. When the priority of members of Congress is to win elections, rather than serve the people, things can quickly go awry Placing limits on the number of terms members of Congress can serve will help reduce the need for Senators and Representatives to constantly  cast votes to curry favor with their base rather than do the right thing.

2. Reform Campaign Finance: The campaign finance system is broken.

The 2010 Supreme Court decision in the Citizens United vs FEC case effectively blocked the ability to enact limits on campaign spending. The Citizens United decision opened the floodgates to the billions of dollars that have since poured into the election system, enabling those with access to concentrated wealth to have vastly more influence over our political system than the average American.  The repeal of the Citizens United decision of the Supreme Court, will lessen the control that dark money and superPACs have on the political decisions of our Congressmen and women

3. Increase Opportunities for Ballot Initiatives and Referendum

In the politics of the United States, the process of initiatives and referendums allow citizens of many U.S. states to place legislation on the ballot for a referendum or popular vote, either enacting new legislation, or voting down existing legislation. Citizens, or an organization, might start an initiative to gather a predetermined number of signatures to qualify the measure for the ballot. The measure is placed on the ballot for the referendum, or actual vote. The process allows citizens the ability to take initiatives that circumvent a gridlocked government

4. Enact Voting System Reforms

A thorough reimagining of the electoral process is the best hope for reversing the decline of confidence in U.S. elections and their outcomes. , depressing voter turnout, and exacerbating the risks of contentious outcomes fought through court appeals and public protests. In many states there is a need to enact voting system reform, for example overhauling the regulations surrounding voter registration and balloting, and assuring independent, impartial and professional electoral management. Ranked choice voting that allows voters to prioritize their support for different candidates, is a an approach used in several states to help expand the base of support for winning candidates

5. Eliminate Gerrymandering

Redistricting is a legal requirement to periodically redraw the maps of state districts based on changes in populations. The redistricting process is supposed to ensure that everyone is fairly represented. However because the power to redistrict often rests in the hands of politicians, gerrymandering has become another means of supporting partisan decision-making. A way to combat gerrymandering is to limit the power of self-interested politicians in the mapmaking process. This can be done through the use of Independent Redistricting Commissions (IRCs), separate bodies from the state legislature that are responsible for drawing the districts used in congressional and state legislative elections. Several states, such as Michigan and Colorado have begun to use IRCs to guide their redistricting efforts.

6. Hold Judges Accountable:

There are several ways in which judges can abuse their authority, including: failure to disclose a conflict of interest; improper communication about a case; improper political activities. A Code of Ethics that holds all judges, including members of the Supreme Court, accountable for ethics violations, will help dissuade judges from making opinions that satisfy the partisan interests of those that provide them with extra-judicial perks and benefits. A credible independent body that has the power to enforce such a Code of Ethics needs to be established.

Taking steps, such as those listed above, should help support a renewed framework of bipartisan decision-making. However, they won’t completely fix the problem. Americans of all political persuasions also need to see that political decision-making requires give-and-take and compromise; that all people want to the same things in life, and that if we can at least sometimes put country over party, it’s possible for all of us and our children to enjoy  a satisfying and sustainable  way of life.

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