A Bridge to Nowhere: How Can We Encourage More Bipartisanship in Congress?

The Washington Post published an article today that looks at how the polarization of our political system in the United States might be addressed. Anyone who has been paying any attention to politics in the last 10-15 years knows that we are living in a highly divided political time. It certainly feels to most people that something is very broken in our political system; and that is a shame.

I have shared here previously that I am wide-eyed idealist who believes that working within the political system can bring about social change. I believe in representative democracy and abhor citizen initiatives which, in my experience, usually turn into a battle over which side has the most money with which to buy ad space or TV time.

In my day job, I have been doing state level policy work for more than a decade. I live in a state, Colorado, which has term limits, frequent citizen initiatives which have absolutely tied the hands of the legislature when it comes to budgetary issues, and a balanced budget amendment.

I appreciate the attempt by the authors of the Article in the Washington Post to dispel the myth that making these types of changes at the federal level would fix the polarization of our political system. Many people think that these types of changes are quick fixes, but our experience in Colorado has shown otherwise.

In a nutshell, the article dispels the myth that these changes will reduce polarization in Congress:

  • A third party candidate
  • Term limits
  • A balanced budget amendment
  • Public financing of campaigns

The article lays out some common sense solutions that the authors feel could make a difference, including:

  • Realistic campaign finance reform
  • Changing redistricting rules
  • Filibuster reform
  • Requiring people to vote

While I don’t agree with all of the assertions in this article, especially the requirement that all people vote or risk being fined which I have seen fail miserably in countries like Argentina, this is a good start to a conversation that is desperately needed in this country.

The problem is that the dominant paradigm in our current political system does not promote these types of reforms or even encourage their consideration by Congress.

What do you think? Do you think that the general public could force Congress to consider these types of reforms if we demanded it loudly enough? What would that look like? Do you see ideas that you agree with or disagree with in terms of the ideas for reform presented in this article? What do you think is missing in this list? How do you think we could get more people to engage in the political process, given the uphill battle to reduce partisanship in Congress? What other thoughts would you like to share?

I would love to hear your thoughts. Thanks so much for reading!

11 Comments

Filed under Campaign Finance, Policy, Politcs, Role of Government

11 responses to “A Bridge to Nowhere: How Can We Encourage More Bipartisanship in Congress?

  1. I agree with you: requiring people to vote is a dangerous precedent. In addition, I don’t think people who know nothing about the candidates should be allowed to vote — much less required to do so!
    But I would like to see the reasoning behind their rejection of term limits and public financing of political campaigns. Further, I would suggest that a viable third party candidate — without strings to the corporations and the strings that now exist cut by public financing — might very well prove a step or two in the right direction!

    • Hi Hugh. I share your thoughts on campaign finance, but as someone who has worked in a state (Colorado) with term limits and one (Texas) without, I can say that term limits are not the answer. By the time someone knows what they are doing and starts to show leadership, their term is up. In Texas, where there are not term liits, yoyu have legislatorss who really know the issues and who depend on their colleagues to develop expertise that they do not have. Term limits are a subject of a whole other post for me. Ideally, elections should establish their own term limits, where someone is voted out of office if they are not doing a good job. Colorado even looked at term limits for judges on the ballot a few years back! Crazy! Seems to be an idea that on paper looks promising, but in practice just doesn’t work. Thanks for your comment!!

      • Ideally, yes. That was the plan the framers had. But it’s not working out. We have no term limits in the Senate and the House and nothing gets done. I’m not sure what the solution is — except for a better educated electorate!

        • I hear you loud and clear, Hugh. But I was really struck by the lack of knowledge and understanding of many of the legislators here when I started working in Colorado. Term limits are definitely a better idea on paper than in real life. I would be interested to hear if others have scene term limits work, but that is not what I have seen here.

          • An economist by the name of Schumpeter said in the 30’s that politicians are little more than professionals whose only ability of getting elected. They have no idea whatever, by and large, how to govern. It is one of the flaws in our system. Term limits or not, if the men and women we elect are unable to work together and figure out what is best for the country and not just their continued time in office, we in big trouble. And that does seem to be the case. We may be in the middle of a failed experiment, though I doubt you would agree!

            • I actually think you could be right, but I really think term limits are the failed experiment. I know a lot of good politicians who are terrible at campaigns but great at policy. But again, this goes back to campaign finance, right? It all seems to go back to that!

  2. It’s all over my head …but I did like the wide -eyed idealist comment. That describes me…maybe not politically tho* In that department..I am the #dontturnthetvon banish negativity type. But for the record…I am grateful for your type *:)

    • Ha! I think you are not alone. I would love to find a way for people to feel like they want to learn more and to be more involved, but the current debates make that tricky. I just turned 40, so I think the idealism is here to stay! 🙂 Thanks so much for reading and leaving a comment.

  3. I think the question is not should we require people to vote but how do we show them what a priviledge it is to vote and make them passionate about doing so. There are so many people dying world-wide for the right to vote. Why are we so complacent in north america? Have we forgotten how blessed we really are?

    • Great point. And in doing so, maybe people would be more inspired to educate themselves on the issues and the candidates. I do get nervous about forcing peopele to vote who are not making an informed decision. I am afraid that a lot of people think their vote doesn’t count, but it does!!! Thanks so much for stopping by and for your comment.

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