“There is too much partisanship and not enough progress — too much narrow ideology and not enough practical problem-solving. Even at a time of enormous challenge, the peoples’ business is not being done.”
This is a quote from Senator Evan Bayh (D-IND.) at his press conference announcing his retirement from the senate. Bayh was on a short-list of candidates to become President Obama’s vice president and was once considered a possible presidential candidate. This is his second term in the Senate and Bayh has reached his tipping point.
Bayh kisses his wife at his press conference
announcing he will not seek re-election.
Last month, we all bore witness to the special Massachusetts election that concluded with Republican candidate Scott Brown beating out Democrat Martha Coakley for the senate seat long held by Democrat Ted Kennedy. President Obama even took time out from his schedule to campaign for Coakley in hopes to move his healthcare legislation forward. Coakley would have made an even 60 Senate seats for the Democrats, reaching the minimum votes needed to invoke cloture and block any filibuster attempts. During a short press conference after he was sworn in on February 4, Brown told reporters, “I’ll be the 41st vote, not the 60th.” The Senate seat that Ted Kennedy, who in a Newsweek article last July described national healthcare as the “cause of my life,” is now the seat preventing healthcare reform from passing.
If you’ve voted and proudly displayed your, “I Voted!” sticker complete with American flag, in the last twenty years, you have undoubtedly had someone or had wondered yourself why you took time out of your day to do so. Thanks to advances in polling, we often know beforehand, with a high level of confidence, which candidate will win the race. (Do you really think McCain would have selected Sarah Palin as his running-mate unless he knew he had to pull a rabbit out of his hat?)
For the past 60 years in the United States, not once have more than 65% of eligible voters cast a ballot in a presidential election. Nationally in midterm elections since 1974, not once have more than 40% of registered voters cast their ballots. 80,000,000 people are deciding America’s collective fate.
For 60% of Americans during midterm elections, taking half an hour out of their day to vote once every four years isn’t even worth their time. That tells me one of two things: 1) Americans dislike both candidates with any shot at winning and/or 2) Americans have, and for a while now, accepted the fact that partisan politics in Washington are pulling the country in two opposite directions, and in this system, no tangible progress gets made.
Scott Brown at a press conference following his inauguration
told reporters, “I’ll be the 41st vote, not the 60th.”
So how do we go about fixing this problem? What is the American thing to do?
Once upon a time, centuries ago, our forefathers came to this land to live freely and prosper. When they set the groundwork for our governmental structure, they dreamed of a land governed by and for the citizens. In today’s government, legislators are not fighting for the benefit of the citizens, they’re fighting to climb up the political ladder or to get reelected. Legislators, better described as career politicians, seemed to have forgotten that Congress is not an entrepreneurial enterprise. They seemed to have forgotten they are providing a public service and that they must do whatever it takes to insure the betterment of their constituents and it is a responsibility larger than them.
Since this seems to be a concept that many legislators have lost sight of, I have a possible solution. Like many European nations, we could set up a proportional electoral system for Congress. This system searches to have the percentage of votes for a certain group of candidates equal the number of seats they receive. For example, if the democrats receive 42% of the votes they will get 42% of the seats in the legislative body. If the green party nets 6% of the votes, they receive 6% of the seats and so on. What this system does is represent the people more accurately. Instead of a candidate receiving 51% of the vote and representing 100% of his constituents, this system works to represent everyone as a whole.
This system works on several different levels:
1. It makes every vote count. Since the vote is based on percentages, every vote could potentially swing a candidate in favor of your party. No longer will the 49% of people who voted for the individual who lost the election essentially have their votes thrown away.
2. This gives Green Party and other minority political parties a chance to have their voices heard in Congress consistently. For a country based on the principles of freedom and democracy, guaranteeing the alienation and discrimination of minority political parties is inconsistent and undemocratic.
3. Fairly represents 100% of the people (that voted)
4. It also helps quell the two-party standstill in American politics. By having more than two political parties in the fold, new ideas will be brought to the table. Since candidates will be able to make it into Congress using alternative political parties, more legislators will be able to stand up for what they truly believe in and will be able to make progress instead of just voting to appease their party.
By no means do I consider myself knowledgeable on the topic of political science. I heard most of these ideas for the first time in a class about the European Union. I have a limited grasp but even I can see that American politics are not working the way they should.
So I must ask: when will the American citizens reach their tipping point? I’m not exactly sure, but if our government remains reactionary as opposed to forward-thinking, the tipping point will come.