According to a recent Gallup Poll, only 15 percent of the people approve of the way Congress is handling its job. A Public Policy poll showed that people even rate members of Congress below cockroaches and colonoscopies.
Roughly half of all eligible U.S. citizens do not participate in elections. Some join groups like the Tea Party, and others obtain assault weapons to protect themselves from their own government. Why is there so much alienation from a government whose members we elect?
Many people sense that our political system is broken, but they’re not sure what’s wrong or how to fix it.
If an opinion poll shows that 60 to 80 percent of the people want Congress to do X, but Congress does Y (the opposite), or does nothing at all, then something is amiss.
Here is what’s wrong: The whole is greater than the sum of its parts. In other words, the national or public interest is greater than the sum of all the special interests.
Special-interest lobbyists swarm over Capitol Hill with tons of money to offer our elected representatives.
Under the current system, politicians must constantly solicit money for their campaigns, so getting the support of special-interest groups often becomes their primary objective.
Our elected representatives should not be dependent on special-interests. The ill-advised Supreme Court decisions equating money with speech, and declaring that a corporation is a person must be overturned by law or, if necessary, by a constitutional amendment. Only individual U.S. citizens should be allowed to make campaign contributions.
For example, an individual could contribute up to $100 per year to a candidate or political party – with strict limitations on campaign spending as well. Political Action Committees serving the interests of corporations, labor unions, associations and more should be banned.
Negative personal attack ads that are false or verge on slandering or libeling an opponent also should be prohibited, with swift condemnations and stiff fines for violations.
Nowadays, many congressmen don’t have to worry about being held accountable for their performance in office because their districts are gerrymandered, in other words, district lines are drawn in such a way as to make it almost impossible for a candidate from the other political party to win. This is done by whichever party controls a state legislature.
To give citizens a real choice, legislative districts in each state should be redrawn after every decennial census by a Legislative Redistricting Commission composed of three Democrats, three Republicans and three Independents.
We must have confidence that our electoral system is fair, and our constitutional right to vote is protected.
This means that there should be no barriers to, or infringement on, the right to vote of every U.S. citizen over 18 years of age, regardless of race, creed, religion, ethnicity, gender, income or location, and all such votes should be counted.
Recent history shows that we can’t solve any of our other problems until we get our political house in order.
By taking the above steps, the best qualified people will run for office, we can trust our government will be restored, and the will of the people, more often than not, will prevail.
We don’t need big government or small government; we need good government.
Anthony J. DiStefano spent 29 years in state and federal government including working with the Ohio General Assembly, the U.S. House of Representatives and two executive agencies of the federal government.