We Need Election ReformPosted: 16 April 2010
For years many of us have been calling for some form of election reform….they have heard our calls…but their idea of reform is to control the funds that are given to campaigns…..everyone is yelling about the cash that is spent on and by campaigns….it is a legitimate concern but there is more to election reform than the amount of money that is thrown around….
There has been a movement since 1867 to try and control the amount of money in campaigns that in turn gives some more influence in politics than others…..and the recent ruling by the US Supreme Court has crapped all over that movement, when they ruled that corporations could directly donate to campaigns…this will give corporations unbridled influence and in turn will give even more than now, more say in what will be considered by the Congress and the Prez as important issues of the day.
I am, among others, talking about such other things, beyond campaign funds, like term limits, accessibility to third parties to the electoral process, etc…….
On term limits the Cato Institute has some very good points in favor:
Lesson One. Term limits stimulate political competition. That is accomplished in a variety of ways, from increasing the number of open seats and special elections to lowering the reelection rates of incumbents. Many former incumbents return to private life, and a significant number run for other offices, thereby stimulating political competition at other levels. There is also evidence to suggest that campaigns may be less costly in a term-limited electoral environment. Under term limits, California’s state campaign spending since 1992 is 44 percent lower than from 1984 to 1988.
Lesson Two. Term limits increase legislative diversity. The prospect of shorter political careers is also changing the characteristics of people who choose to seek public office, encouraging political participation by nonprofessional politicians. Hence, the occupational makeup of state legislatures is gradually moving away from the traditional preponderance of ex-lawyers and ex-political aides. In California in 1995 there were only 3.4 percent self-described full-time state legislators, down from 36 percent in 1986, and three times more legislators are now business people than were previously.
Lesson Three. Term-limited legislatures undergo positive institutional changes. As institutions, they become more merit based and less governed by an outdated seniority system. Term limits eliminate the possibility of entrenched legislative leaders dominating a legislative chamber. Leadership positions (especially that of Speaker) become less powerful as a more decentralized power structure evolves in response to the growing independence of term-limited freshmen legislators. Generally speaking, freshman legislators tend to ask tougher questions of bureaucrats and demand a higher level of performance from government agencies than did their predecessors.
Lesson Four. Term limits act as a natural campaign finance reform. Term limits diminish the value of a legislative seat to lobbyists and the special interests they represent in state capitals. That reduces the incentive for lobbyists to raise and to distribute the large “soft money” contributions so disliked by the political establishment. In states as dissimilar as Maine, Michigan, and Ohio there is evidence that lobbyists are unsettled by the term limits-induced need to build new political relationships from scratch.
Lesson Five. Term limits improve the quality of legislation. The continual infusion of fresh blood into state legislatures is improving public policy. By mandating frequent legislative turnover, term limits are bringing new perspectives to state legislatures, reducing the concentration on reelection, and thereby diminishing the incentive for wasteful election-related pork barrel spending that flourishes in a careerist legislative culture.
A good case for term limits……
What about third party politics? Here is a doozy of a subject—-third party politics is almost non-existent in the US…yes there is a wealth of single issue parties but few get on ballots and even fewer are anywhere close to successful. The biggest argument against this is that they point to Europe and their need for coalitions to govern…personally I think that is a lame excuse……they do not like the idea that a candidate could get less than 50% of the vote and still be the winner……and in the US they discourage any third party by making it all but impossible to get on a ballot…making it hard because of the number of signatures needed or the large sum of money to register the party…basically they give third parties ever obstacle they can imagine to keep them off of a ballot…..they cannot outlaw third parties outright because it would be anti-Constitutional, so they use legal trickery to do the same thing…keep third parties off of ballots…..
Personally, I think any party should be allowed on every ballot…it would make our system more democratic and make election watching far more interesting than it is now…..most people do not agree with me on this….they see ALL third parties as spoilers……..but they are the ones that think the two party system is the ONLY answer to a well run political system……apparently, they are not paying attention!