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How to eliminate politicians from setting policy

Posted by John T. Reed on

Much of the problem with our politics is parties. “Bipartisan” has almost become a punchline. On our recent cruise, one of the speakers was former Congressman Martin Frost who wrote the book Partisan Divide. Among other things, it proves that the divide is no optical illusion. The number of laws passed with only one party’s votes has gone way up.

My reform suggestions—national binding referendums and a grand jury congress—remove the parties from legislation.

In the national binding referendums, you might hear which side the major parties favor, but there would be no mention of the parties on the ballot. All you see is the wording of the ballot measure and whether it passes goes by the ME/NE electoral college votes. That is, if the ballot measure wins a state, it get two electoral votes; if it wins a congressional district, it gets another electoral vote. No winner-take-all as in other states now. 270 electoral votes is a majority just as in presidential elections. Sometimes, a plurality would be designated as enough to win. But no political parties have any official involvement.

With the grand jury Congress, the existing Congress would be eliminated by constitutional amendment. They new Congress would not be elected. It would be selected at random, like juries and military draftees. A sane, non-felon, citizen would be selected by lottery in each district and two in each state, corresponding to the current senators and representatives.
But they would not go to Washington, DC. They would work in a federal building near their home. Their identities would be secret as with a grand jury. There would be no group photo. 

All they would do would be read bills, do their own research on whether to vote for it, and vote. The ballot would be like an absentee ballot. The voter’s information would be on the outside of the envelope. The ballot itself would have no marking as to who cast it. Not only do special interest not know how they voted, neither do friends and relatives, which allows them to vote, for example, to cut social security. A politician congress will never vote to cut social security, but it has to be cut. A grand jury congress or a referendum voter can do it.

No one is allowed to talk to the members other than their staff. And since you cannot tell how a member voted, you cannot know if your bribe was rewarded. So no bribes. No campaign contributions. No campaign. No speeches, no alliances, no log rolling, not you scratch my back. No compromise, just voting.

Members may belong to a party, but the party has nothing to do with anything official. There is no aisle to reach across. No communication between members. They just read proposed bills, research them, and vote on them. 

I would also end all mention of parties from all federal laws and all ballots nationwide. No party would have guaranteed ballot access. Everyone who wanted to be on the presidential ballot would have to get the required signatures as a person. Party affiliation would not help you with the state ballot creators.

One simple solution print no names at all on ballots. No signatures required. All votes would be write in.

There would be no politician leaders like McConnell, Shumer, Ryan, or Pelosi in Congress. Media would have nothing to report other than what votes were scheduled and whether they passed or did not pass. No unanimous votes would be revealed because that would reveal how individual members voted. All the public would know is whether the measure passed by a majority or a two-thirds majority. 

In addition to eliminating parties, this would eliminate federal politicians other than the president.

Some laws require boards and committees have bipartisan membership. Those would be modified to eliminate mention of parties.

Ideology would go away just like bribes. There would be no way to tell if a member adhered to what way the ideologues said to vote. A huge premium would be placed on writing bills such that they did not scare or confuse the randomly chosen congresspersons into voting no.

Who would initiate bills? I do not have that figured out. Probably each president and each cabinet member would be given a quota they could submit. The public could submit bills if they got enough signatures. The congress would work a 40-hour week. No “dialing for dollars” everyday. No recesses. No holidays except the ones ordinary federal employees get off. There would be a limit on the annual number of bills that could be submitted that would match up with the number of work days.

Grand jury congress would get paid the same as Congress gets paid now. They would have a term of six months. If you did it once, you would never be allowed to do it again.

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