Tuesday, July 26, 2011

A Wise Republican

Mickey Edwards is a former Repeublican Congressman, currently working for Aspen Institute.  He is a particularly effective writer.

He recently published an article in the Atlantic, entitled How to turn Republicans and Democrats into Americans.

It is a great article, and I highly recommend it to all.

I don't agree with everything he said but my disagreements are minor.

My first issue is the fact that both Democrats and Republicans have become more hidebound.  I agree that if you go by what they say, that is true.  But everyone knows the Democrats are 'wimps' that cave.  I personally think this is an advantage.  It means that the Democrats are NOT as hidebound as they sound.   They are willing to compromise, and that means that a Democrat pushed bill ends up not as being controlled by the zealots, the way a Republican backed bill does.   Contrary to the GOP, I think flip-flopping is a GOOD thing - it means you can change your mind and can work for the good of the entire country, not just the 51% of your district that voted for you.  

Mr Edwards suggests reforming the primary system, allowing for the possibility of two members of the same party in the general election.  While he does not go into specifics, I do think this can be done.   The main objection to this method are problems with the simplistic voting system we use now - which honestly only works well if there are only two real candidates.  The primary elections can be different, such as an Approval voting (you can vote for multiple candidates, but only once per candidate),  a Single transferable vote (used when two or more seats are available.  You vote for whom you want, with an automatica transfer to someone else if your candidate has already won and does not need more votes - used in Australia),  Instant Runoff/Alternative vote (you rank the candidates 1, 2,3, 4, etc.  anyone with 51% of 1 wins, if not, then eliminate candidate with least ones, and anyone that voted 1 for him, now uses whoever they voted for as #2, repeat.  Also used in Australia), and/or   Condorcet (voters rank them again, 1,2,3..., but a more complex matrix is used to determine the winner, pitting each candidate against each other)

I personally prefer the Instant Run off method.  It is simple enough to understand, and lets people rank candidates, as opposed to simply yes/no.

He wants fair redistricting, which I think is a good thing, but irrelevant.  As he pointed out, attempts to gerrymander are not as effective as people doing it want.  As such, fixing the problem is not that important.  It's kind of like saying "No, you can't use a lucky rabbit's foot" when gambling.

Then he says something I disagree with strongly.  He wants to let anyone amend bills.  The problem is that it is easy to use amendments to destroy bills.  You just need a majority of the people in the room at the time, not a majority of all the congressman.  So your opponents can add a  "Legalize Gay Marriage" amendment to your bill to limit abortions.  

Amendments are often put on to bills that are expected to pass that have little/nothing to do with the bill.   This makes bills needlessly complicated.  We need LESS amendments not more.   Put those 'amendments' in as separate bills.

I can see making the change he recommended with two caveat:   1) Let the bill submitter veto any amendments.  That is, anyone, Democrat or Republican, can attempt to add anything they want to a bill.  But the Congressman that submitted the bill (not their party, just them), can veto any amendment.   This increases the chance that a good amendment will be added, without increasing the chance that it will be sabotaged.  It also grants the bill's submitter more power, as opposed to the party leadership.  2) If you propose amending a bill, then vote against the bill, you personally are fined $10,000 with the money going to Presidential Election Campaign Fund.

His other recommendations, with have to do with committee leadership, vacancies, and staff, all make sense.   It removes the partisanship and thereby a lot of the power of the political parties.

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