8 Ways to Fix Our Politics

Article excerpt

Byline: Andrew Romano

From California to Capitol Hill, America's political system is an unholy mess. Here's a pathway to less partisanship and more problem solving.

THE PROBLEM Gerrymandering (the redrawing of congressional districts by the party in power to keep its candidates safe) tends to produce geo-graphically irrational one-party districts that often, in turn, elect hardline partisans who are out of touch with their new, far-flung constituents.

THE FIX Independent redistricting. So far, 13 states (most recently, California) have scrapped the party-boss system and established non-partisan or bipartisan redistricting commissions. The remaining 37 should follow suit. If they did, there would be fewer unyielding partisans in Congress--and bad incumbents would be easier to can.

Andrew Cuomo, N.Y. governor

We must stop "prioritiz[ing] incumbency and partisan interests over democratic representation."

THE PROBLEM Every cycle, elections get more expensive to win, which means candidates spend more time fundraising-and doing favors for their biggest special-interest donors-but less time listening to constituents and figuring out how to, you know, solve problems.

THE FIX A nationwide "clean elections" system. Right now, if state candidates in Arizona or Maine agree to forgo private cash, they receive public subsidies covering the entire cost of a campaign, plus matching grants that help them keep pace with privately funded rivals. Result: money has less impact on who wins, and candidates spend 10 percent more time with voters.

Richard Durbin, Ill. senator

"Americans would be shocked if they knew how much time candidates spend dialing for dollars."

THE PROBLEM Partisan primaries-elections dominated by activists who demand ideological purity and consider compromise a cardinal sin-produce partisan candidates. And partisan candidates, once elected, produce partisan (read: dysfunctional) government.

THE FIX Follow the lead of Louisiana, Washington, and (as of last year) California and adopt a national "open primary" system in which every candidate appears on the same ballot and every voter can choose among them, regardless of party. The top two advance, even if both (or neither) are Republicans or Democrats, and our politics becomes less rigid as a result.

Arnold Schwarzenegger, Former Calif. governor

"[Voters] want a system where representatives put what's best--ahead of extreme partisan doctrine."

THE PROBLEM Today, the presidential candidate who receives the most popular votes in a particular state wins all its electoral votes--which means White House hopefuls only have to pay attention to swing states and can wind up winning the election without winning the national popular vote.

THE FIX Don't end the Electoral College; just adopt the National Popular Vote plan. …