WHAT SORT OF DEMOCRACY?
The previous chapters exposed more than a few shortcomings of America's electoral system. We need to summarize the most pressing problems thus far identified and consider how to alleviate them. Reform is needed, but not all currently voguish reforms touted as surefire solutions will in fact improve the situation. It is first necessary to identify what is wrong with some current reform alternatives before one can find reforms that might actually do some good. This chapter develops an approach that creates more stability, accountability, turnout, and deliberation in American politics than do present electoral arrangements. However, achieving this requires thinking that differs substantially from the current “reform consensus” in Washington, D.C. It is to the shortcomings of that mindset that we next turn.
Just about every member of Congress finds America's electoral system in need of some sort of reform. Moreover, they are egged on by a bevy of reform groups, such as Common Cause, the Center for Public Integrity, and the League of Women Voters. Discussions of electoral reform in most states also reflects this legislative receptivity and reformist group activism. The reformist consensus in Washington, D.C., and most state capitals is rooted in the Progressive mindset: antiparty, hostile to money in politics, seeking “professionalism” in politics. The media enthusiastically trumpet this conventional wisdom, sharing “the ideology of Progressivism,” reacting “viscerally and emotionally” to the role of money in politics (Rosenthal