There are only two long term solutions to the partisan gridlock paralyzing the government. One is meaningful campaign finance reform and the other is term limits. Under our current campaign finance laws politicians are not only allowed but actually forced to accept bribes in exchange for their vote and influence. Their first thought after obtaining elected office is about raising the funds necessary to get reelected and perpetuate their prestige, position, power and influence. They become hostages of the special interest and ideologues’ from both sides of the aisle who control the purse strings that lead to incumbency.
What we need is a system that does not incentivize greed, corruption and avarice through the selling of one’s soul to the devil for the purpose of self-enrichment. You cannot accept vast amounts of money from anyone or any entity without incurring strong and binding obligations to favor their positions regardless of their probity, logic and value to the country. The current system and laws just don’t work in favor of “we the people” and never will as long as the driving force behind all legislative action is money and not ideas, principals and values based on what’s best for the country.
The legal fiction that corporations are people with constitutional rights should not extend to the ability to subvert the electoral process through the use of legalized bribery. Their right to free speech should not include an unfettered ability to purchase access, influence and votes contrary to the best interest of the country as a whole. Their petitions to the government should be limited to the empiric proofs, logical arguments and pleadings they can present in public meetings. We would not countenance such behavior in any other political or business forum and the congress and senate should not be an exception that proves the rule.
The implementation of term limits will in my opinion guide us back toward a paradigm where we are served by citizen legislators as opposed to professional politicians more interested in the power, prestige and self-aggrandizement that attaches to perpetual incumbency. Public service should be just that, a service to the public and nothing more. Public financing of political campaigns, open primaries and term limits would ensure a constant turn over and infusion of fresh ideas and perspectives. There would be more citizen’s motivated to participate in public service via the pursuit of elected office.
Limiting terms in office would also reduce the incentive to engage in less than pure motives and instead focus people’s efforts on creating a sound legacy of participation in the political process. If you know as a senator you are limited to two terms or as a congressman you are limited to three terms your motivation changes from pursuing incumbency to leaving a legacy of good works behind when you return to private life. Even if your goal is continued public service the motivation remains the same.
There are entirely too many members of both parties currently afflicted with ideological intransigence based on political naiveté, paranoia, prejudice and unwillingness to see the other side’s positions as valid. We cannot tolerate a situation where our politicians consider each other enemies instead of colleagues. This country as well as the entire world faces some daunting long term challenges that require study, solutions and bipartisan solidarity. We will not be able to effectively shape our future if we cannot even agree on what the problems are because of the influence of money and the fear of losing the next election.
The best definition of insanity I have ever heard is to keep on doing what you have always done and go on expecting better results. As a wise man once said that dog won’t hunt. It is time to change the rules of the game and remind the players who they play for and why. We have always had and will always have the quality of government we deserve based on our own participation in, commitment to and demands made of that government. This situation will not fix itself. It will require drastic changes and the determination of the electorate to restore even a modicum of functionality to Capitol Hill. Sitting around complaining will accomplish nothing. I urge all Americans who are tired of the perpetual impasse and gridlock on the hill to get involved and write and call your representatives to demand the implementation of these two changes to our constitution in order to end partisan gridlock, the influence of money and the pursuit of incumbency.