When asked how to fix the Senate earlier this week at an Aspen Institute luncheon, retiring Republican Senator George Voinovich offered a simple solution: "I think we have to blow up the place." This feeling of frustration with our current system is all too frequent amongst members of the Senate, as well as pundits and everyday citizens.
A number of soon-to-be ex-Senators say partisanship has given way to political gridlock that is crippling the legislature. Retiring Democrat Senator Evan Bayh complained of the dysfunction of the chamber in an Op-Ed piece published in the New York Times, entitled "Why I'm Leaving the Senate." In that piece Rep. Bayh points to the many reasons that Congress needs reformation:
There are many causes for the dysfunction: strident partisanship, unyielding ideology, a corrosive system of campaign financing, gerrymandering of House districts, endless filibusters, holds on executive appointees in the Senate, dwindling social interaction between senators of opposing parties and a caucus system that promotes party unity at the expense of bipartisan consensus.
Many good people serve in Congress. They are patriotic, hard-working and devoted to the public good as they see it, but the institutional and cultural impediments to change frustrate the intentions of these well-meaning people as rarely before. It was not always thus.
partisan divide, filibuster rule, and the system of campaign financing need to be the first issues addressed. Rep. Bayh points that with the Citizen United ruling, allowing corporations and unions to spend freely on ads explicitly supporting or opposing political candidates, the new system will only make matters worse and result in a stronger divide between parties and members. Good job Supreme Court!
With a broken legislature and an ass-backwards judicial branch, what are Americans to do? Contact your local representative and let them know that they are useless and that the whole system needs a drastic overhaul.