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Election Reform That Might Even Pass

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Election reform is a pipe dream, right? It would have to begin with campaign finance, but financial reform would have to be legislated by the very pigs gorging at the donation troughs. Incumbent congress members would have to vote to kill their own money sources. Rather than commit hari-kari like that, they’d make pious promises and form committees and hold hearings until they’d outlasted the media attention span (two weeks, tops) and then quietly get back to lunching with lobbyists. We’ve been over that ground before.

But suppose we leapfrogged financial reform, scandalous though the present practice is. Suppose we reformed term lengths instead. Suppose we continued holding congressional elections every two years, but for only half the house at a time. The idea isn’t new, and there’s a solid-gold precedent: we elect senators every two years, but only one-third at a time. Just as that system lets each senator serve six years, each congress member would serve four.

Doubling congressional term lengths would instantly cut the number of House campaigns in half and eliminate half their obscene costs as well. It would give House members two years to focus on doing their jobs for a change, instead of running around with their lips puckered up, in search of rich donors’ behinds.

Congress would like that. It seems clear to even the cynical, that most legislators want to legislate fergawdsake, rather than demean themselves with endless begging for funds. They would also like to hang onto their jobs, which would now be guaranteed for four years rather than two. (For the first election after the changeover, the half who needn’t run could be chosen by lot.) Everyone would be happy – well, except for political consultants, pollsters, air-time sellers, and similar bottom feeders.

In the no-free-lunch department, congress members would not be as quickly answerable to their constituents; but really, how often has a rep been bounced after just two years of non- or malfeasance? Partisans might complain that it would take twice as long for a Republican to evict a Democrat or vice-versa, but that seems a reasonable price to pay.
Overall, without the financial reform that everyone secretly fears and hates, all the players would be happy. The PACS and billionaires would save money, the lobbyists would go back to skewing the democratic process, and the reps would feel warm and secure. Everybody would win, and even the Republic might benefit, at least a little.

Of course, the next step might be to limit House terms to four and Senate gigs to three, and then, maybe public campaign financing and spending limits and...

Whoa! Guess there’s not enough oxygen up here in the clouds.


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Do-able reform: double House terms

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A career writer and media maven, Jim Stinson is the author of four mystery novels and a college textbook, Video: Digital Communication and Production. His newest novel, Tassy Morgan's Bluff, will be out from Penguin Books in June 2011. He lives with (more...)
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