Forget, for the time being, the partisan notion that replacing the political party in control of Congress or the White House with another will magically fix the nation's ills and concentrate instead on the process itself and the ability of elected officials to turn what our forefathers saw as public service into a lifelong career where greed, corruption and lust for power rules.
I've been around politics for some four decades - three of them in journalism and one inside the political machine - and that's long enough to form some ideas on what might or might not work when it comes to serious reform.
To kickstart the discussion, we propose to open a debate on radical reform of our government and the political system that sustains it. Radical reform means more than the band-aid approach too often applied to the problem. Real reform requires real change.
ABSOLUTE TERM LIMITS: Eight years. Period. Combined. We limit the President to eight years in office. Let's do the same in Congress. Reduce Senate terms from six years to four and limit Senators to two four-year terms; House members to four two-year terms.
Do we allow someone to serve eight years in the House, followed by eight years in the Senate and then eight years as President? No. That's 24 years. The limit is eight years: Combined. This is supposed to be public service, not a career.
SHORTEN THE ELECTION SEASON TO 60 DAYS: The political election season is now 24/7. Too long. Way too long. All primaries within the first 30 days and the general election campaign runs no more than one month.
ELIMINATE PRESIDENTIAL NOMINATING CONVENTIONS: After the 30-day primary season, if a candidate has won enough to win the nomination outright, he or she gets the nod. If not, delegates meet for one day and cast ballots. No convention. No hoopla.
GIVE VOTERS THE OPTION TO REALLY SAY "NO:" Put "None of the above" on the federal ballot and make it binding. Don't like any of the candidates? Give voters the options to say they want new choices. If "None of the above" gets more votes than any candidate then nobody is elected and you have to have a new election within 60 days with new candidates.
ELIMINATE THE ELECTORAL COLLEGE: This is supposed to a system where the majority rules. That's not always the case. We've had Presidential elections where a majority of voters in the country picked on President and the electoral college picked another. Let's eliminate a system where campaigns concentrate on "key states" and the rest of the country is left out in the cold. Let the majority rule.
LIMIT CONGRESSIONAL SESSIONS TO 60 DAYS: Our forefathers didn't foresee Congress as a full-time operation. They were right. Congress meets for 60 days to consider the legislation to keep the country running. No more. No long recesses, no four-day workweeks. They put in 40-hour workweeks just like most working stiffs and then they go home because nobody's life, liberty or property is safe while Congress is in session.
MAKE CONGRESSIONAL PAY TRULY REPRESENTATIVE: Pay House members the median income for the district they represent. Senators get the median income for their state. This is public service, not a chance to live large at taxpayer expense. They say they represent average Americans. Let them live like it.
This is the start of what will be a series of columns focused on real reform of the process that governs our lives, a process I believe has gotten out of control and can be fixed only through drastic change.
It's a start but it won't be the end. On May 1, we will be launching a grassroots effort to reform the system, a non-partisan educational organization that will focus on fixing the system.
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