When the Dems took over Congress, I dared to hope.
I did not really expect them to do ... anything. But I'm American. So I was willing to hope even against insurmountable odds.
And here we are seven months into the 110th Congress, and we've got a whole lot of nothing to show for it. They've raised the minimum wage, which was certainly a good thing for many, many Americans. But as far as a legislative achievement goes, well, after a decade without a minimum-wage hike, it was a gimme.
They have earned an approval rating even lower than that of the destructor-in-chief and in a fraction of the time it took him to do it. At least part of the blame lies at the feet of the Republican minority who are filibustering every bill that twitches despite having so recently threatened to end filibusters once and for all if the Dems didn't approve some pretty unqualified judges.
On the other hand, an equal measure of blame should be slapped on the Dems' heads. Their lack of vision and strategic ability make them the Keystone Cops of politics. So we go from a bad president, to a worse Congress, to a bureaucracy happily redefining torture, and a Supreme Court ... don't get me started.
The one ray of hope in all this the immigration bill, the one rational piece of legislation George Bush ever introduced is dead.
The evidence is overwhelming. The system is broken. When everything has gone wrong when Social Security, health care, national security, diplomacy, immigration, free trade, energy policy, education, to name a few when absolutely everything is rapidly spiraling the drain and when our elected leaders' response is zilch, the only solution is to go to the source. The system has been broken for a long time, but so far it's been a manageable disease, and we could treat the symptoms. It is manageable no longer.
Identifying the disease is easy: The government no longer represents the people of the United States.
Americans are, at heart, a sensible, little-"r" republican, conservative-in-the-sense-that-we-want-to-keep-the-good-things-we've-fought-so-hard-to-achieve, and liberal-in-the-sense-that-we-learn-from-our-mistakes people. Our government is not anymore.
In nearly every opinion poll on nearly every issue everything from the war on terror to abortion the government today is grossly out-of-step with the American people.
The system is supposed to ensure that the government of the United States represents the American people all of them. But there is ample evidence that the system no longer works if it isn't broken, it is at least seriously sprained.
Over the course of the last several years, I have come to believe that there are basically three things that need to happen to get U.S. back on track.
First, gerrymandering needs to stop. Iowa has a system where a non-partisan committee assembles voting districts, keeping them simple, contiguous, and of nearly equal population. Their districts have a less than .08 population variance. Variances of up to 10 percent are not uncommon elsewhere in the country.
Second, the primary system needs an overhaul. Because the Iowa caucus and the New Hampshire primary are so early, they exert an influence on whom the rest of the country gets to choose between that is grossly out of proportion with their size. All we have to do is make all primaries on the same day or give every state the choice between a few select days that are neither too close, nor too far apart.
Finally, there's campaign finance reform. That one's a doozy. So far, all attempts to reform campaign finance have only made it worse. Frankly, I have no idea how to fix it, but I'm sure there is a solution.
In the case of the first two, the solution to the problem is almost insultingly simple, yet the chances that any reform will be passed by the establishment are negligible. It is, after all, never in the interest of the establishment to change the circumstances that make it the establishment.
But then, this is nothing new. Every great reform in this nation's history has been led and demanded by the people, not the politicians.