Much ado about nothing. In our opinion, that's what is occurring as the media engages in its traditional post mortem analysis on the elections -- who won, who lost, why and what it all means.
What it means is that for the third time in three successive national election contests the American voting public has replaced one set of "rascals" with another set of "rascals" and is expecting better results. Won't happen!
That's because we are stuck in a perpetual cycle of electoral rigor mortis. The newly elected candidates and those who supported them don't recognize it but their aspirations for enhanced performance or major reform are D.O.A. -- dead on arrival.
The reason for this is that the overriding issue is not who sits in the seats in Congress but the fact that we have a broken political governance system. Even with the Category 4 hurricane that hit the Democratic Party this year, unless and until we fix that system -- the most that can be expected are marginal or incremental changes around the edges.
There are four primary factors that contribute to this broken system:
1. Our two party electoral process disenfranchises independents and nonpartisans -- who according to a September Pew Research poll now constitute 37% of the electorate. In most instances, the members of this bloc are precluded from participating in a primary unless they select a party with which to affiliate. The primaries themselves tend to be controlled by the fringes (think "tea party or conservative" on the right and "liberal or progressive" on the left). As a result, by the time we get to a general election, the independent and non partisan (and moderates in both parties) are usually forced to choose between the lesser of two evils.
2. Gerrymandering produces election boundaries that favor the incumbents and the party in power in each state. As long as the politicians control the computers and the crayons, there is absolutely no way that we will have fair districts. Without fair districts, it's impossible to have fair elections.
3. A dysfunctional Congress created in large part by the way in which Congress does business such as cloture, seniority and the absence of term limits which promote inertia and competitiveness instead of innovation and collaboration. Congress suffers from a severe case of ossification and hardening of the organizational arteries. Earlier this year Senator Lamar Alexander observed that "The Congress does not do comprehensive well." Congress will never be able to do comprehensive problem solving or to improve its own performance unless it modifies and modernizes its rules of engagement.
4. Money laundering, or as some would call it, campaign finance. As long as the lobbyists, special interests, fat cats and those with the biggest checkbooks control not only who gets nominated, but also what gets proposed and how business is done, the system cannot and will not heal itself. Those with the money will rule and those with the most money will rule the most. The Supreme Court's egregious Citizens United decision, with the subsequent influx of "anonymous grassroots" campaign groups, has made this situation even worse. It has elevated "free speech" of the corporation above that of the citizen. When the corporation's voice speaks louder than the citizen's, democracy is at risk.
What do we need to do about this? In our opinion, we need to create a citizens' movement focused on fixing the broken governance system. Solutions that could be advanced include: Opening the primary process to permit full participation of independents and non-partisans. Supporting a national fair districting initiative. Calling upon Congress to hold hearings on its own dysfunctionality and to revamp the way it does business. Requiring transparency and full disclosure from individuals and organizations that pay for political ads.
We should ask all political candidates to sign a pledge to implement solutions such as these and to fix the broken governance system. We should also implement a national campaign to educate the public on the critical importance of reforming the system.
We've got another national election coming up in just two short years. If a group of valiant citizens band together to place an intense spotlight on the governance system in those years, they can breathe new life into the political process and help us overcome our electoral rigor mortis. Who knows they might even be able to restore both "honor" and "sanity" to a system that is badly in need of it.