New book has good ideas how to reduce partisan gridlock

While the federal government teetered on the so-called “fiscal cliff,” a new book suggests better ways to manage the nation’s affairs.

“The Parties Versus the People” by former Oklahoma U.S. Rep. Mickey Edwards points out that the Founding Fathers were generally opposed to political parties. They felt that factionalism would be the undoing of the nation.

Given the current political climate, his view is getting more attention. After all, ask yourself this question: Should your member of Congress or legislator be representing the interests of your entire district or only the interests of his or her political party? Unfortunately, the system has evolved, particularly in the last 30 years, not just to expect partisan conflict, but to encourage it, making citizens secondary to a party’s interests.

Edwards offers changes that would get us back to what the Founding Fathers intended — that our elected representatives would be working in the common interest, not just for partisan advantage.

Unfortunately, a constitutional amendment would be needed to alter the process. That’s unlikely because the people we elect have thrived under the partisan system as it is today. They don’t want things to change, but too many of them are extremists, of either the left or right.

The first thing Edwards would do is create an open or non-partisan blanket primary. This form of primary was most recently adopted in California and has also been used in Louisiana and Washington.

Today, in Minnesota, you can vote in either the Republican or the Democratic primary, but not both. Edwards’ idea would be to throw the candidates from all parties for a given office together in the primary and then have a run off between the top two finishers.

Some districts are so lopsided that the prevailing party is already known in advance. By having an open primary, two Democrats or two Republicans could advance to the general election, or perhaps a Democrat and a Green or a Republican and a Libertarian.

Parties could still endorse candidates, but they would face the likelihood that the candidate who could capture the center of the electorate would be most likely to win.

This is preferable to so-called “ranked-choice voting” that encourages extremism.

The second thing Edwards would do is create non-partisan panels to oversee redistricting. Thirteen states have done so, and in Arizona, the governor has the power to “impeach” the head of the independent commission for “gross misconduct.”

The tension in redistricting is between creating “representative” vs. “competitive” districts. The more competitive the districts, the higher the voter turnout. Incumbents, of course, don’t like competition. It makes it harder to keep their jobs.

In Minnesota, the Legislature oversees redistricting, but unless one party controls state government, it almost always ends up in the courts.

As for campaign contributions, Edwards would limit them to be only from individuals who would be constituents, would require all contributions to be direct to candidates so donors can’t hide behind the state party or the “Super PACs,” would require more free radio and TV time for candidates, etc.

Edwards has plenty of other ideas to dampen the partisanship. Each deserves robust debate, but how many Americans believe the national interest is served well today?

These ideas would make politics more like the Founding Fathers envisioned it: a Congress or Legislature working for the good of all instead of just a political party.

This editorial is a product of the ECM Editorial Board. Sun Thisweek and the Dakota County Tribune are members of ECM Publishers Inc.


    The premise that partisanship is bad is a bit of the problem. Our government is not parliamentary democracy, it is a republic. To ensure the rights of the minority opinions, the frames place many checks and balances to the system. This slows down governmental over reach. It’s unfortunate that our propaganda ministers desire to do away with local government control.
    I would suggest that bipartisanship is what has lead to where we are.
    Both political parties are only interested in cronyism. It just different interest groups that get the money.
    If you look a a libertarian cantidate, the propogandists tell you not to waiste your votes.

  • Jan Dobson

    -Bipartisanship suggests compromise, in this case compromise between political parties.
    -Compromise suggests agreement through mutual concessions.
    -Agreement through mutual concessions suggests “meeting on middle ground.”
    -Over time, inordinate concessions by one political party have the cumulative effect of moving the perceived “middle ground” in the direction an opposing political party.

  • Rosie from Rosemount

    This type of reasoning about compromise also recently played to the leftist media’s hand regarding the conclusion of the last Congress. The headlines read, “The least productive legislative year in the post World War II era.”

    I ask, what is worng with NOT making unneeded laws? Why is it we seem to be comforted by MORE laws, instead of fewer but better laws? Certainly, when new laws are necessary, they should be passed, but there is no point in making laws just for the sake of making laws.

    Somehow, a Congress which is rated poorly because of how many laws it did not pass makes as much sense as the Sierra Club nuking a national park to show how detrimental hydrogen bombs are on the environment.

    I do believe every single member of Congress should be replaced with non-professional politicians, and President Obabma should appoint non-career politicians to his cabinet. It is rare in a republic that something is ever permanently broken due to political ineptness, as a democratic election has the ability to make everything right in a short time.

  • taxpayer28

    Why is it we must Be bipartisan in growing government (force) but we never see any move to bipartison downsizing of goverment (freedom)