LETTERS TO THE EDITOR - Reform of our political system is needed


Washington is broken. Three problems cry out for solution: the absence of responsible government; the role of money in politics; and extreme polarization.

All the other great democracies have governments that take credit when things go well, accept the blame when they go badly, and can be kicked out when they go very badly. Not so in the United States.

While there is plenty of blame to go around, the electorate has no way of knowing whether it belong to a president who prefers campaigning to governing, or to Congress that believes legislating is less important than ensuring the lease of current occupant of the White House does not exceed four years.

The chances of change are close to zero. The notion of the separation of powers is enshrined in the Constitution and in the hearts of the American people.

Elections are expensive because they are long. They do not need to be long. Elsewhere they take about six weeks, in Canada by law, and in Britain by customary usage. In this country their length cannot be limited because of a Supreme Court that tortures the definition of free speech.

Again change seems remote. Presidents, with the advice and consent of the Senate, can appoint new justices to the court when a vacancy occurs, but when they do so it is not usually on the basis of the appointee's views on the First Amendment.

Polarization results from a system of primary elections that ensure that congressmen and senators belong either to the right wing of the Republican Party, or to the left wing of the Democratic Party. Primaries were instituted because the people did not like their politicians being chosen in smoke-filled rooms.

But party leaders wanted to win elections, and to that end chose candidates with the broadest possible appeal, i.e. they chose centrists.

Here is a problem with the easiest solution. Primaries are not mandated by the Constitution. If they can be regarded as a noble experiment that has failed, then reform is possible.

Gordon Philpot

Walla Walla


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