First Step Toward Real Political Reform: End the Democratic-Republican Monopoly on Elected Office

In an article calling for thoroughgoing political reform, Jonathan Turley argues in an op-ed for the LA Times that the Democratic-Republican duopoly system of government is the primary barrier to any substantive substantive improvement to our politics and its process:

Many of our current problems are either caused or magnified by the stranglehold the two parties have on our political system. Democrats and Republicans, despite their uniformly low popularity with voters, continue to exercise a virtual monopoly, and they have no intention of relinquishing control. The result is that “change” is often limited to one party handing power over to the other party. Like Henry Ford’s customers, who were promised any color car so long as it was black, voters are effectively allowed to pick any candidate they want, so long as he or she is a Democrat or Republican.

Both parties (and the media) reinforce this pathetic notion by continually emphasizing the blue state/red state divide. The fact is that the placement of members on the blue or red team is often arbitrary, with neither side showing consistent principles or values.

Turley then goes on to list a number of potential reforms, beginning with the easing of ballot access restrictions for third party and independent candidates for office:

Remove barriers to third parties. Independent and third-party candidates currently face an array of barriers, including registration rules and petition requirements, that should be removed. Moreover, we should require a federally funded electronic forum for qualified federal candidates to post their positions and material for voters. And in races for national office, all candidates on the ballot in the general election should submit to a minimum of three (for Congress) or five (for the presidency) debates that would be funded and made publicly available by the government. . . .
He also calls on the US electorate to: "end the practice of gerrymandering. . . . change the primary system . . . abolish the electoral college. . . . require a majority for presidents to be elected."


Samuel Wilson said...

Big words from Turley, but who does he expect to enact these reforms? The laws and regulations he cites do handicap independents, but the biggest handicap such candidates face is the complacent deference to the Bipolarchy on the part of an electorate that continues to assume, despite persistent incomeptence, that Democrats and Republicans alone are competent to run the government because they alone have ever exercised the power. Nothing short of revolutionary thinking (ideally not including revolutionary violence!) is required, because Americans must be willing to take the risk of empowering the powerless.

Anonymous said...

The National Popular Vote bill would guarantee the Presidency to the candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states (and DC).

Every vote, everywhere, would be politically relevant and equal in presidential elections. Candidates would need to care about voters across the nation, not just undecided voters in a handful of swing states.

The bill would take effect only when enacted, in identical form, by states possessing a majority of the electoral votes--that is, enough electoral votes to elect a President (270 of 538). When the bill comes into effect, all the electoral votes from those states would be awarded to the presidential candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states (and DC).

The Constitution gives every state the power to allocate its electoral votes for president, as well as to change state law on how those votes are awarded.

The bill is currently endorsed by over 1,707 state legislators (in 48 states) who have sponsored and/or cast recorded votes in favor of the bill.

In Gallup polls since 1944, only about 20% of the public has supported the current system of awarding all of a state's electoral votes to the presidential candidate who receives the most votes in each separate state (with about 70% opposed and about 10% undecided). The recent Washington Post, Kaiser Family Foundation, and Harvard University poll shows 72% support for direct nationwide election of the President. This national result is similar to recent polls in closely divided battleground states: Colorado-- 68%, Iowa --75%, Michigan-- 73%, Missouri-- 70%, New Hampshire-- 69%, Nevada-- 72%, New Mexico-- 76%, North Carolina-- 74%, Ohio-- 70%, Pennsylvania -- 78%, Virginia -- 74%, and Wisconsin -- 71%; in smaller states (3 to 5 electoral votes): Alaska – 70%, DC – 76%, Delaware --75%, Maine -- 77%, Nebraska -- 74%, New Hampshire --69%, Nevada -- 72%, New Mexico -- 76%, Rhode Island -- 74%, and Vermont -- 75%; in Southern and border states: Arkansas --80%, Kentucky -- 80%, Mississippi --77%, Missouri -- 70%, North Carolina -- 74%, and Virginia -- 74%; and in other states polled: California -- 70%, Connecticut -- 74% , Massachusetts -- 73%, Minnesota – 75%, New York -- 79%, Washington -- 77%, and West Virginia- 81%. Support is strong in every partisan and demographic group surveyed.

The National Popular Vote bill has passed 29 state legislative chambers, in 19 small, medium-small, medium, and large states, including one house in Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Michigan, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, and Oregon, and both houses in California, Colorado, Hawaii, Illinois, New Jersey, Maryland, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington. The bill has been enacted by Hawaii, Illinois, New Jersey, Maryland, and Washington. These five states possess 61 electoral votes -- 23% of the 270 necessary to bring the law into effect.


Anonymous said...

Under the current system of electing the President, no state requires that a presidential candidate receive anything more than a plurality of the popular votes in order to receive all of the state's electoral votes.

Not a single legislative bill has been introduced in any state legislature in recent decades (among the more than 100,000 bills that are introduced in every two-year period by the nation's 7,300 state legislators) proposing to change the existing universal practice of the states to award electoral votes to the candidate who receives a plurality (as opposed to absolute majority) of the votes (statewide or district-wide). There is no evidence of any public sentiment in favor of imposing such a requirement.

d.eris said...

"Big words from Turley, but who does he expect to enact these reforms?"

Turley more or less agrees with your take here, Sam, that this is up to the US electorate. The piece begins by talk of a potential constitutional amendment process (spurred by the recent Supreme Court ruling on campaign finance), and then he write:

"Before we can change the system, we have to change our attitude passivity and collectively declare “enough.” While our leaders control the political branches, they do not control the political process itself. That is controlled by the Constitution, which remains in control of the people, in our control. It is not too much speech or too much money that is draining the life from this Republic. It is a lack of faith in ourselves to force change without the approval or support of our leaders."

Samuel Wilson said...

Thanks for the clarification, d. I'd only add to what's needed a faith in ourselves to lead even if we lack the monopolized (or duopolized) credentials we've trained ourselves to believe indispensible for leadership.

Donald Borsch Jr. said...


Great stuff. I'm glad I saw the snippet for this one on CF and decided to venture over. Love what you're doing, sir, seriously.

Lately my head has been ready to explode with the drama between the GOP and those Dems. Idiots, the whole lot of 'em.