Thursday, January 1, 2009

Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson, Off Center: "Conclusion: Meeting the Challenge"

Steps for restoring a balance of political power

1) rebuild the breadth of labor unions -- but this will have to be done largely after balance is achieved rather than as a prerequisite. It is impossible to pass the new laws and issue the regulations needed for a labor revival while Republican extremists are in control.
2) Use the internet to organize opposition. Fundraising, e-mail lists, blogs. Powerful and flexible tool for coordination.

Republican corruption and overreach have created an opening for restoration of political balance.
1) Remove barriers to increased voter turnout.
a) Reform voter registration: implement same-day registration; get rid of requirement to re-register after moving; restore voting rights for ex-felons
b) Make election day a national holiday

2) Increase the proportion of competitive elections
a) Put redistricting in the hands of non-partisan panels
b) Split state electoral votes by district as well as state (neither this or the preceding should be done only in Democratic states, however -- that would be "unilateral disarmament")
c) Create pure open primaries with top two vote-getters advancing to general election
d) Require free TV and radio airtime for federal candidates
e) Take constituent service out of the hands of Congressmen and have it performed by non-partisan ombudsmen (strongly disagree with this: the vested interest of politicians in reelection gives them a stronger incentive to perform constituent service well, and the incumbency advantage this provides is bearable).

3) Increase transparency and accountability
a) Restore the Fairness Doctrine
b) Start an American tradition of Question Time for the President before Congress
c) Provide a simple yearly prospectus of government spending every year (perhaps with tax returns)
d) Restrict use of closed rules in the House and make sure that existing rules for conference committees can only be waived with a two-thirds vote.

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