Two weeks ago, I wrote a column for the Arkansas News Bureau offering four “crazy” political reforms: replace the Electoral College with the popular vote; creating a four-year election cycle for the House, Senate and president; creating optional public financing of congressional campaigns; and reforming the redistricting process. I asked readers to present their own crazy ideas.
The response was pretty good, actually. Among readers’ suggestions: awarding electoral votes by congressional district; only one six-year term for all federal officials (my wife, by the way); and more transparency for political “bundlers” who combine contributions into one large gift.
I thought some of the readers’ ideas were good, while some were completely unworkable. But that wasn’t the point. The point was, first, to recognize that the entire system obviously needs an overhaul and that our problems go beyond which party is in power. And second, to brainstorm ways to reform the system.
All kinds of crazy ideas were contemplated by our Founding Fathers when they wrote the Constitution. Democracy itself, in fact, was a crazy idea. It’s become a cliche, but they were thinking outside the box on a historical scale.
It’s time to think outside the box again.
Here are the readers’ responses.
Here is the original column.
Rep. Mike Ross announced today that he would not seek re-election, citing a desire to spend more time with family and frustration with Congress as well as conflicts that would occur if he were to run for governor in 2014.
Ross said he made the decision yesterday. He spoke with Gov. Beebe that morning.
Ross explained the sudden nature of his announcement by saying that if he didn’t do it now, there would not be an opportunity for several weeks while Congress is in session. Several fundraisers are scheduled in upcoming weeks, he said. Those have been cancelled.
Ross indicated that he thought he would have won re-election in 2012 but did give some hint as to the difficulties of doing so. He described his district as “Republican-leaning” and said he would not have beaten Jay Dickey had he not run in 2000, a presidential election year, when he said Democrats have higher turnout than in nonpresidential election years.
He said he has given strong thought to running for governor but has not made a decision. He said that, given the time demands of serving in Congress, it would have been very difficult to run for governor 2014, when Beebe will be term-limited.
That’s the headline in a just-sent press release from his office. The announcement will be at 10 a.m. at the Holiday Inn Hotel in Little Rock.
D’James Rogers, who placed second in the July 12 District 54 special election to represent Crittenden County, said today that he would have joined the Democratic caucus if elected.
Rogers ran as an independent because he wanted an African-American to represent the majority-minority district rather than the eventual winner, newly sworn in Rep. Hudson Hallum (D-Marion). Hallum, who is caucasian, had defeated two African-Americans in the Democratic primary.
Hallum won the July 12 special election held after Rep. Fred Smith (D-Crawfordsville) resigned following a felony conviction.
According to unofficial returns, Hallum received 987 votes, while Rogers received 437. Republican John Greelan received 415 votes.
Rogers said that, if he had won, he would have governed as a Democrat. He has been actively working with Democrats since 2000 and was the regional field director for last year’s coordinated campaign.
Rogers said that running as an independent was difficult in a district dominated by Democrats. Naturally, he received no help from the Democratic Party and struggled to raise money. “I didn’t get any support from them,” he said. “It was like, ‘We’ll talk to you once the election is over with.’”
He campaigned with the help of family and friends and used social media to communicate his message. He said African-American leaders in the district did support him.
He said he would run again some time in the future and would do so as a Democrat.
Looking for a nice four-bedroom home near I-430 in Little Rock? Rep. David Sanders has had his on the market since April.
Sanders started hearing rumors during the session that he likely would be drawn out of his district by the Board of Apportionment, the three-person panel made up of the governor, attorney general and secretary of state that is redrawing districts based on 2010 census data.
Two of the panelists, Gov. Mike Beebe and Attorney General Dustin McDaniel, are Democrats. The third, Secretary of State Mark Martin, is a Republican.
Under maps produced by the majority Democrats, Sanders’ precinct was bumped from his existing district, District 31, which encompasses parts of west Little Rock, Pulaski County, and Saline County, for District 33, which encompasses central and southwest Little Rock.
Unless your name is Nick Wilson, you have to live in the district you represent, so Sanders would have to run in his new district if the maps are finalized.
District 31 is represented by Rep. Fred Allen, a term-limited Democrat. It’s a majority-minority district and not one where Sanders, a conservative Republican, would be likely to win.
“There’s a certain principle of continuity of constituency,” Sanders said. “The people who voted overwhelmingly for me to be their representative are the people of my home district, 31, and so that’s my district. I still represent that district and will continue to represent that district.”
Sanders had five children and said he needed a bigger house anyway.
There’s no love lost between Gov. Beebe and Sanders, a young and energetic House Republican finance chairman who opposed Beebe’s prison reform in the last session.
Along with Sanders, other GOP legislators drawn into substantially new districts are Sens. Jason Rapert of Bigelow, Jonathan Dismang of Beebe and Eddie Joe Williams of Cabot. Republican Reps. Gary Stubblefield of Branch and Jon Eubanks of Paris would be in District 84 and would have to run against each other.
Two incumbent Democrats, Rep. Garry Smith of Camden and David Fielding of Magnolia, would be in the 5th District and would have to run against each other.
Sanders sponsored and passed a bill in the last legislative session that required a “cooling off” period where regulators cannot work in the industries that they regulate for one year after leaving government. Other bills restricted the activities of sports agents and made student participation in Junior ROTC programs count as health credits.
Of course, President Obama, the House and the Senate are going to find some way to merge their competing plans and raise the debt ceiling before August 2.
But what if they don’t?
Two things would happen.
First, the global economy, already shaky, would become even more so. The world’s safest investment, the United States government, would become a lot less safe. Don’t believe it? Consider how the world has reacted to little Greece’s troubles.
Second, the debt would grow, not shrink, despite what some congressmen are telling us. American taxpayers currently pay a very low interest rate on the debt because the government is seen as such a safe investment. What happens if the government is no longer seen as a safe borrower? The same thing that happens if you or I are seen as unsafe borrowers – investors demand higher interest rates in exchange for their capital. Who will pay those higher interest rates? Taxpayers.
Here’s more in this week’s Arkansas News Bureau column.
The quotes are referring to a plan McConnell has offered where President Obama would be responsible for raising the debt ceiling and making spending reductions on his own with Congress able to stop it only with a two-thirds vote.
Those are decisions that Congress should make under the Constitution, but that’s not a concern when there are political points to be won. McConnell wants Obama to be responsible for raising the debt ceiling – which McConnell knows has to be done – so Republicans can run ads against him next year for raising the ceiling. It’s political gamesmanship at its ugliest when our country needs statesmanship and leadership most.
Here are the quotes.
McConnell: “I refuse to help Barack Obama get re-elected by marching Republicans into a position where we have co-ownership of a bad economy.”
McCain, in a statement, which means he had time to think about it, said McConnell’s proposal was “a smart, forward-looking plan to make clear to all Americans that should we get to August 2nd without an agreement, it is President Obama alone – and not Republicans in Congress – who decides whether to raise the debt limit, and owns the economic consequences of any default.”
This is abdication of responsibility at its worst, and it’s particularly shocking coming from an American hero like McCain.
This site is called “Independent Arkansas” for a reason, and when I think Democrats are wrong, I’ll say it. President Obama’s warnings that seniors might not get their Social Security checks was particularly silly and not believable.
But Wednesday, these two Republicans were about as wrong as elected officials can be. Sen. McConnell, you have been in the Senate for 27 years. Sen. McCain, you have been in the Senate for 25 years and in Congress since 1982. You own this economy and this debt just as President Obama does. Time and again, you have voted for tax and spending policies that have weighed this terrible burden on our children and grandchildren’s shoulders.
Are independents really independents? No, says a website run by Larry Sabato, one of the country’s most interesting political scientists.
An article on his website, “Sabato’s Crystal Ball,” by senior columnist Alan Abramowitz makes the case that independents are not that important a constituency, in large part because they aren’t really independents. Abramowitz says most lean to one party or another and vote about as reliably as party identifiers.
If it’s true, it’s not good for America because it encourages the parties to practice base politics rather than inclusive politics. The more the country hardens into two camps with nobody in the middle and few undecideds, the less likely politicians are to work together to produce commonsense compromises. We are seeing that now with the debt ceiling debate.
Here is the column by Abramowitz.
The Constitution makes it clear that while the president is the commander-in-chief, the Congress declares wars, and for a very good reason: Otherwise, one person – you know, like a king – can involve the nation in conflict.
Unfortunately, that’s what’s been happening since World War II. The United States has fought long-lasting wars across the planet – in Vietnam, Korea, Panama, Iraq, Kosovo, Afghanistan, Iraq again, Libya, and elsewhere – all without a declaration of war.
Sometimes Congress has authorized the president to use force, a measure that commits troops but not the nation to battle, and we have seen the results: Half-hearted national efforts with the costs passed down to future generations.
Last week, Arkansas’ House delegation took a small step toward restoring constitutional balance by voting against a resolution supporting President Obama’s policies in Libya. The Senate is expected to take up a resolution in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee by Sen. Kerry that would authorize force for one year but prohibit the use of ground troops in most circumstances.
More about the issue in my Arkansas News Bureau column here.
My column this week is about Gov. Huckabee’s recent speech to the Clinton School of Public Service in Little Rock, where he elaborated on his decision not to run for president.
Huckabee said his decision was based on spiritual reasons, and I don’t question that, but practical considerations were involved, including President Obama’s huge advantages as an incumbent as well as the toxicity of the current political environment.
No need to go into great detail; if you want more, scroll down on this site a few inches to see the former Arkansas governor and current Floridian quoted at length.