Monday, November 10, 2014

Democrats should embrace electoral reforms to win public opinion

Redistricting reform, blended proportional representation and a citizens veto would encourage greater democratic involvement

In 2009 Time Magazine declared the Republican Party an endangered species.

You’d never know it given last week’s midterm results, but pundits and political insiders were questioning, just as they are now with the Democrats, whether conservative lawmakers would ever be relevant again.

The GOP suffered huge losses in 2008. But they had a game plan, a strategy to help them recover. They stuck to it, digging their heels in and eventually took back control both houses of Congress.

Wisconsin, too, was a Democratic state in 2009. But now we’re under full Republican control as well. How can progressives come back? What will it take?

The people of Wisconsin obviously want change. So Democrats should deliver, bringing about real change for the better. They should become the party of reform, coming to office on the platform of bringing stronger “small-d” democratic representation to state government.

They should, of course, continue to support the policies that they pushed for in the 2014 election. A raise in the minimum wage and an expansion of Medicaid/BadgerCare funds ought to remain priorities for the party, as should strengthening women’s rights and environmental standards.

But so too should electoral reform be up for discussion by Democrats. I’m not talking about reforms that disenfranchise voters, such as voter ID laws that are unnecessary towards preserving democracy. Instead, Democrats should promote legislation that is needed, that will encourage voter involvement and increase the voice of the people in the state Capitol building.

Democrats should push for three specific items in their next bid to lead the state...

First, they should insist that there be non-partisan redistricting reform. Republicans, who drew the legislative maps following their 2010 victories, made it exceptionally difficult for Democrats to win anywhere outside of major metropolitan districts. With less competitiveness the Assembly remained in the Republican Party’s hands in 2012 despite more voters supporting Democrats.

Second, support for proportional representation should be encouraged by the Democratic Party. I’ve written on this topic prior, insisting that having a blended system with PR incorporated would allow voters to have someone in Madison speaking for them. A Democrat in Waukesha or a Republican in Madison, for example, could rely upon a representative they voted for in the legislature to be their partisan voice, if not their geographical one.

Finally, a citizens veto would encourage more involvement by the voting population. Speaker Robin Vos this week has insisted that the Republican victories across the state symbolize strong support for the GOP’s conservative platform. That may be true on some issues, but on others it might not be the case. Gov. Scott Walker, for instance, cruised to victory despite being on the wrong side of the minimum wage argument in Wisconsin.

It follows that lawmakers could overreach in this new legislative term -- indeed, I predict they will. To prevent such an overreach, progressives in the early half of the 20th century instituted the recall election process. Today, however, many Wisconsinites are frustrated with the recall. Being able to veto specific policies may be a middle ground for those who disagree with the recall process but still want to do something about terrible legislation being passed by an overreaching conservative government.

Democrats should continue fighting for middle class and working families. They should continue to hold onto the standard policy positions that will empower these families in the free marketplace.

But they should also recognize that part of the reason that people sit on their hands and refuse to vote for them is because they’re fed up with voting altogether. If citizens had a larger hand in selecting their leaders, if they could be convinced that corruption was being taken out of the game and if they could play a part in doing-away with destructive legislation, they might be more apt to take part in the process more regularly.

No comments:

Post a Comment