ANOTHER THOUGHT ON HOW TO IMPROVE POLITICS
There are many things that might improve our politics; but most of these require a magic wand or legislative fix.
· popular presidential vote to replace the electoral college
· less gerrymandered electoral districts
· less voter suppression/more voter reforms to ease voting
· restrictions on how money is used to shape elections
I believe these are all good ideas; and I believe none of these are likely to happen anytime soon. Because for these to happen we really need Congress to enact the changes. There are creative efforts to go around Congress on all these issues. Ultimately, I want to explore how to make Congress the place where these things can happen. But that requires a better Congress.
There’s an interesting article about lessons from Venezuela about how to deal with polarization and populism being used to divide a country. One of the take-home lessons is that it’s necessary to change the political environment and that the path to this change is probably indirect. Meaning that efforts to highlight inconsistencies or hypocrisy on any side largely serve to enhance polarization. What is needed is a way to change political discussion in a way that all sides find useful.
Which leads me to my thought. Shouldn’t it be possible to expect our congress-people to be better at the job of working in Congress? Rather than focusing on how I make everyone in Congress a Democrat or Republican, or at least how do I create a working majority of my party in Congress, can we instead focus on how to get the members of Congress to simply be better at their work? Because being able to do a job well isn’t a republican or democratic idea and I think it probably resonates with most people.
Here’s a couple reasons why think this is a good idea.
1. While gerrymandering is a problem, the studies on how voters are distributed throughout the country suggest we have actually coalesced into Democratic and Republican pockets so the vast majority of elections for representative of the house are not competitive between parties and are not going to be competitive between parties. But that shouldn’t mean every district is stuck if they happen to have a crappy representative of the party that’s going to get elected. For example, why did Seattle keep electing Jim McDermott? When it was obvious to everyone that he sucked at the job? Because he was a really good values match. That’s just not enough.
2. One of the biggest changes many of us have experienced in workplaces over the past 30 years has been the increased effort to find ways to measure how well we do our work. From identifying metrics of measurable outcomes, using 360°reviews, to the ongoing work to find opportunities to replace workers with computers and robots based on identifying routine repetitive work. There is a common expectation that we all need to be able to document how we create value and exceed expectations in the workplace. It should be possible to bring these ideas to our expectations of members of Congress regarding their work.
There are some fledgling efforts to identify better legislators especially the legislative effectiveness project of Craig Volden and Alan Wiseman. But since most of you probably never heard of that project I think it’s safe to say we need more.
That’s what I’m going to explore in future posts, including why I believe Jim McDermott sucked as a Representative as do many of the current Representatives.