When I was in ninth grade American history class, we did an interesting simulation during a unit on the Progressive Era of our country’s history. The teacher divided the class into groups, each of which was supposed to research one social reform of the time (women’s suffrage, workers’ rights, immigration reform, education) and advocate for it with the mayor of the major city in which this simulation was taking place. The goal was to have the mayor pick your group’s issue as one of the top few priorities of the city.
I was chosen mayor, which was fun, but it was a classic case of knowing what I didn’t know. I had a strong sense that certain issues would take care of other ones—that if I only picked the right issues in the right order, there would be a cascading effect on the other issues that were important in their own right but we were perhaps secondary. Trouble was, I couldn’t figure out which issues would start the dominoes falling. So I chose a broad range of things and reminded myself that it was a simulation, after all. (I can’t remember what I picked except that suffrage was definitely one of them!)
I was thinking about that this morning as I read this analysis, which argues that the negotiations over the debt ceiling have broken down. This sentence stuck out:
What the two parties are really doing is trying to position themselves politically to survive the consequences of their failure.
I posted the article on Facebook and commented, “That may be the most cynical thing I’ve ever read.” I don’t know anyone who doesn’t think our political system is broken (speak up if you disagree), and that statement encapsulates a lot of what’s wrong.
A short discussion resulted in which people were proposing various remedies. One person said we need term limits. I chimed in that without meaningful campaign finance reform, and also media reform, nothing else matters. A third person said, if I may quote, “My personal golden bullet is redistricting and the primary process. As long as officials can get away with only/mostly worrying about their base there’s no incentive for them to compromise.”
All worthy places to start. I’m curious. What do you think is at the heart of what’s wrong? What’s your silver bullet to fix what you find broken in our political system?
Obviously there is no one right answer but I’m wondering where various people begin to think about these things.
Photo: Some feisty women from the Progressive Era.