Five days ago, 10/13/17, the Vox website published an article about what top political scientists think of the future of American democracy. An academic from Harvard said: “If current trends continue for another 20 or 30 years, democracy will be toast.” You can find the rest of the article at this link: http://bit.ly/2i8OMvT
In 20 years, I'll be, at best, a spry geezer. In 30 years, I likely will be a fond memory to my closest relatives. So this downward trend is going to affect me less than it will younger people. You know, assuming that the Harvard guy knows what he's talking about.
On the chance that he has at least the general direction of things right, I'd say it's time for some intervention. Luckily for us, as we've seen when the GOP tried to screw with Obamacare, people will rise up and bombard their members of Congress with righteous and raucous protest. Being people who, for the most part, want to cling to their jobs, they respond appropriately, i.e. doing what their constituents demand.
That being the case, are there any issues which can unite a broad spectrum of voters to disregard party lines and even long-held biases? I believe there are. For one thing, huge majorities of people, whatever their political affiliation, have high, wide and durable contempt for Congress.
Many people feel that our federal legislators are running, and often ruining, our lives. They are regarded as the middle management of public life, people interested only in their own advancement, who will make everyone else miserable if that's what it takes for them to get ahead. You know, seven-figure salaries as lobbyists once they leave office.
The truth is, though, they are supposed to be public SERVANTS. That leads me to ask: What kind of servants get to raise their own pay? None that I know of, especially in the highly praised private sector of our economy.
If thinking of Congress-people as servants seems a bit quaint, the members of Congress are still public-payroll workers. So the above question is still apt: What kind of workers get to raise their own pay? Taking another step in that direction: What kind of workers get to do their jobs indefinitely without being subject to performance reviews?
Some might argue that elections constitute such reviews, but they lack useful specificity, such as exactly where did this Senator or that Representative fall short? That would be useful information for a voter to have in advance of casting a ballot.
So the questions then become: How can we put in place the reforms needed to seize control of Congressional pay raises and impose regular, publicly available Congressional performance reviews?
The pay-raise issue will require a new amendment to the Constitution, a high hurdle to clear but not an impossible one. The performance review could be achieved as a simple piece of legislation.
Would Congress ever do either of those things? They would if confronted with a sustained, vocal demand to them: As in, "Make these changes or you're out!"
I can see both people on the left and right getting behind these issues. Imagine how voter turn-out would increase in both presidential year elections and mid-term elections if Congress proposed a raise for itself and the voters got to approve or deny it. If during a given two-year period crime was down, jobs and wages were up, health care was widely available and affordable, Congress would get a gold-star review. If the opposite were true, Congress would be found in contempt of the American people. Their pay would be cut 25% and they would be given "Strike One." Any legislator who gets three strikes is out — barred from ever holding federal office again.
Think how changes like those above would unite Americans who otherwise hold starkly different views. Things wouldn't be perfect but our democracy would have a shelf-life of more than 20-30 years.