Time to Replace Tic-Tac-Toe Democracy

Once again, our petulant government leaders are engaged in a contentious battle of policy tic-tac-toe, leaving the nation mired in the pit of a perpetual D.C. cat’s game.

Substantive issues plaguing our nation remain unresolved, even as the two sides hold dueling press conferences to explain why one side placed its O in the bottom left corner after the other placed its X in the center, all the while knowing the outcome of the game is preordained.

Cat's Game
Cat’s Game

Until we change the game, both sides will continue to prance and preen, pretending they are serving our interests. In reality, they are satisfied to play the game to the cheers of adoring audiences: reveling further when opponents condemn their every move. Meanwhile, the nation stagnates.

It’s time for us to step in and change the game. If we want our interests to take precedence over the interests of the Democratic and Republican parties, we’re going to have to create a new game board, with an entirely new set of rules and a definition of victory that puts the American people ahead of politicians.

Readers of my novels will know that I believe a constitutional amendment to fix our political process is an essential pre-condition of restoring America and improving the lives of every American. Our politicians have devolved into playing zero-sum games, where the only options are win, lose or draw. Only by changing the game can we create an environment where win-win-win alternatives are the preferred outcome over win-lose and, far too frequently, everybody-loses battles.

Here are a few new game rules I believe are essential:

  • Take congressional redistricting out of partisan human hands. Every 10 years, computers select a random person within each state as the starting point for a thoroughly scrubbed computer model to design the most compact, contiguous districts possible in that state. By taking redistricting out of the political process, politicians will no longer be able to select the voters they want to represent. Districts will change more meaningfully, forcing representatives to seek broader bases of support if they want to stay in a seat for the long haul.
  • Limit campaign contributions to 1/100th of 1 percent from any single source, with all forms of bundling (including through political parties, unions and corporations) explicitly banned. This will shrink the amount of money that enters the political system. More importantly, it will ensure that elected officials have no single funding sources, including their own political party, that they worry about irritating by doing the right thing for their constituents.
  • Establish two 60-day federal election cycles, back-to-back. The first cycle is an open primary in which all candidates run, the top two advancing regardless of party to the general election if no one secures a majority of the primary vote. This change will ensure that politicians seek broader bases of support, never knowing from which direction a primary challenge might come.
  • Ban fundraising outside of each 60-day cycle. When I worked in Congress more than 20 years ago, we typically spent the first year governing in a largely bipartisan manner before the election year silly season began. Today, the political season for the next election cycle starts even before lawmakers are sworn in to the term for which they were just elected.

The Political Freedom Amendment – as I call this suggested constitutional amendment set – restores representative democracy for the American people.

Politicians won’t change the game themselves. Elected officials have won playing the game the way it’s played today, and they won’t be sure they can win if the rules change.

It’s up to us to force a change in the rules as a pre-condition to any electoral support.

Otherwise, we’ll remain spectators to an ongoing series of mind-numbing tic-tac-toe matches in which the only certainty is that the American people aren’t even a factor in the game.




3 thoughts on “Time to Replace Tic-Tac-Toe Democracy”

  1. Mike:
    The list is a good start, but let’s add a couple more:
    * “Congress shall pass no law that does not equally apply to all members of Congress and the Executive Branch as it does to all other citizens;” and

    * establish term limits of 4 terms for House Members and 2 terms for Senate Members

    1. Thanks Bruce.

      I believe we need two constitutional amendments as the foundation of reforming our government. The first is the Political Freedom Amendment and the second gets to your first bullet point. My next novel is likely to be called God’s Law because it focuses on the idea that the Golden Rule (do unto others as you would have done unto yourself) should be embedded as a constitutional amendment — along the lines of “Congress shall make no law and the Executive Branch shall enforce no policy that meaningfully contradicts the concept that we are obliged to do unto others as we would have done unto ourselves.” One critical outcome of embedding this as a Constitutional amendment is that Congress could not pass laws from which it exempts itself. Interestingly, the Golden Rule is a common concept expressed in all of the major religions and makes perfect governing sense for atheists and agnostics.

      I’m less of a believer in strict term limits unless we also limit employment terms for executive branch bureaucrats, who routinely ignore members of Congress they don’t think will be around long enough to hold them accountable. But I certainly understand the frustration with our current system and think term limits would reduce some of the ridiculous behavior we continue to see.

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