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Former Republican Congressman: Dysfunction In Washington Is 'Systemic'

A view of the U.S. Capitol building on Tuesday, Oct. 15, 2013 in Washington.  (AP/ Evan Vucci)
A view of the U.S. Capitol building on Tuesday, Oct. 15, 2013 in Washington. (AP/ Evan Vucci)

Mickey Edwards represented Oklahoma’s 5th district for 16 years in Congress. Edwards says the dysfunction in Washington is a “systemic problem,” and can’t be cured until the power of political parties diminishes.

Edwards told Here & Nows Jeremy Hobson that the last impasse in Washington is a result of how the political parties, both the Democrats and the Republicans, operate.

“This was particularly egregious on the Republican side,” Edwards said. But he adds that both parties took issues, like the budget, as “just a battle for who is going to win the next election.”

Edwards is calling for a set of reforms to counter the current dysfunction:

  • Hand over redistricting to independent boards
  • Change primaries so that they function as endorsements, so the primary would not determine who gets on the ballot
  • Limit political donations to individuals

Edwards says a lot of this is possible with “small changes in rules that voters already have to power to make.”

Interview Highlights: Marty Edwards

On Changing How Redistricting Is Done:

“There is no reason that parties should be able to exercise their clout in order to undercut the ability of a citizen to be represented by somebody who can speak on his or her behalf in Washington. [States should...] take away the power from the legislative majorities and create independent redistricting commissions — I think that would help a tremendous amount.”

Money In Politics:

“What I’ve proposed in my book was to have no contributions permissable from any source other than individual living human beings. Just limited ammounts, and you’ve got to get the Supreme Court to back off, and you might be able to do that legislatively. But there ought to be no money in the system except what an individual voter or citizen contributes out of his or her own pocket.”

On Congressional Term Limits:

“What you do when you have a term limit is you’re saying to the voters and the community ‘If you have a senator or a representative, who has done a very good job, who is watching out for your community, who is representing you well, then all of a sudden that you can’t choose that person any more.’ So it’s punishing the voters. In states that have had term limits for their legislators, what you’ve found is that is the legislative dysfunction increases, the power of the executive increases because you have such rapid turnover that you no longer have people in the legislative body that know the history of the bills, who understand the system and how to make it work. There are a lot of answers out there, but term limits, I don’t think, is one of them.”


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