Congress In Contempt, Part 2: How Can We Fix Our Broken Legislature?

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"Congress In Contempt, Part 2: How Can We Fix Our Broken Legislature?"

Will the freshman House members of the 113th Congress earn their pay?

by Bill Becker

This is part 2 of a 2-part series on Congressional gridlock. You can read part 1 here.

The 112th Congress is not the first that didn’t earn its pay.  President Truman criticized the 80th Congress as a do-nothing bunch in the 1940s.  In December 1881, the New York Times printed this familiar complaint as the 47th Congress was about to begin:

The manner in which Congress is commencing business fairly suggests the question, Will the session be worth its cost? The average expense of one session exceeds three million dollars…The last session yielded a slender return for this expenditure…What the country desires from Congress this Winter is that it shall act promptly and judiciously on the great public questions which stand open.

Today, the cost of running the Legislative Branch is approaching $5 billion a year. Few of us would disagree that we are getting far too little for our money; that Congress is better at worrying the country than worrying about the country; and that it is now so dysfunctional that it seems unable to face any significant issue without a crisis, and sometimes not even then.

Several readers who responded to Part 1 of this post were skeptical that Congress can be fixed. They pointed out that the gerrymandering of congressional districts has institutionalized polarity by dividing the country into red and blue; that unbridled campaign money and K-Street lobbying deeply corrupt the legislative process; and that members of both parties support customs and rules that deadlock the legislative process.

As I noted in Part 1, Congress’s dysfunction causes inefficiencies and waste not only in the Legislative Branch, but also the Executive by delaying passage of budgets and leaving key government jobs unfilled.  But the impacts go far beyond the Beltway.  Uncertainties about if Congress will act on critical national issues, and when it will act, cause economic instability, keep capital investment on the sidelines, delay infrastructure projects, confuse the stock market, add to the financial insecurity of the poor and elderly, undermine the ability of workers and their families to cope with joblessness, allow environmental degradation, and delay government help for our growing number of disaster victims. We need to take this personally.

The easiest reaction is to argue about who’s to blame – a conversation that dominated the responses to Part 1. Solutions are more difficult.  Is the Legislative Branch irretrievably broken, or is there something we citizens can do? Here are some questions I hope will advance a conversation about fixes.

Bright Spots? Are there opportunities for reform? There may be a few bright spots on which we might build. First, if 90-95% of Americans disapprove of Congress’s performance, are conditions ripe for a voter revolt?

One reader pointed out that voters are most willing to protest when their personal oxen are gored. In December, Congress threatened everyone’s ox at a sensitive time and personal level – higher taxes and fewer benefits in a high-unemployment economy.

Second, whatever we think of the Tea Party, it demonstrated that citizen movements can still have political clout.

Third, despite the Citizens United decision, special interests and billionaire kingmakers were not able to buy last November’s presidential election.  That offers some hope in a fight against the grip of special interests.  Being outspent does not mean being outgunned.

Given all this, one wonders whether it’s possible to launch a cross-partisan voter movement that makes the Tea Party look…well, like a tea party.  It would not promote any particular public policy; rather it would pressure members of Congress to do the  fundamental things they are elected to do.

True, the unhappy 95% is not a voting block. It’s so large a segment of the electorate that it must include Republicans, Democrats and Independents, plus plenty of folks who believe the nation is safest when Congress does nothing.  Still, it’s worth exploring whether there is sufficient coherence for revolt among the disgruntled, disenchanted, disenfranchised, disabled and disillusioned.

For example, we might ask all citizens of voting age to sign a pledge that they’ll vote against all members of their congressional delegations when Congress has not done the following:

  • Pass the federal budget, including all of its appropriation bills, before the beginning of each new fiscal year.
  • Reauthorize key national legislation such as the agriculture and transportation programs before they expire, rather than passing stop-gap measures.
  • Repeal or reform rules that contribute to deadlock by undermining the principle of majority rule.

These steps alone would help make government more efficient and help stabilize key sectors of the economy.

Most readers who responded to Part 1 disagreed with my opinion that we should hold all members of Congress to account for ineptitude and obstructionism.  Republicans deserve most blame now, especially in the House and especially its most rigidly ideological members.  But unless the Unhappy 95% are willing to relocate into conservative congressional districts to kick out the obstructionists in the next election, I still believe that if all 535 members face public sanctions for dysfunction, Congress will do a far better job fixing its own problems.

A Universal Report Card? Do we have what we need to measure and track how Congress is performing?  Should we develop “genuine progress indicators” to give Congress an annual performance review?

Many interest groups publish yearly report cards  on how Congress and its individual members vote on their issues.  Congress’s general performance, however, often is measured by how many bills it passes – a blunt metric that doesn’t tell us anything about the quality of those bills.  As Amanda Terkel reported on Huffington Post, the 112th Congress had passed 239 bills with less than a week to go in its session, making it “the most unproductive session since the 1940s”.  At least 40 of the bills dealt with commemorative coins and the names of public buildings.

The Presidential Climate Action Project (PCAP) has proposed that the White House develop  a coherent set of genuine progress indicators for policy-makers and citizens to regularly track such things as public health, life expectancy, income disparity, housing quality, local mobility, graduation rates, civic engagement, environmental quality, and other factors more indicative of qualify-of-life than the GDP.  Much of these data already exist across federal agencies and nongovernment organizations. The White House could collect the most accurate of these indicators and report them to the public each year in conjunction with the State of the Union Address.

The same indicators could be used as a measure of Congress’s productivity.  In addition, its report card would include factors such as the average time the Senate takes to confirm presidential appointments; Congress’s progress on reducing the national budget deficit and balancing the federal budget; and its control of pork-barrel spending.

Support “Make Congress Work” Organizations? There are several national groups whose missions are to improve Congress.  Among them are No Labels with its simple 12-point plan to promote interparty collaboration, and Public Citizen, which “advocates for a healthier and more equitable world by making government work for the people and by defending democracy from corporate greed.”

I can’t think of a better time to support them. Their current opening for influence may be that the makeup and mood in Congress today are out of synch with the mood of the American people. Several polls last year found that the country is not nearly as divided along ideological lines as Congress is.  According to election analysts Sam Best and Brian Krueger, for example, exit polls during the November election showed that “voters adopted centrist positions on most policy questions” and the majority of voters agreed on issues such as immigration policy, income tax rates and Obamacare.

Executive Action? How aggressive should President Obama be in using his executive authority and political tools to move the nation forward when Congress fails to act?

In October 2011, Obama launched a “we can’t wait” initiative, in which he began using his executive powers to implement his jobs agenda after it stalled on Capitol Hill.  In my view, Obama should be even more aggressive with his authorities, particularly on issues in which national security and economic progress are at stake. In my world, those issues include climate change and national energy security.  PCAP has published  a detailed analysis of presidential authorities and has proposed scores of ideas on how the President can use them to address energy and climate security.

Executive Power? What role should President Obama play in pushing Congress to do its job?  As I wrote the day members of Congress left town for Christmas rather than passing a bill to avoid the fiscal cliff, the Constitution gives the President the authority to call the House and/or Senate into special session. He should use that power to prevent Congress from taking breaks or running in place while the rest of the country holds its breath on critical legislative issues.

Special sessions do not guarantee action, but they raise the political stakes for a do-nothing Congress.

A Multi-Party Congress? A year ago, Gallup reported that more  Americans identified themselves as political independents (40%) than as Democrats (31%) or Republicans (27%).  Although Gallup expected some shifting among those categories during the election cycle, it was the highest percentage of independents the polling firm had ever measured.

Yet, Congress still functions as a two-party institution.  Only two of the 535 members of the incoming 113th Congress are officially listed as Independents.  Would other members classify themselves as Independents if they were adequately recognized in the business and structure of the House and Senate? Would this make Congress more efficient, or less?

Is it hopeless? I’ve had the privilege of working with and learning from former U.S. Sen. Gary Hart during the past several years.  I’ve not met anyone with greater insight into responsible government. He has watched with sadness as the comity and quality of Congress have declined.  He doubts there are easy fixes. But when I asked him if Congress was irretrievably broken, he responded: “A lifelong study of American history convinces me that nothing in our system is ‘irretrievably broken’. As Truman said, the only new thing is the history you don’t know. We’ve been through much worse before.”

Bill Becker is the Executive Director of the Presidential Climate Action Project. For more specific information about the Soldiers Grove experience and its lessons for other disaster-affected communities, see Becker’s report,  “Rebuilding for the Future.”

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28 Responses to Congress In Contempt, Part 2: How Can We Fix Our Broken Legislature?

  1. Cervantes says:

    “Second, whatever we think of the Tea Party, it demonstrated that citizen movements can still have political clout.”

    It isn’t a “citizen movement.” It’s an Astroturf movement financed by the Koch brothers. And “congress” isn’t dysfunctional — the blame lies entirely with the Republican party. Knock if off with the false balance, please.

    • Bill Becker says:

      I gladly admit that I wasn’t part of, and certainly not behind the scenes of the Tea Party. From the outside looking in however, it appeared to grow into something of a citizens’ movement — a loose coalition of pissed-off people. My assumption is that everyone who voted for Tea Party candidates was not on the Koch’s payroll.

      I have no illusions about who’s to blame for the current stalemate in Congress — mainly far-right Republicans in the House on fiscal matters. But — to give one example of genuine balance — oil and coal state Democrats haven’t been blameless in the stalemate in passing climate legislation or repealing tax breaks for the oil industry (including the Kochs).

      I agree, for example, with David Roberts’ comment after Harry Reid announced there wouldn’t be a climate bill in 2010:

      “I’m frustrated with Obama’s passivity on this issue. I’m frustrated with Reid. I’m frustrated with the environmental movement. But we should be clear about where the bulk of the responsibility for this farce ultimately lies: the Republican Party and a handful of “centrist” Democrats in the Senate. They are the ones who refused to vote for a bill, no matter how many compromises were made, no matter how clear the urgency of the problem. They are moral cowards, condemning their own children and grandchildren to suffering to serve their own narrow electoral interests. There isn’t enough contempt in the world for them. So when the anger and recrimination get going — as they already are — let’s at least try to keep the focus on the real malefactors.” (http://grist.org/article/2010-07-22-on-the-death-of-the-climate-bill)

      Should the GOP get most of the blame for Congress’ failure to act on issues like these? Yes. Should it get all the blame? No. We need to be more sophisticated than that.

      • Tim says:

        It is reasonable to assume that pissed-off people who voted for Tea-Party candidates weren’t all on the Koch’s payroll, but I doubt that many of them weren’t getting their information from Koch-friendly news sources within the Murdoch orbit. Without the right wing propaganda machine, the Tea Party wouldn’t be worth mentioning. Without the same propaganda apparatus, even the Democrats in Congress (and Obama) who share some “blame for Congress’ failure to act on issues like these” would not be not be ‘failing to act’. While Cervantes may have oversimplified by placing the blame entirely on the Republican Party, the spirit of his criticism is still completely correct: the blame lies entirely with the people who control most of the Republicans. Unfortunately, their control extends into a significant portion of the Democratic Party as well.

      • John McCormick says:

        Bill, I feel there is a matter of good judgement here. I want to explore a part of that with you.

        You said “I have no illusions about who’s to blame for the current stalemate in Congress — mainly far-right Republicans in the House on fiscal matters. But — to give one example of genuine balance — oil and coal state Democrats haven’t been blameless in the stalemate in passing climate legislation or repealing tax breaks for the oil industry (including the Kochs).

        I agree fully that a few Senate Democrats opposed bringing up the Waxman-Markey bill and that doomed its fate even if filibuster did not exist.

        Breaking that down to street level politics, the denier machine was in full swing, in energy producing states (read TEA BAGGER) and even safe republican seats were being threatened with a nasty primary fight unless they vote no or refuse consent. Enough took the bate to defeat the bill’s chances.

        Now, rapidly and aggressively change the tone of the national debate on climate change and a number of other issues that are in the public’s interest. VP Al Gore just struck a deal with Al Jezerra. Truth must have profit potential because Gore would not have sold out to a threatening buyer.

        What begins to appear?

        Debate in the public square and on internet.

        Deniers and whackos are steadily drowned out by the logic and concern we all harbor about where the republicans are heading an why we don’t want to go there.

        Get the young folks to see this is their Viet Nam protest and take however much time it takes to recruit them in a national blitz to defeat the deniers.

        DNC is the place to begin. Maybe Senator Hart (I am fan) would call a few of his colleagues to talk about a Defeat The Flat-Earth Fifty by 2014 or 2016. at the very latest.

        • Bill Becker says:

          Thanks, John. I agree. In regard to Vietnam-era-like protests, I’ve often wondered why the generations that stand most to lose from climate change haven’t taken to the streets — with the exception of those organized under the good leadership of Bill McKibben and a few others. I raised this at a conference several years ago. A colleague — mother of a teenager or two — said “Kids today don’t march; they network”. All to the good, but I’m not sure that protesting on Facebook has quite the political punch that marches, rallies, teach-ins, etc., had during Vietnam. We need big noise, all the time, until we transform the politics of climate change. There were some powerful forces behind the Vietnam War, too, but it seems that the power that eventually prevailed came from the streets.

        • Bill Becker says:

          John, one more thought I meant to include in the previous comment. The difference between Vietnam and climate change, it seems to me, is that the former confronted young people with a clear and present danger that could not be denied: being drafted while their peers were coming home in body bags. The question is, how do we convey the clear and present danger of climate change when even the worst weather doesn’t seem as bad as bullets and the danger seems farther away?

          One answer might be to show that climate change shares a common denominator — a common malignancy — with other problems that are more immediate and undeniable threats to younger generations — the dismal job market, income disparity, the likelihood of more wars. The common denominator is monied special interests whose agendas are contrary to the public’s true interests, to put it politely.

          In the final analysis, the power to change these things is in the hands of voters and consumers. We make the final decisions about who’s in office and which corporations and products succeed. However, to be strong enough to make a difference, those powers need to be exercised by individuals in movements. The Kochs of the world count on us to be disorganized, distracted, disinterested and dispersed. We have the power, as we demonstrated during Vietnam, but we don’t yet have the coherence to wield it.

          • John McCormick says:

            Bill, this thread is about to be lost to the archives but I will send a message to you via NCS.

            Here is the best way to describe the opportunity that we will watch as it goes past us:

            “It was the first time in two decades that a significant number of Republicans voted for a tax increase: 33 senators and 85 representatives, who broke with the House GOP majority to support the bill that averted the “fiscal cliff” but raised taxes on upper incomes.

            “The ones that voted for it, I think they will rue the day,” Alabama Sen. Richard Shelby said after opposing the bill.

            Amy Kremer, chairman of the Tea Party Express, put it this way: “It’s not too early to be looking at 2014. I think there are going to be a lot of primary challenges. People are fed up.”

            Bill, you have the ear of Senator Hart. He can get time with the DNC, joined by others, to put together a massive challenge to turn the House around. We now have the list of vulnerable candidates being lined up to face the tea bagger firing squad.

            Those districts are prime targets for heavy campaigning and funding of Democratic challengers prepared to defeat the crazy candidate the baggers will find and fund.

            It is not a waste of time to think through a counter attack strategy. Question: do we have the capacity to get influential people to start the 2014 campaign now!

    • Mulga Mumblebrain says:

      After decades of MSM oligopolisation and its drive further and further Right under the diabolical influence of hard Right proprietors, the transmutation of ‘news’ into crude brainwashing and agit-prop for the Hobbesian ideology of those owners, and the perversion of popular psychology into the greedy ‘consumerist’ model pushed by ever more intrusive and immoral advertising, the ‘popular mass’ is no longer just dull, it has lost all contact with basic humanity. Wherever some grassroots movement attempts to restore sanity and humanity, the Rightwing hatemongers descend, to slander and libel. Where the movements persist, the law is soon mobilised, and the ‘anti-terrorist’ card will be played more and more. But where the public is Rightwing and Dunning-Krugerite in nature, it is pushed and promoted as ‘the public voice’. This system is pretty well intractable, I would say.

  2. John McCormick says:

    Bill, you aren not helping yourself by serving us the following:

    ‘we might ask all citizens of voting age to sign a pledge that they’ll vote against all members of their congressional delegations when Congress has not done the following:’

    You’re not being serious, Bill. That is not what we want citizens to do. Ed Markey and Henry Waxman come to mind.

    Bill, I am going to propose (again) what should be an automatic reaction by the big green, John Podesta and others with clout.

    Go thee to the DNC and have a face to face discussion regarding a full out campaign to enlist AGW candidates to defeat deniers and deadbeats. Mobilize young Americans to take up the task of mobilizing campaign coordinators and activists. Give them a cause they can call their own. We had our 1960s moment. They need theirs.

    The wealthy progressives have the means to bankroll such an effort and certainly have enough skin in the game to take the challenge seriously.

    LCV targeted five flat-earthers in the 2012 election and four were defeated. Tell me the big green and influential leaders cannot duplicate that effort by ten fold.

    We are failing when we wail and moan about a corrupt Congress while delaying or avoiding any serious discussion to launch a well funded campaign to turn the Congress around.

    Maybe that is too much lifting and we are getting older and less passionate about elections.

    • Bill Becker says:

      John, as a simple man in Colorado who is neither a sociologist, a political scientist nor a former water carrier on Capitol Hill, and who is removed from Washington D.C. by 1,500 horizontal miles and 6,000 vertical feet, I readily acknowledge that I’m better at questions than answers. But I can be quite serious about the idea of holding all members of Congress accountable for failure, while also agreeing with the approaches you outlined. They aren’t mutually exclusive.

      In any case, I’m glad we’re all having this discussion, which is really the purpose of the post. Now if only we could put the best of these ideas into action…

  3. M Tucker says:

    Yep, the Tea Party is a faux grass roots movement that was built by Heartland and Koch that promotes ideas, strategies, and rhetoric pioneered by Gingrich. Most prominent among them are: taxes kill jobs, unions destroy businesses, and to use a threatened shut down of government to force the nation to accept the most radical right-wing policies like privatizing Social Security and Medicare. Deadlock is a Republican strategy! How many bills did the Republican House introduce last year to limit, kill or otherwise impede women’s health care and the right to choose? Why is the violence against women act held up in the Republican House? With radical philosophies and radical strategies like these do you really think the Republican controlled House will be willing to be reasonable about anything? These Republicans do not give two shits about Americans outside their district. The only thing they fear is a primary challenge in the next election. With Republican gerrymandered districts that challenger will only be more radical than the defender.

    Nice notions Bill but they are very far removed from the reality on the ground in Congress.

    • Mulga Mumblebrain says:

      The Right’s true, unchanging and immutable philosophy can be summed up by borrowing from Sartre- ‘Hell is other people’.

  4. BillD says:

    Doesn’t California now have a system where the top two vote getters in a primary are selected, regardless of their party affiliation? At first that sounded weird, but now it makes a lot of sense. Candidates from both parties would need to appeal to the center in the primaries. Independents would no longer be disinfranchised by bad choices in the regular election. In our current system, as the number of registered Republicans gets smaller, Republican candidates will get more and more extreme.

  5. wili says:

    At the end of the fourth paragraph, I believe you meant “customs” rather than “customers.”

  6. wili says:

    I’m not sure whether more emphasis should be put on fixing the system, or just on driving out the worst offenders. If I, for example, had realized how close the race against Michelle Bachmann would be, I would have put more effort and funds into defeating her. Climate denial has to be a clearer kiss of death for every legislator than opposing gun laws has been to date.

    I am getting closer to superchap’s views lately, though–it is harder and harder to see how even a fully functioning democracy could getting us anywhere close to responding with the urgency and magnitude needed to even give us a distant chance of avoiding less-then-ultimate climate horrors (4 degrees + C additional warming).

    At the least, we need to be on something beyond a war footing (as in WWII, not the recent ‘go out and shop’ wars). I see no remote hint that we are on the verge of any such response.

    If you haven’t, please do watch the must-see videos of Anderson and of Roberts:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RInrvSjW90U

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A7ktYbVwr90

    • BillD says:

      Most of my election money went to the League of Conservation voters, which won something like 11 of 12 of the targeted contents. I think that Bachmann was the one that they lost. Yes, it was a shame to come so close. Nevertheless, the recent election was a loser for the antienvironment, climate denier crowd in congress.

  7. SecularAnimist says:

    Bill Becker wrote: “Second, whatever we think of the Tea Party, it demonstrated that citizen movements can still have political clout.”

    Echoing Cervantes above, the so-called “Tea Party” was not a “citizen movement”. It was the ANTITHESIS of a “citizen movement”.

    The Tea Party was funded and organized by ruthless, rapacious, reactionary billionaires like the Koch Brothers through front groups like Americans For Progress and Dick Armey’s FreedomWorks, and directed by the likes of Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck through Rupert Murdoch’s right wing propaganda machine, notably Fox News, which is run by partisan Republican Roger Ailes.

    Far from demonstrating that “citizen movements can have political clout”, the Tea Party demonstrated the opposite — that reactionary oligarchs can subvert the democratic process and run roughshod over real citizen movements, by using their immense wealth through astroturf front groups that are as phony as professional wrestling.

    Frank Rich gives a good rundown of the ownership and control of the Tea Party in this August 2010 New York Times column:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/29/opinion/29rich.html?_r=0

    I would add that the so-called “mainstream” corporate media is also culpable, by knowingly playing along with the phony “citizen movement” story line about the Tea Party (Rich’s column is a notable exception) and giving it an undeserved legitimacy — much as the corporate media has given the global warming deniers undeserved legitimacy for decades by going along with the pretense that they are legitimate “skeptics”.

    • John McCormick says:

      Amen, Secular. Amen

      Would that the baggers had a rule that all members must wear brown shirts at any bagger sponsored event.

      We have to quickly dispense with the notion that tea baggers are another breed of citizen activist, when as we all know, they are subsidized sheep led by storm troopers in street clothes. Come on!!!

  8. Merrelyn Emery says:

    The USA shows us the multiple problems of representative democracy taken to its logical extremes. Many countries are on the same trajectory. Their diversity of voting systems and arrangements generally, show that no amount of fiddling with the system overcomes the inherent problems. Alternative governance systems which produce cooperation because the governors remain citizens, not reps in an inherently adversarial system, are ages old and esily modified for today’s conditions. However, I doubt we have the time left for a major redesign. Our best hope is that the UN (a rep system) can overcome the problems by sheer goodwill in the interests of the survival of some, and that the survivors will have the sense to try the alternative participative option, ME

    • Mulga Mumblebrain says:

      I certainly agree with the observations regarding adversarial systems. The Common Law method of achieving ‘justice’ through adversarial contests between defence and prosecution is also, I would say, inherently inferior to inquisitorial systems that seek to discover the truth. However, adversarial systems are favoured by capitalist elites, particularly in the bedevilled Anglosphere, because they divide humanity into ‘winners’ and ‘losers’. Similarly ‘competition’ is held to be superior to co-operation and collaboration (to the extent of becoming a de facto religious dogma) because it, too, produces winners and losers. And, as we have seen particularly over the last forty years, the numbers of winners must be as few as possible, and the losers may fall as far as the abyss allows. Capitalism radically disenfranchises more and more of humanity and sends them hurtling into the dark, because it is a system created to benefit those who fear and despise others, even to the extent of making this planet unfit for their future survival.

      • Merrelyn Emery says:

        When you realize that a common basic design principle runs through all of these systems, it is easier to analyze and fix the problem. As soon as you design a system where responsibility for coordinationa and control is located one level above where the activity is performed, you have a status hierarchy where everybody with the exception of the person at the top is disenfranchised of their rights as a purposeful person. Each of these systems works by divide and conquer because they are inherently competitive or adversarial. Your dreaded capitalism is just one example of this in our societies. Representative democracy is just another. Until people understand that it is the design principle that must be changed, we are lumbered with authoritarianism and all the long string of problems it creates including fear and contempt, ME

        • Mulga Mumblebrain says:

          I couldn’t agree more. The basic motivation for hierarchy is the will to dominate, and that grows out of the individual psyche, and from certain types of socialisation. I’m all for anarchy and autarky, but how do you control and disempower the dominators?

          • Merrelyn Emery says:

            Individuals possess the propensity for both domination and cooperation and the vast majority prefer cooperation when they are left to organize spontaneously. In over 40 years work with design principle 2 based organizations of all varieties, I have met only a handful of people who could not accept shared control between equals and had to be kicked out, ME

  9. Paul Klinkman says:

    In Missouri, citizens re-elected the incumbent senator because she had rigged the other party’s primary to have an idiot for an opponent.

    Mr. Becker’s plan to always vote people out if they don’t behave ignores the possibility that the other clown might be worse. In the case above, the other clown was worse because he was hand-picked by the incumbent. It cost Democrat Claire McCaskill $1.5 million dollars to run against the perfect Republican foil, and seeing how things came out, she’s probably quite glad that she spent the money.

  10. Paul Klinkman says:

    From the Fort Meyers News-Press, a cutout drawing of a clown is holding his hand four feet above the ground. His sign says, “Sea levels must be / THIS HIGH / before Tallahassee takes climate change seriously”.

  11. Chad says:

    Democrats in PA, MI, OH, VA and NC should have one priority this year: to put a proposal for an amendment to their state constitution on the next ballot that would move districting to a non-partisan commission. These five states are the mostly highly gerrymandered in the country and are costing our nation dearly.

  12. Mark E says:

    1. Make Filibusters hard to do;

    2. Single-issue legislation (no unrelated matters tacked on at the end)

    3. The single issue summarized in title

    Michigan does 2 & 3 effectively. To help bring congress along, Pres should veto bills that do not meet 2 & 3 with offer to sign the substantive parts if they are resubmitted as worthy things on their own.