Reverse the Decline! By Al Sikes

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2018 is an election year. Best I can tell the differences of opinion turn on Trump, Pelosi, and guns.

And, lest I forget, Americans are once again watching a spending battle with a government shutdown threat adding drama. This will all be resolved with much more spending buying the votes needed.

As an outsider and used-to-be insider, let me suggest an agenda for the 2018 candidates.

First and foremost, is it possible to renew our civil institutions and if so what must be done?

Citizens give thumbs down to most government institutions. Gallup routinely asks, over a broad range of institutions, a straight-on question about confidence.

In 2017 12% of the respondents said they had a “great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence in Congress; its highest favorability rating was 43% in 1973. The Presidency finds favor with 32%; its highest rating was 72% in 1991 (nice coincidence, I was then in President Bush’s administration). The Military continues to enjoy the highest confidence score at 72%. The news media, newspapers, and television, were off almost half from their previous highs.

Failing institutions do not achieve lasting accomplishments. When, as a customer, was the last time you had a good experience with a declining business?

Government decisions, to act or not, are made and then harshly judged by the dissenters. Most often they point to soft or hard corruption. The so-called soft side is taking contributions from organizations that have a stake in the outcome.

Advocacy today pivots on grievance. Rarely do advocacy groups offer constructive alternatives.

The Republicans spent years trashing Obamacare and then, even with a congressional majority, could not clearly outline an alternative or pass one. Democrats, having frozen Republicans out of healthcare legislation, were complicit.

Republicans returned the favor in passing recent tax legislation with similar dissonance. But the dissonance that should scare all of us is, I repeat, that Congress, the bulwark against authoritarian government, is favored by 12%

Democracy, even when buffered by republicanism, is inherently fractious; that is okay. Our constitution guarantees free speech and the freedom to petition the government. Importantly, the House of Representatives must stand for election every two years.

This latter protection anticipates a safety valve. I would like to give some unsolicited advice to those who want their hands on the valve in 2019. Build a platform around repairing the institutions of government rather than a litany of promises that will add more debt.

Here is my list:

Get rid of dark money. All contributions should be accounted for within 48 hours of receipt, regardless of source.

Prohibit a Member from receiving a contribution from a person or organization effected by the Committees on which they serve.

End gerrymandering! One of the most debilitating attacks on representative government is gerrymandering. Politicians draw congressional districts that secure partisan advantage regardless of public interest. This manipulation, now made even more precise by computers, has resulted in fewer and fewer seats being truly competitive and blows a big hole in the center of the political spectrum.

Public interest criteria for re-drawing districts should be spelled out, and partisan advantage should not be on the list.

Finally, laws that protect the two-party duopoly should be repealed; concentrated power most often serves its own interests at the expense of customers, or in this case, the voters.

President Trump, who promised to drain the swamp, has mainly substituted crocodiles for alligators. True reformists stand up.

Al Sikes is the former Chair of the Federal Communications Commission under George H.W. Bush. Al recently published Culture Leads Leaders Follow published by Koehler Books. 

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