Our envy always lasts longer than the happiness of those we envy.
- La Rochefoucauld, French Classical Writer (1613-1680)
One simple change could fix 90% of what’s wrong in America’s political system today – I know this sounds like a grandiose claim, but I honestly believe it’s true. It’s not a new idea, as a matter of fact, it’s an idea as old as Democracy itself, dating back to around 508 B.C., but to our modern minds, it’s almost hard to fathom things working with such beauty and simplicity.
First we should define what’s wrong with the way things operate in Washington, D.C. and you can narrow it down to two incredibly large failings – corruptions that borderline on evil.
First, politicians go to Washington, and even the most idealistic of politicians eventually begins looking at their re-election prospects and abandons the ideals they campaigned on in favor of campaign cash and kickbacks from unions, lobbyists and special interest groups. The politician becomes a prostitute for big money and more power at the expense of the constituents he had once sworn to serve.
Now big money buying the souls of politicians is as old as American politics itself, but the second major failing of our political system is something that’s worse now than it’s ever been since the issue of slavery split the nation in two, and that’s the polarized state of our elected government. The politicians are sent to D.C. from districts that get redrawn by the state politicians in ever more contrasted lines. This process of gerrymandering has created districts split into more and more demographically opposed and politically opposed representation. Add to that the death of journalism and the fact that news channels have found better ratings in partisan reporting and you have an increasingly polarized electorate which sends highly partisan politicians to our nation’s capital. Where once there used to be a healthy dose of goodwill and compromise, we’ve ended up with a Congress of complete intransigence and gridlock.
So how do we fix the two-headed monster of big money corruption and partisan gridlock in our national politics?
It’s called allotment, selection by lot, and it’s the system that was born in Athenian Democracy. You throw out all the career politicians in place of a lottery, and representatives in the legislature are selected randomly from America’s entire population. Before you immediately cast this off as some crazy scheme, consider the fact that this is the exact same method we use to determine the fate of a defendant in a death penalty case whose very life is placed in the hands of a randomly selected jury of their peers.
You select randomly from the population a group of citizens to serve in our nation’s Congress – lawyers and plumbers, garbage collectors and doctors, airline pilots and bus drivers, all selected by lottery to serve their nation, a group of individuals perfectly representative of our national demographic, and for most of these citizens, it would be the highest honor they would ever have as a citizen. Pay them a salary better than most of them will ever make in their lives, but give them one term and one term only and they will never become slaves to the perpetual re-election campaign.
It would put an end to career politicians, an end to politicians whoring themselves out for big money donations from groups that do not represent the interests of the nation as a whole. Give them one term and they’ll do their duty to the best of their ability just the same as any jury does.
Leadership under the new system would be no problem any more than finding a foreman on a jury. (In this case there would surely be multiple positions of leadership selected by the representatives themselves.) And if you wonder about people selected who are mentally incompetent or mentally ill or whose hearts just might not be into it, you have a basic aptitude test (with no politics on the test whatsoever) and have an alternate group selected as a backup, just like you have a group of alternate jurors.
It would be beautiful, my friends, because instead of having a Congress elected of nothing but rich elites who either have always been detached from the average American or for whom this detachment is only a matter of time, you would have a Congress representing the people of America, a Congress that would look exactly like the face of America.
There have been 27 amendments to the Constitution, 12 in the last century alone. The only problem is, those in power like to hold on to power, so it may sound like a pipe dream to imagine the entrenched politicians giving up their power to system of representation by allotment, but just visualize it . . . a government that would be truly representative of the people. If only I had a magic wand, I would wave it, but maybe it’s not such a pipe dream after all. Maybe we can get it done in Texas, secede from the Union and show America how real a real representative Democracy is done.