Rick Hubbard: Our political system is broken and we need to fix it
This commentary is from Rick Hubbard, a retired lawyer and former economic consultant living in South Burlington.
I am originally from Vermont and now entering my ninth decade of life and writing to explain why, starting October 1, I will be crossing America from Los Angeles to our US Capitol in Washington, D.C., to help fix our broken democracy.
Our federal political system is not working well today. It does not properly serve our common good. We are moving towards autocracy, instead of strengthening our representative democracy.
Here’s how bad it is:
Most of us have lost faith in Washington.
We urgently need candidates and representatives who will fix our democracy to serve our common good.
The system has been hijacked, to make sure those with power keep it.
Unscrupulous politicians are out to corrupt and break down the very institutions and rights that brought them to power.
There is little correlation between being elected and serving the will of the people.
Both major parties prioritize the re-election interests of their candidates, as well as the interests of their party and major contributors of campaign funds, ahead of our public interests and our common good.
They rig the system and set the rules to stifle competition from independent and third-party candidates.
They control the money, the debates and the primaries. They even draw their own electoral districts.
Congress is so regularly stalled that there is little progress on issues important to most of us. Small percentages of our reps can block actions that benefit the larger percentage of us all.
Meanwhile, nearly half of American families cannot earn enough to pay basic expenses like rent and food.
We see the very rich getting much richer, while many see the middle class collapsing.
And the working class faces low wages, dead-end jobs, debt, homelessness, lack of health care and too few educational opportunities.
For the first time since the Great Depression, life expectancy in the United States is falling, while drug overdoses and suicides are on the rise. Once a global leader in healthcare and education in advanced economies, we are now in the bottom quartile for healthcare and the bottom half for education. Life-saving prescriptions and unaffordable medical bills are the reason most Americans file for bankruptcy.
Our country is getting poorer, sicker, more divided, and our families are paying the price. There is an urgent need for a properly functioning government to serve our common good.
The good news is that we can fix it.
States create rules that govern elections, even federal ones. So, passing laws in our state to make things better makes federal elections work better.
Here is what we can do:
We can make our political system fairer, more inclusive, more competitive and more representative.
We can have independent commissions design electoral districts.
We can make it illegal for lobbyists to donate to politicians, so that the representatives we elect serve our interests better.
We can have campaigns publicly funded, not by just 2% of us like today, but rather by 100% of all registered voters, using just a little tax credit or rebate that we already have paid to support the candidates of our choice. This will drastically change who candidates should pay attention to.
We can reform our political process to achieve more competition, more turnover, and better representation for our common good, or if that cannot be accomplished, set reasonable term limits for elected officials.
We can adopt an open and inclusive primary that lists all candidates, regardless of party, and allows 100% of all registered voters to vote there. We can use preferential voting to elect only candidates that the majority of us support, and allow independents and third parties to run without spoiling the election.
We can set up automatic and secure voter registration and door-to-door ballots. We can get more people to vote in secure elections and make it easier to vote.
Millions of us are already involved and have already racked up over 100 wins in cities and states across America. But millions more of us need to join us, and that’s why I invite you to join us.
People near you are fighting for these improvements and need your help. So please register and be part of the next victory in your state. And organize and join nonpartisan citizen marches to fix our democracy in your community, on dates and times in concert with others across America in their communities.
And only vote for politicians who will lead to fixing our democracy.
If enough of us act together, we can fix the system so the government can work for you, your family, and the rest of us, and not just a handful of special interests and insiders.
We can do it! We can fix our democracy, avoid autocracy, and unlock progress toward our common good. Join us! Thanks.