As I review the comments over at other “liberal” blogs, I see a pattern of commentary from those that I think of as Puritans.

There is a prescriptive trifecta to “cure all our ills” in the body politic:

1) More parties.   (We have discussed this in some depth, but will return to it.   For now it is not the topic of discussion.)

2) Campaign Finance Reform

3) Term Limits

I can add a fourth, but we will not discuss it in this seminar, but rather save it for a future discussion: Primary reform.

This conversation will also exclude as obviously a non-starter a suggestion pushed at me recently; direct democracy at the Federal level.   Ballot initiatives to write law for a nation of a third of a billion people.   If anyone really wants to discuss that as if it were a serious proposal, I welcome you to write a separate column about it.

Now, I think most of you know me now to be a grumpy old grump, and I embrace that.   I would like to keep this discussion on some sort of serious track.    There is a meme of conversation that I don’t much respect: “If only all the good people would get together and do the right thing”.   Please, no hanky-wringing.   Let us have a conversation about reforms that can actually be implemented without scrapping the Constitution.   Likewise, if a proposal is utterly politically untenable, then please have the courtesy to at least acknowledge that reality as you argue for it.

I have been giving the Puritans a pretty hard time.   Whenever one of them declares that all could be resolved with Campaign Finance Reform, I ask them to explain how that is possible without repealing the First Amendment?

So if you are aware of serious, considered proposals for Campaign Finance Reform that have even a ghost of a chance of being implemented and not struck down by the Supreme Court, then please tell us about it.   A synopsis or outline of the proposal is what I’m looking for, and of course as many links to original source material as you can find.

Likewise term limits.   Now, it is my considered opinion that term limits are a horrific idea.   California has enacted pretty strict term limits, and is rapidly becoming ungovernable.   Possibly the two are not connected, but I’d like to see a reasoned argument to that effect if anyone wants to make that argument.

And I will note that Mexico has utterly draconian term limits.   Mexican legislators are limited to a single term, and we all know what a fine example of effective governance is Mexico.

So if anyone would care to participate, I’d like to kick this around for a few days and review toward the end of the week, when I’ll try to summarize and refocus the discussion for a second round.

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Well, I can be a curmudgeon too, but can’t engage you when I agree with you. And to the term limits thing, it may be a tired clich


I am obviously no constitutional scholar, by any means. But the first amendment argument seems to rest of the rulings that money constitutes free speech. Yes, but there were also rulings in the past that have been overturned– ‘separate but equal’ comes to mind. To me, the ruling that money equals speech is every bit as wrong and truly imperils democracy. So while it would take a lot of work, it is not impossible and speech = money can be– and to my mind– must be revisited. Probably not in our lifetimes, however.

As to third and more Parties, that’s a very interesting debate. My position is that they will always remain a spoiler and never garner enough votes to win an election, barring a major event. What they can do is change the metrics in the long term. For example, if a significant number of people voted socialist they might successfully move the Democratic Party more left after a couple of election cycles. Same for the Reptilians. We have already seen the Dems move to the Right over many years and the Reptilians have moved to the Right off the charts. But they didn’t need a Third party to do that. To me, Third Parties do serve a limited purpose of sending a message, but they are not electable, IMO.


HI, I’m just back on after a weekend mixed media art workshop, which is to say I’m still functioning in the inuitive/symbolic side of my brain (and I can’t even remember whether that’s right or left brain) so I won’t be commenting at length for just now. But I want to say the first thing that struck mw when I read Keven’s opening post, is that the lefties “trifecta” being repeated ad nauseum is very like the righties with their mantra of tax cuts, “small” government, and let’s go bomb somebody.

All of which is more confirming evidence that extremes have more similarities than they’d care to admit!


I do not see the Left as extreme as the Right, Jan. In fact, I think that is a false equivalency. They may be as frustrated as the extreme Right, but I do not see them as equally as extreme in their positions. To me, in order for the two to be equal would be for the Left to be Marxists and the Right to be what they are– fascists. I don’t see that.


What I meant, Cher, was that there is a similarity in the way the same three talking points from each side get repeated (by their respective sides) without a lot of critical thinking or examination of the validity of the talking points. I wasn’t saying that the talking points themselves were equivalent. And I do think the left’s talking points should be examined! Which Keven is doing in this OP.


OK– got it, sorry I misunderstood.


No probs, Cher. And now that I think about it, imo it’s even worse with this talking-point thing coming from the left, because isn’t critical thinking supposed to be one of our hallamrks?

Just wonderin’


Like both of you, nellie and K7, I’m opposed to term limits. What’s the advantage to having a perpetual class of rookies in Congress? The only one I can suppose is that they’re that much easier for lobbyists to manipulate! If we threw out employees in any other type of institution as soon as they’d gotten some experience under their belts, people would think we had taken leave of our senses.

I even have reservations about the limitation of the Presidential terms to two. If the voters want a president to serve longer, why not? Just because the Repubs despised FDR, it’s no reason to deprive the country of the leadership it wants. I’ve wondered if some of the decisions made now by foreign nations are influenced by the fact that they know full well that whoever’s in the White House now most definitely won’t be there in ten years. I’m not sure that’s a good thing.

I also would love to see the length of time campaigns could run seriously shortened–as in, down to six weeks of ad time before the election. This alone would indirectly ease the pressure to raise enormous amounts of money and to take money from dubious sources. I know it’s not a cure-all, but it could only help. And who wouldn’t be grateful to be delivered from 18-24 months of perpetual political commercials on radio, TV and print?

More parties, I think is a tough sell. Americans are so used to the status quo that I think enormous confusion would accompany any major movement in that direction. And, as nellie mentioned, IRV would have to come first, making it even a tougher sell. It’s hard to see viable 3d, 4th, 5th parties in the near future.


I’m in complete agreement with you on just about everything.

I detest term limits — I think we already have term limits. They’re called elections. The problem is not that people are serving to long, it’s that the electorate isn’t paying attention. And the cure for that has more to do with the media than anything else.

I disagree somewhat that campaign finance reform is impossible. I do think it’s an uphill battle in terms of the Supreme Court, but I think there are ways of regulating the way money is donated. We already cap individual donations. I think we can rein in lobbyists considerably. They are filling candidate campaign coffers constantly, not only with cash, but with gifts. I also think that money from donors can be countered with publicly financed ad space, media space that is mandated as part of public service — as our news programs used to be designated. Again, it would take a lot of work and a lot of legislating, but it’s not impossible.

The idea of more parties is simply not viable until we have instant runoff voting. There’s hardly any point in discussing it before that happens. Once in a while we will get an independent, such as Bernie Sanders, who can stand on his own without support from one of the national parties — but that is a rare event. He had strong name recognition from his time as a congressman, and the House does seem to be a little more forgiving when it comes to candidates who don’t align themselves with the two major parties. But as a sea change? Not until IRV.

I would broaden the discussion by asking why these impracticable methods are so popular. And how we can get progressive energies focused on more realistic goals.

I look forward to the piece on primary reform — I think that could bring a major shift to American politics.