Congress Won't Clean Up Our Elections Until We Clean Up How We Elect Congress

The new House is expected to consider a package of necessary democracy reforms within the first few weeks of the New Year. This morning’s Times endorses the plan, which would

establish nationwide automatic voter registration; promote early and online voting; end partisan gerrymandering; expand conflict-of-interest laws; increase oversight of lobbyists; require the disclosure of presidential tax returns; strengthen disclosure of campaign donations; set up a system of small-donor matching funds for congressional candidates; and revive the moribund matching-fund system for presidential campaigns. A plan for repairing the Voting Rights Act will move along a separate track.

Nobody expects any of this to become law, however. Fairer elections would weaken the party that controls the Senate, so any proposed reforms will die there, undebated. Even if they cleared that unclearable hurdle, they would just be vetoed; the president needs the cheating and the voter suppression as badly for 2020 as he did for 2016.

In the case of the Senate, the structural flaw in our election system that allowed the party that recently lost the vote to nonetheless pick up seats will continue to make basic fairness rules impossible to enact, not just in 2019 but indefinitely. The House reform package should make for a good Democratic Party talking point, which might help get out the vote for Democratic Party candidates in 2020. Because of the structural bias, though, there’s no amount of getting out the vote that can win enough seats in the Senate to pass these reforms into law.

Voter suppression, money in politics, partisan gerrymandering—they feel like they might be the underlying cause of our cataclysmic politics, but they aren’t. They’re weapons against democracy, but the power of the politicians who wield them and refuse to disarm has a deeper cause, in the deeply undemocratic structure of our election system. How the people vote should determine the balance of power in our government. It doesn’t, and the party that benefits naturally uses its unfair advantage to further enhance its power in other ways.

To make our elections democratic, we need to remove the structural right-wing bias from our system, by requiring popular election of the president and proportional representation in Congress (both the norm in modern presidential democracies). Democratism has a plan to do just that, by activating local governments to hold a vote of the people, thereby enabling Americans to exercise our right—articulated in the Declaration of Independence—to government by consent of the governed. Here’s how to get involved.

In 2019, let’s get to the root of the problem. Happy New Year.