Darrell Berkheimer: Congressional reforms our citizens deserve
I believe the voters attending President Donald Trump’s rally in Phoenix and the protesters who were outside that hall have something in common that is most important.
I believe nearly all are wanting reforms in our federal government.
Those who voted for President Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012 have been wanting some of the same reforms since their chants for change at those campaign rallies back then. And the voters who cast their ballots last year for Hillary Clinton, Sen. Bernie Sanders, and the Libertarian and Green Party candidates also want reforms.
It’s what we all want — better leadership and effective government in Washington.
Instead, we are faced with a Congress riddled by ideologue stubbornness, combined with malicious attitudes against supporting any proposal from the other side, no matter how worthy it might be.
Has compromise been put into a category similar to that of four-letter words?
It appears that many of us are expecting some White Knight President to come along and give us the needed reforms. But the hard fact is: “It ain’t gonna happen.”
In numerous writings during the past 30 years, I have noted that many citizens appear to have unjustifiable, excessive expectations about what a president can accomplish. Much of that, of course, is rooted in the many promises made during presidential campaigns — promises for changes the president cannot attain because congressional action is required.
And I have frequently faulted our national media on that issue — for failing to report, again and again, that many of those campaign promises can be accomplished only by Congress, not the president. Congress controls the purse strings. In contrast, executive orders often are only temporary and meaningless without needed budget appropriations.
So, Conclusion Number One: Nearly all of the needed reforms involve Congress. Because, as I noted in my Aug. 19 column, it matters little whom we elect as president; it is Congress that has become the biggest problem. And the reforms we want must be legislated by Congress.
Conclusion Number Two: Congress will not enact those reforms unless we, the voters, force it to do so. We must do that by telling congressional members and candidates the specific reforms that we want — by our letters, phone calls, protests and most especially by our ballots in the coming elections.
To be blunt, we must threaten them. We must tell them we will vote only for those candidates who pledge to enact the reforms needed. And I must repeat that point. We must emphasize we will support only those candidates who pledge to vote for the needed reforms that we want.
They are necessary reforms if we are to end the corrupting influences that turn would-be conscientious lawmakers into power-hungry professional politicians who are more interested in winning elections than doing what is best for our nation.
With this column I am listing various reforms that have gained wide voters’ support, either recently or in the past. In subsequent commentaries, I will report historical backgrounds and cite some of the surveys that show how the majority of our voters want these reforms.
FOX News columnist Bryan Dean Wright named two on my list when I quoted him in my Aug. 19 column. One is term limits, and the other is a lifetime ban on elected officials becoming lobbyists. Wright observed they are “the only proven ways to eject career politicians from their perches of power and money.”
He added, “For years, an overwhelming majority of Americans have demanded passage of these two initiatives. Voters understand that if politicians aren’t chasing corporate cash for re-election or a lucrative retirement, they are more likely to do the business of the American people.”
I considered both those comments by Wright to be worthy of repeating — again.
Another needed reform on my list is congressional legislation that will end gerrymanding — the practice of creating electoral districts to the benefit of only one political party. That legislation should require all congressional boundaries, when reset after each 10-year census, to be redrawn by a non-partisan or bipartisan commission or board within each state.
That is another reform that has been favored by a majority of voters for many years.
Our current situation has only seven states using independent commissions to establish both congressional and state legislative boundaries. California is one of them. (Another six states establish commissions to set state legislative boundaries only.)
Forty-two states allow the state legislature or assembly to set the boundaries. That means the party in control can set the boundaries to its benefit.
Other reforms advocated by various citizen and voter groups include a line-item veto for the president, legislation to require disclosure and set limits on campaign contributions, plus restrictions on benefits and exemptions for Congress members.
Those are the reforms that our citizens deserve. And voters should be joining action groups to demand their enactment. At least two of the reforms, however, will require constitutional amendments.
My subsequent columns will discuss some of these reforms in more detail, starting with term limits in my next commentary.
Darrell Berkheimer, who lives in Grass Valley, writes a biweekly column published Saturdays by The Union. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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