At The Hill law prof David Schoenbrod makes a plea to “make democracy real again”:
Back in the days of trust, President Kennedy and President Johnson both ran and won as experienced Washington insiders capable of getting government to accomplish more. With growing distrust, however, voters have tended to elect leaders who vow to upend Washington. Many new candidates ran as outsiders, including the peanut farmer turned governor Jimmy Carter, the Hollywood actor turned governor Ronald Reagan, the “man from hope” turned governor Bill Clinton, the Texan businessman turned governor George Bush, the Chicago community organizer turned senator Barack Obama, and the New York real estate tycoon turned reality television star Donald Trump, who had the additional political advantage of running against consummate insider Hillary Clinton.
The “trust”, as he calls it, was earned by the perception of Roosevelt’s handling of the Great Depression, whatever the truth of it may be, and by our victory in World War II. It has been waning ever since, dealt a mortal blow by the Vietnam War, and further weakened by a series of unwinnable and, in some cases, unnecessary wars. I do not believe we will be able to put the toothpaste back into that particular tube.
Here’s his prescription for solving the problem of Congress and the executive perennially dodging the blame for their feckless actions by blaming someone else:
Getting the right mix of policies is of course critical. But in a democracy, the choice should be made by elected officials who are responsible to their constituents. Instead, the cheating befuddles voters and makes government unstable. Congress should pass a statute to establish new legislative procedures that would force roll call votes on the most important hard choices between regulatory protection and regulatory burdens, the most important federal mandates that penalize states and localities for failing to do the federal bidding, and putting our troops into combat. Such votes would make politicians personally responsible for both the unpopular and popular consequences of their choices.
Finally, the statute should order the Congressional Budget Office to inform voters of the costs of spending increases and tax cuts. It is nonpartisan and has a reputation for speaking truth to power. That is why so many incumbents are leery of it. It should be ordered to mail voters an estimate of the annual cost to the average family of the tax increases or spending cuts needed to keep the debt from growing faster than the economy, how much Congress has changed that cost, and how much greater the cost will be if Congress continues to kick the can down the road.
He’s dreaming. To understand why, you need only look at the measures that did have a roll call vote. Anonymity has made little difference. Even when you know what your legislators did, they are not held accountable, generally because they have the right letter after their names.
Every reform that might actually be effective that I can think of would require a Constitutional amendment which means that they won’t happen. The one thing I can suggest is to expect less from the federal government. Demand that your legislators not nationalize everything they want to get done. Judging from the platforms of the individuals seeking the Democratic nomination for president, that’s not going to happen, either.