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Web Letter

While this long piece may have been still too short to address every concern about electoral procedure and administration in this country, Ms. vanden Heuvel should be commended for raising the important issues she does address. And these are certainly not matters to be regarded as particular to any party or candidate. They transcend politics in their effects on the form of government in the United States, which can barely even be called democratic today, as illustrated in the article.

Eli Poupko

Austin, TX

Jul 8 2008 - 10:17pm

Web Letter

As Ms. vanden Heuvel says, "Obama's audacious hope is intoxicating." But, remember, it is never good to go drunk to the polls. Now that the hangover is setting in, one wonders if it isn't time for a little self-reflection on the part of the "progressive" media. This voting is a serious business and should be done stone sober. There are real progressive candidates out there you could support. It's not too late to get back on the wagon, though it will be soon.

S. Hammond

North Syracuse, NY

Jul 7 2008 - 8:55pm

Web Letter

Ms. vanden Heuvel ignores, as does much of the left, the one candidate who stands steadfastly for all the reforms she advocates and one more: ending the domination of the Republican and Democratic Parties of our elections and our governments. That candidate is the person who has exemplified democratic values and good citizenship all his life: Ralph Nader.

Alvin D. Hofer

St Petersburg, FL

Jul 7 2008 - 7:47pm

Web Letter

Katrina vanden Heuvel's article states, for implementing her suggestions for reform: "The Congressional Progressive Caucus could take the first step, calling on Democratic leaders to support the agenda detailed here." The problem is that this agenda is grossly incomplete.

It falls well short of even recommending full public financing of elections, something done in every advanced, established democracy. She writes: "Short of introducing a system of full public financing, one modest proposal..." So her modest proposal would preserve the distortions of money in the electoral process. But that is not all of how this article falls short.

The article mentions a need for proportional representation, but offers no solutions to having a true multi-party democracy. New Zealand did this in the mid-1990s, eventually choosing a version of the German model called MMP. This gives each citizen in their parliament a party vote, and translates the resulting percentages directly into seats, and yet still allows district representation. Each small party above 5 percent of the party vote gets that many total seats in the legislature.

And she fails to even mention that the over-powered Senate (with control over treaties, cabinet appointments and judiciary appointments) is grossly unrepresentative. Wyoming has two seats for less than 500,000 people, while California has two for over 36 million people. If California had proportional representation in the Senate, it would have over 144 Senators. This problem has been described by many progressive writers. And some key Senate powers should be given to the House.

She fails to point out that The People of the United States can decide no question by petition and referendum.

We cannot elect the President by direct, popular vote (which she mentions, preferring IRV). But not only that, we cannot amend the current Constitution with amendments proposed by the people. Montana can do this. So can many other states. If we had Montana's amending article, 10 percent of the people of America, including 10 percent of half the states, could propose either amendments (such as one to recall Presidents and Vice Presidents or ban private contributions for ads during elections) or a new constitutional convention itself to modernize the ancient 1787 document, with majority rule determining the final decision. (Our states have had over 200 such constitutional conventions.) Yet she fails to challenge the problems of Article V for amending our Constitution with 5 percent of the population represented from the 13 small states able to block any amendment or a convention.

And there are many other key omissions from the standard progressive electoral reform platform.

For this more comprehensive agenda, see the Green Party Platform, the Kucinich platform and the Nader platform. Also, see these books:

Steven Hill: 10 Steps to Improve American Democracy
Dan Lazare: Frozen Republic
Sanford Levinson: Our Undemocratic Constitution
Larry Sabato's A More Perfect Union
Robert Dahl's How Democratic is the American Constitution?

This article is good as a first step. But the agenda the CPC should propose in Congress needs to be informed by the standard progressive electoral reforms platform taken from the above sources.

Kelly Gerling

Overland Park, KS

Jul 7 2008 - 11:59am

Web Letter

I was disappointed that this important article didn't really tackle the biased nature of the state ballot access laws that smaller parties and independents face--oppressive regulations that Democrat and Republican legislators religiously maintain in states like Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Georgia, Oklahoma, Texas and Indiana, to name just a few. Here's an account of the Pennsylvania ballot access struggle of 2006.

Ed Bortz

Pittsburgh, PA

Jul 4 2008 - 7:58am

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