Voter discontent intensifies.
Whether it's the Colorado recall election that recently dumped two sitting state senators, Congress' single-digit approval ratings, or the spike in independent voter registrations, the frustration is palpable.
It seems almost every time I attend a public event these days someone -- never an elected official or major party insider, by the way -- buttonholes me and expresses a desire to retaliate immediately against the elected elite, both in Washington and Oklahoma City.
You might be surprised to learn that, separately and without solicitation, nearly all suggest the recall as the silver bullet solution to our current plight, saying they tired of waiting for the next election to formally register their displeasure.
Some have even said that they seriously contemplate mounting an expensive, uphill and time-consuming initiative petition drive that could force a statewide vote on a proposal to add recall to the state's Constitution.
It's a perfectly understandable emotion, given that the public good often takes a back seat to non-stop political warfare skirmishing: corporatist Republicans want to oust Tea Party zealots. Teabaggers want to bounce the corporatists. And Democrats want both out. Now.
It's also a perfectly wretched idea: Recall efforts fail more often than they succeed, and they all-too-often give even more electoral power to a tiny minority that is rabid enough to keep going to the polls.
A few who've accosted me with the dream of the silent majority engineering a radical change in our political system offer a second alternative: open primaries.
You simply register to vote -- not affiliating yourself with any party -- then decide each election year whether you want to vote in the Republican or Democratic primary.
I attended a debate recently in which two University of Central Oklahoma students made the case for and against an open primary.
One student, siding with the major parties (which, naturally, oppose the idea), argued it would afford way too much opportunity for political hijinks -- for scheming Ds or Rs to jump into the other party's primary and skew the vote toward the weakest possible standard-bearer.
The other debater contended that open primaries would give independents -- the fast-growing voter registration group in Oklahoma -- more electoral opportunities, likely moderating the nominees chosen by both parties and thus affording better general election choices.
Texas shatters that illusion. Our Lone Star brothers and sisters have the power to decide each election year which primary captures their fancy. The way their system works, once they've cast a primary ballot, they are stuck with that party for the nominating season. In other words, no voting in the GOP primary, then jumping over to the Democratic runoff.
The open primary system south of the Red River has hardly resulted in more moderate elected officials, some of whom talk openly about secession, nearly all of whom would roll back reproductive rights to the Stone Age.
In search of a more perfect system -- one that would give the greatest diversity of voices in the governing process -- may I offer a third way forward: proportional representation.
I can hear the America-Love-It-Or-Leave-It crowd sputtering already. A European-style system? You've got to be kidding!
We're God's chosen people with God's chosen system. American exceptionalism. U-S-A! U-S-A! U-S-A!
This is not an attack on the American system or the Constitution. This is a proposal aimed at ensuring more voices be heard in the marketplace of ideas that are our halls of public policy making.
Here's how it might work: Currently, of course, we are represented by one lawmaker elected in a single district -- you have one state representative, one state senator, etc. Too often, you might be represented by someone with whom you adamantly disagree -- or feel certain would be unsympathetic to your position if you sought to influence him or her.
In a proportional representation, there would be larger legislative districts, encompassing regional areas, represented by several elected officials.
For example, there are currently 101 state House districts. You could still have 101 seats, but perhaps there would 10 House districts, each with 10 representatives (one district would have six, based on population).
Let's assume that in the general election, the Republican nominee received 60 percent of the vote in the expanded regional district, the Democrat 30 percent and the Green candidate 10 percent. The GOP would get six of the seats, the Democrats three and the Greens one.
Rather than one point of view representing each district, you'd get myriad voices from each district -- much like the electorate as a whole. And as a constituent, you could choose whether you'd prefer to contact uber-conservative Republican Rep. Mike Ritze or progressive Democratic Rep. Jeannie McDaniel.
Either way, you'd undoubtedly find a more sympathetic ear on the other end of the phone line -- and end up feeling like your point of view isn't being ignored.
The theory is, with more voices being heard in the halls of power, we'd end up with less extreme public policy -- which would be better for us all. Politics, after all, is the art of compromise, ensuring the tyranny of the majority is kept in check.
With proportional representation, Gov. Mary Fallin might not feel the need to pick ridiculous fights over military benefits for same-gender couples or ObamaCare just to placate the GOP's far-right flank.
And we might not waste so much of the taxpayers' precious money fighting unwinnable legal battles over constitutionally dubious legislation like the Ten Commandments and transvaginal ultrasounds and Sharia Law.
No system would be perfect, of course. But isn't it time -- given unhappiness with the current system -- to think outside the box? Maybe we can take a great system -- one that affords all Americans, regardless of social standing, race, religion or gender -- tweak it and make it even better.
It's definitely a debate worth having.
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