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Make America Work Again

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ASPA as an organization.

By Carroll G. Robinson and Michael O. Adams
May 10, 2016

Extreme partisan political gerrymandering and primary elections are the real cause of gridlock in American politics, not the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United.

Even before Citizens United and the Great Recession, very few Americans had the financial resources to donate the maximum contribution to gubernatorial, congressional or presidential campaigns to be campaign bundlers. Overturning Citizens United won’t change this, especially in light of the reality of income inequality and the wealth gap in our nation.

If the Citizens United decision is ever overturned, that alone will not be enough to end the partisan political gridlock in Washington, D.C., or help generate policy consensus in state capitols across our nation.

To end the growing political gridlock, partisan primary elections need to be eliminated—as has been done in California and Louisiana—and corporate America should help lead this effort.

The creation of bipartisan/nonpartisan redistricting commissions is not enough to end the political gridlock so long as partisan primary elections continue to exist.

The elimination of partisan primary elections would help elect more candidates—officeholders—focused on building consensus and finding common ground policy solutions. America was built on compromise and consensus dating back to 1776. If it was good enough for the Founding Fathers that legacy should still be valued today.

Overturning Citizens United will not result in more political consensus or eliminate the influence of “big” money donors in the political process. To eliminate the power and influence of big money donors, we need more candidates who can motivate, inspire and attract large numbers of small dollar donors, such as President Barack Obama and Senator Bernie Sanders have done.

To fix our dysfunctional political system, we need to focus on empowering voters and objectively educating them on the substance of policy issues.

For the Supreme Court doctrine of “One Person, One Vote” to have any real meaning in the 21st century, we must update our electoral system to modernize the meaning of Lincoln’s “government of the people, for the people, by the people.”

Corporate America can help lead the effort to modernize our democracy.

Authors: Robinson and Adams are professors in the public administration program at Texas University’s Barbara Jordan-Mickey Leland School of Public Affairs in Houston, Texas.

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