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No wonder so many Americans feel like their voices aren't heard.

Whether it's fair wages or civil rights or freedom from gun violence or access to basic health care: our government is not meeting its people's basic needs.

In some cases — certainly where President Trump is involved — that government is actively exploiting and oppressing the families we are supposed to protect.

It's a crisis of our national character, and it threatens to tear our country apart.

But if we're going to restore our commitment to our values – compassion, justice, freedom, community – we have to recognize that our political system and democratic institutions are not fixing this dysfunction, they are protecting it. They are making the problems worse.

So we can't talk about the most pressing policy reforms we need — on immigration, the economy, health care, climate change — without talking about the political structures used to quite literally hold them hostage.

There are a lot of issues at play here, from voter suppression to gerrymandering to campaign finance, and ultimately, we've got to take them all on.

But there are three key structural reforms we need to tackle right off the bat:

  • End the filibuster. The filibuster was once a way to allow Senators to make an principled objection of conscience. During the Civil Rights era, segregationists refashioned it as tool to derail meaningful civil rights legislation—again and again and again. More recently, it's become a cynical Republican shortcut to subvert the will of the American people.
  • Eliminate the electoral college. The electoral college distorts the simple equation at the heart of democracy: one person, one vote. As a result, in some areas of the country, one person's vote can count as much as three times the average American's. The system (created to empower slave states) is inherently, grossly unjust.
  • Term limits for Supreme Court justices. The lifetime terms that were supposed to insulate the court from the political winds have turned confirmation hearings into the most heated, brutal partisan battles in government. We have to bring down the temperature of those hearings.

Think about it this way: the last two Republican presidents took office despite having failed to earn the support of a majority of Americans or win the popular vote. Between them, those two presidents have so far appointed four conservative supreme court justices, who will serve for life. Those justices are confirmed by a Senate that does not have to heed majority opinion.

And some wonder why so many Americans feel like their voices aren't heard.

It's time to fix broken structures and amplify those voices.


Posted on September 6, 2019.

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Joe Kennedy III represents Massachusetts' 4th District in Congress. A principled and passionate advocate for economic, social, and racial justice, Joe is working to improve access to quality, affordable health care, and is determined to fight for all who call this country home.

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