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Our Democracy Needs a Major Fix: Collective Congressional Accountability

American democracy is on the clock. The trajectory of dysfunction does not allow us to kick the responsibility for fixing our government down the road to some future generation. You and I and our fellow citizens are under the gun to implement bold, intelligent solutions to overcome the malaise that has stricken it on our watch.

We know it will take more than simply electing better people to represent us. According to Pew Research, 61% of us understand that significant changes are needed in the fundamental design and structure of our government.

And most of us also know what one of those changes must be: a mechanism by which we Americans can hold members of Congress more firmly accountable for working together across party lines to deliver bipartisan consensus solutions to major national problems.

In Restoring the Consent of the Governed, Bill Bridgman makes the case for a constitutional amendment to establish a new mechanism for holding members of Congress collectively accountable for their combined overall performance. This new Public Check on Congress (PCC) would give the national electorate an opportunity to render this judgment periodically through a national referendum.


Advantages of the Public Check on Congress (PCC)

If we, the American national electorate, had a tool by which we could hold the members of Congress collectively accountable for their overall performance, we could expect many improvements in our governance, including:


— Joint bipartisan congressional “ownership” of major policy areas including healthcare, immigration, fiscal responsibility, climate change, war declaration, guardrails on the executive, campaign finance reform, gun policy, life/choice balance, ameliorating economic inequality, and most other areas where Congress can improve our society


— Reduced alienation and disaffection between Washington and the rest of the country


— Strategic consideration by Congress of longer-range consequences of their actions


— Reduced political polarization both within Congress and the public as a whole (for example, by reducing polarizing exploitation of “wedge” issues, reducing the toxic demonization tactics of “lesser of evils” elections. etc.)


— Increased political leverage for younger voters who are at greatest risk of disengaging from the political system


— A positive, effective channel for “movement” politics such as Indivisible, Black Lives Matter, Women’s Resistance, March for Our Lives, climate activism, etc. etc.

And many other benefits that arise from better alignment of Congress’s actions with the national interest.

We can amend the Constitution

In the past, strong popular sentiment for political reform and social change has provided the impetus for amending the Constitution.  This was the case for the first 10 amendments when “we the people” insisted on a Bill of Rights as guardrails for a new, strong central government.  Powerful social impulses also brought about the Civil War amendments and those passed during the Progressive Era of the early twentieth century.  


There are many signs that we are approaching a similar moment today as mounting frustration with a manifestly dysfunctional government reaches a crisis point.  An urgent desire to find remedies is emerging.  The best options will not be reflexively dismissed simply because they involve amending the Constitution.   

We American citizens may be called upon soon to take a stand on how we should modify our Constitution.  It is not too early to invest in Restoring the Consent of the Governed for an in-depth understanding of one particularly promising reform: The Public Check on Congress.

Your next steps:

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