Michael Golden talks political reform

Journalist Michael Golden discusses the four issues that he believes face America’s legislative branch at a lecture in the Blume Board Room on Tuesday, Sept. 6. (Photos by Kirsten Tendall)

Award-winning journalist and social entrepreneur Michael Golden discussed the issue of outmoded rules preventing productivity in Congress in EC’s Blume Board room on Sept. 6.

“I’m tired of everybody shouting at each other in Washington and not listening to each other,” Golden said. “The recourse we have as citizens is electing people in, which I would argue hasn’t made too much difference in terms of the big problems we need to solve, or we could change the rules.”

Golden, who worked as a political campaign manager and strategist from 2000-2006 for the White House, Senate, and House of Representatives, said that he believes there are four defects that impede the legislative branch’s output.

The first of these defects is the “money flood.” In his lecture, Golden cited a study that showed that contributors in the 90th percentile are 15 times more important in determining public policy outcomes than ordinary people.

“Money buys outcomes. The system doesn’t smell right with all this money going into politicians,” said Golden. “The majority does not rule.”

In order to combat this issue, Golden proposes rebalancing campaign finance rules so that higher-paying donors do not have a greater influence than those with less to give.

Golden addressed another defect — the rigging of congressional races through gerrymandering, winner-take-all elections, and single-member U.S. house districts.

“We have this stark red-blue split that doesn’t reflect the actual vote,” he said.

Golden believes that the way to unrig races and to confront the political polarization of the U.S. is to reform district-drawing rules in order to increase voter competition and promote fair representation.

Golden also contends against two-year house terms. In his lecture, Golden referred to both Lyndon B. Johnson and Dwight D. Eisenhower, who advocated extending terms to increase the capacity for members to act as public servants. Golden believes that terms should be four years long and argues that now, in the year 2016, an extended term is even more necessary.

“These men and women start running for office again the minute they get sworn in — even before that,” he said.

The last defect that Golden addressed is the Senate filibuster, which he believes should be abolished.

“Imagine that: You vote. You pay taxes. We have 535 members of congress and an executive branch, but one person in the senate can hold up the entire show,” he said. “It’s completely illogical, and the cloture is 60 votes. What happened to 51? What happened to majority rule?”

He argues that these four defects generate three main negative effects: poor voting outcomes, a deterrence in constructive negotiation between congress members, and the distortion of fair representation.

Golden’s speech resonated heavily with sophomore Natalie Barnes who agreed with his stance on campaign reform.

“I believe in calls for reform,” said Barnes. “I totally agree with [Golden] that we need to end the money flow because I even see that with the candidates who represent me. They don’t actually represent the people in my district in Iowa. They represent the people that are giving them money. So I believe in an amendment in the constitution to overturn Citizen’s United.”