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Wednesday
Sep282011

Too Much Democracy? A Modest Proposal From NC Gov. Bev Perdue

Comstock/Thinkstock(CARY, N.C.) -- North Carolina Gov. Bev Perdue caused a bit of a stir this week when she suggested that maybe Americans should call off a round or two of elections and let politicians focus on government instead of getting elected.

It’s not going to happen, of course -- the United States has held elections through the Civil War and World Wars and the Great Depression -- but it speaks to the general frustration many Americans have with partisanship and gridlock in Washington.

“You have to have more ability from Congress, I think, to work together and to get over the partisan bickering and focus on fixing things,” Perdue said, speaking at the Rotary Club in Cary, N.C., Tuesday. “I think we ought to suspend, perhaps, elections for Congress for two years and just tell them we won’t hold it against them, whatever decisions they make, to just let them help this country recover....You want people who don’t worry about the next election.”

Her office suggested that the comments were some sort of hyperbolic joke, although she sounds serious on audio posted online.

Frustration with partisanship is not new and it is not isolated. Sixty-nine percent of Americans have a negative view of government, according to the most recent ABC News-Washington Post poll.

But Perdue’s suggestion to call off the 2012 general election has been coupled with a recent essay by Peter Orzsag, President Obama’s former director of the Office of Management and Budget and a key figure in the passage of Democrats’ health law, and held up by conservative bloggers as part of a so-called democratic assault on democracy.

Orzsag, in an article titled “Too Much of a Good Thing: Why We Need Less Democracy,” said his stint working for the president convinced him that the country’s “political polarization was growing worse -- harming Washington’s ability to do the basic, necessary work of governing.”

“So what to do?” Orzsag asked in the article, published by the New Republic Sept. 14.

“To solve the serious problems facing our country, we need to minimize the harm from legislative inertia by relying more on automatic policies and depoliticized commissions for certain policy decisions. In other words, radical as it sounds, we need to counter the gridlock of our political institutions by making them a bit less democratic.”

He endorsed a more progressive tax system and Fed-style bodies to deal with everything from tax policy to infrastructure funding.

The idea that politicians need the ability to govern without so much concentration on politics runs against the whole idea of the U.S. system of government, according to Matthew Spalding, a scholar at the conservative Heritage Foundation.

“We need to get directions from the American people,” he said of elections.

And the government, he said, should not operate exactly like a business. “It was designed so that it wouldn’t react immediately to things. One of the things you want to filter out is the passions of the moment. You don’t want an immediate negative reaction lead to a policy change of great magnitude. It needs to be deliberative. But it's still decisive,” Spalding said.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio







ABC News Radio