10 Steps To Repair American Democracy Review

10 Steps To Repair American Democracy
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10 Steps To Repair American Democracy ReviewI heard Steven Hill give a talk about his new book, "10 Steps to Repair American Democracy", in Cambridge recently. In his book and in his talk, Hill promotes reforms such as instant runoff voting, proportional representation, direct election of the President, public campaign financing, free media time for candidates, and so on. His "ten steps" are:
1. Secure the Vote
2. Expand Voter Participation
3. Increase Voter Choice with Instant Runoff Voting
4. Scrap Winner-Take-All Elections
5. Direct Election of the President
6. Overhaul the U.S. Senate
7. Reclaim the Airwaves
8. Minimize Money's Role
9. Reform the Supreme Court
10. Restore Faith in Government
Obviously, each of these slogans really involves multiple steps. For example, "Secure the Vote" includes securing voter-verified recountable paper trails; impartial and professional election officials; and open-source software for electronic voting machines. "Expand Voter Participation" includes universal voter registration; making election day a holiday; and enfranchising prisoners and ex-cons. And so on down the list.
Hill puts the most emphasis on scrapping winner-take-all elections in favor of moderate proportional representation, of the type formerly used in the Illinois state legislature. In moderate proportional representation, three to five legislators are elected from geographical districts three to five times the size of those that currently exist. Since candidates in such districts would need only 17% to 25% of the vote to win a seat, Hill argues that minorities (political and ethnic) would gain representation proportional to their numbers, and polarization between "red" and "blue" areas would be dramatically reduced. At the same time, since these 17%-25% thresholds are much higher than those formerly used in Italy and Israel, moderate proportional representation isn't vulnerable to the sort of instability that troubled systems in which candidates could be elected with as little as 1% of the vote.
Hill's talk was held in a church, and I felt a bit like the choir, since I am familiar with most of these proposals and have supported many of them for years, to the point of writing articles and collecting signatures for instant runoff voting and proportional representation. "10 Steps to Repair American Democracy" is directed primarily toward those unfamiliar with these proposals, and seeing them for the first time.
Though Hill gives decent summaries of many of the issues and options, I personally would have liked more detailed discussions of the arguments for (and against) the various reforms proposed. I also would have appreciated more discussion on ways to work to enact these reforms -- all Hill does is suggest contacting the relevant organizations, which are listed at the end of each chapter. The writing was also tiresome on occasion, as several factoids, phrases, sentences and even a paragraph were repeated verbatim two or three times in less than 200 pages.
So although "10 Steps to Repair American Democracy" wasn't all I was looking for, it can still serve as a brief introduction to reforms whose time has come, especially valuable for people who are fed up with business as usual but don't have any idea what to do about it. I already have a lengthy list of friends and relatives to loan it to.10 Steps To Repair American Democracy Overview

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