Real change starts with political reform

Every time there is a mass shooting a few friends left of center tell the activists to make sure we defeat the Republicans the next election cycle. Then my several Republican and Libertarian friends decry the folly of thinking that limiting guns of any kind will solve any problems.

Can I remind both “sides” that we all want the same thing – safe public places, a country where mental health treatment is on the same footing as acute care treatment and where politicians actually listen to everyone? The question is: how do we get there?

The answer is pretty simple in concept: we reform how we district, finance and elect politicians so that everyone is incentivized to listen to those beyond their base of support. We have gridlock in America. Even though most folks at the neighborhood level can have a conversation, politicians often seem unable to have one.

It’s my experience throughout life that listening to those you might not agree with takes patience, but like all difficult things, it can be the most rewarding because you learn something new. So many of us live in an echo chamber, talking to a few people who believe exactly as we do. But when we reach out and really listen, we come to understand that though the language of the “others” may be different, the goals are often the same.

So, how do we break this gridlock so that New Mexico and America can come together and solve these wicked complex problems like mass shootings, racism, poverty and so much more? I continue to believe a starting point is political reform because single-issue advocacy does not work when the system rewards listening to only a narrow sector of society.

Open primaries, ranked choice voting, non-partisan redistricting commissions, same day voter registration, free and fair ballot access for independent and minor party candidates, public financing of campaigns, non-partisan election of election officials and more will help construct a system where consensus is possible and rewarded.

If electing more of “us” and less of “them” solved the problem, the complex problems we face would have been solved years ago. The problem is that we have a system where politicians don’t listen, but we can make them and with these changes comes hope that meaningful reforms on so many fronts will have the support of most Americans.

In sum, talk of gun regulation needs to include talk of political reform. Talk of public health reform needs to include talk of political reform. Talk of trade, war and education reform needs to include talk of political reform. And so on. Know what I mean?

Bob Perls is a former U.S. diplomat and the founder of New Mexico Open Elections, formerly NM Open Primaries.


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