Home

Mickey Edwards Says Laws, Not Lawmakers to Blame for Congressional Morass

(CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Ex-Rep. Mickey Edwards, R-Okla., hates to break it to everyone, but our horribly paralyzed, results-challenged Congress is, sadly, performing just about right, given current law.  

“The Congress is working exactly the way it was designed … and it shouldn’t be,” the now-Aspen Institute scholar said of the tragically flawed electoral system that has thrust lawmakers into a battle royal-like existence.  

On Tuesday night, Edwards is expected to share his sobering analysis of how individual states have set up Capitol Hill to fail with attendees of Morven Park’s “Distinguished Voices in Civics ” series. He told HOH the dysfunction plaguing modern politics flows from exclusionary primaries and widespread gerrymandering.  

“People are trying to figure out, ‘How we do we get out of this mess?’ My argument is: It’s not the people. It’s systemic,” he said of election laws that, rather than rewarding candidates with mass appeal, benefit those “reflective of what the partisans in their states want.” “All the people who get elected are looking over their shoulder at their primary opponents,” he said of the vicious cycle of mudslinging and fundraising fostered by the current regime.  

Edwards attempts to map a way out of the hyperpartisanship that he fears is turning Congress into an ideological battleground a la the famously combative British Parliament in his latest book, “The Parties Versus The People.”  

“The idea is to get them [lawmakers] to function together as a group of people working to solve our problems,” he said. If not, voters should expect nothing more than an unrelenting “skins versus cowboys” level of animosity from their elected leaders.  

He views experimentation with non-partisan primaries (“That way, you are forced to appeal to a much broader electorate,” he counseled) and the dozen or so states working to curb politically motivated redistricting as steps in the right direction, but warns that there is much work to be done to undo the damage already wrought.  

Roll Call Election Map: Race Ratings for Every Seat Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call in your inbox or on your iPhone.