The Norman Transcript


November 21, 2013

Dysfunctional system

NORMAN — Former Oklahoma Congressman Mickey Edwards and former U.S. Sen. David L. Boren occupied different sides of the political aisle during their respective stints in Washington. Mr. Edwards was an Oklahoma City Republican, and Mr. Boren was a Seminole Democrat.

They’re both university educators now, all the wiser for having been in Congress, and are ready to share their views. They were singing from a similar hymnal Wednesday night at an Associates Dinner on the University of Oklahoma campus.

Mr. Edwards and Mr. Boren have both written books with common themes: partisan gridlock, the influence of money on public policy, incivility among elected officials, redistricting to draw safe districts for elected officials of both parties. All told, the two have complained in print and out loud that Congress is no longer reflective of the majority of Americans.

Mr. Edwards said he was “embarrassed” at having worked within the dysfunctional system, as he did from 1977 to 1993. He now has time to think about all the intricacies of Congress and why things are done the way they are done — things like two podiums, two cloak rooms, majority and minority leaders, filibusters and primaries.

The parties punish leaders who try to work together. Challengers from the left and the right of candidates will portray their opponents as working with the enemy and alert the party faithful who vote in primaries and show up at conventions where some candidates are nominated.

The spoils of decades of partisan governing has made voter registration among independents soar. In their zeal to remain in power, parties may be writing their own obituaries.

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