This Reader's Corner interview was originally broadcast in May, 2014
Fans of novels depicting dystopian societies need look no further than our nation’s Congress for real-life examples of governance run amok. That’s the message from our guest, former U.S. Representative Mickey Edwards, author of "The Parties Versus the People: How to Turn Republicans and Democrats into Americans."
Edwards argues that blind allegiance to party affiliation has turned lawmakers into followers rather than leaders, with many voting their party line more than 90 percent of the time.
Party leaders effectively control who runs for office, which bills make it to the floor and how lawmakers will cast their votes on those bills. Rigid adherence to Republican or Democratic positions, he writes, is undermining compromise and effectively gridlocking the democratic process.
Edwards was a Republican member of Congress from Oklahoma for 16 years. As a member of the House Republican leadership and the House Budget and Appropriations committees, he experienced the battle for party dominance up close and understands its negative effects on the lawmaking process and the rights of citizens to self-govern.
Since leaving Congress in 1993, Edwards has taught at Harvard, Georgetown and Princeton universities and the University of Pennsylvania Law School. He currently runs a political leadership program for elected officials as vice president of the Aspen Institute.
Edwards has been a weekly columnist for The Los Angeles Times and The Chicago Tribune and a commentator on NPR’s “All Things Considered.” He is co-founder of the group No Labels, a citizens' movement of Democrats, Republicans and independents dedicated to a new politics of problem solving.
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