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5 Issues That Will Remain Unresolved Because of Partisan Primaries

by Bob Conner, published
With the primaries either underway or rapidly approaching, we again find ourselves facing a crisis in democracy created by our elections process: the escalating power of partisanship from partisan primaries, determining for us who will be filling congressional seats in 2015.

In record numbers, 42 percent of the electorate are disenfranchised by the two major political parties and results of this year’s primaries in most states may very well be determined by as little as 5 percent of the electorate. Of all the congressional districts, only 35 are considered to be competitive -- “competition” being confined partisan competition.

FairVote is projecting only minor changes in congressional makeup for the 114th Congress. So, what will this mean for legislative accomplishments in the next 2 years? Chances are it will mean very little -- meaning nothing will change.


It was not an easy exercise, but it keeps the focus on the issues we want it to be on. We dodged a bullet here. - Senator John McCain (R-AZ)

A very tell-tale statement to the New York Times from McCain who argued that by putting the debt limit fight behind it last week, his party took the wind out of the Democrats' sails to portray Republicans as reckless.

In a vote designed to strengthen the GOP’s chances in the 2014 elections, rather than taking the traditional GOP stance of reducing the debt, two prominent Senate members, Senators Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and John Cornyn (R-TX), voted instead with eyes solely on the elections. As they surrender the fight to reduce debt, it is a strong indicator that no reprieve from partisanship should be expected.


With all the striking similarities between the GOP and Democrat plans, immigration reform should be one of the least contentious issues in Congress.

Instead, the battle rages around the status of the estimated 11 million undocumented residents in the U.S., because the lines aren't being drawn between the Republicans and the Democrats. Preferring to round up and deport all undocumented residents, ideological hardliners are pushing back against their own party's lines regarding amnesty, dividing the GOP.

Even with the likelihood of the GOP maintaining its majority in the House, and possibly securing a majority in the Senate, it’s very unlikely any immigration reform will take place as lawmakers associated with the tea party win seats with minuscule voter turnouts during primary elections.

As long as the GOP remains divided along ideological lines, immigration reform will remain in limbo, along with the affected immigrants.


Reformation of the 74,000-page, highly complex tax code seems beyond daunting for anyone working together. However, when lawmakers can’t agree with members of their own party, much less across the aisle, it’s highly improbable we’ll see anything accomplished in near future.

Among other things, the House Ways and Means Committee, a permanent committee of the House, is responsible for all bills related to revenue (taxes, tariffs, etc.). The current chair, Dave Camp, is a moderate Republican from Michigan and has been an ardent reformer for years. However, he will be vacating the chair this year to term limits.

More Americans get their paycheck from small businesses than any other type of business or government.  If we really want to strengthen our economy and put more money in the pockets of American workers, we must fix the tax code and how it treats small businesses.   In addition to all the complexity these Main Street businesses face, Washington currently taxes them at top rates nearly 10 percentage points higher than their corporate counterparts.  That’s simply unfair to small businesses in my home state of Michigan and across the country.  - U.S. Representative Dave Camp

The comments of his likely successor, Paul Ryan, leads people to think he has the same goals as Camp. However, unlike Camp, Ryan has been very vague on his ideas for change and with the in-fighting between the tea party and GOP, Republicans battling Democrats, the results are likely to be the same as they have been for decades: no tax reform.

And we'll continue to lose revenue and spend more, a dangerous habit in a fragile economy.


The 2010-2013 roster will return with Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), along with other major players in the Affordable Care Act (ACA) melodrama.

The pathetic implementation of ACA will continue to create blow-back for the Democrats. However, even with expected changes in the House and some Democrats now siding with the GOP on "Obamacare," any changes, or outright repeal of the bill will meet stiff resistance given the trench warfare over the ACA.

Democrats will refuse to capitulate and the GOP is likely to pursue another 50 attempts to repeal the act. But, make no mistake, this is not about health care, rather about increasing partisan power, so I wouldn't expect Congress to do much more than continue lobbing blame bombs from their well entrenched positions for some time to come.


Four years after the official end of the “Great Recession,” total U.S. unemployment remains unchallenged at 12.3 percent. With long-term unemployment (those jobless for 27 weeks or more) increasing by 203,000 in February to 3.8 million, these individuals account for 37 percent of the unemployed, according to the

Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The most concerning aspect of this persistent unemployment number is that 90 percent -- or 3.5 million -- have been unemployed for a year or more and face a very dismal outlook for future employment as employers shy away from those with long-term gaps in employment history.

There is more to fighting unemployment than repeatedly taking the easy road by extending unemployment benefits, but the economy will remain unchanged as candidates continue to appeal to hardliners of both parties, leaving the important task of job creation out in the cold with the unemployed.


The average re-election rate for incumbents is 90 percent for Congress. Yet, their approval rate has been steadily dropping since 2002, hitting an all-time low of 9 percent in late 2013. One thing should be abundantly clear in these statistics: partisanship is controlling our elections, not the electorate.

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