During a national conference call on Wednesday, Jacqueline Salit, president of IndependentVoting.org, interviewed U.S. Rep. John Delaney (D-Md.), on the reintroduction of the 'Open Our Democracy Act' (HR 2655). During the interview, Delaney explained that even though the bill has received a good response from members of Congress, "we need more grassroots efforts."
The Open Our Democracy Act does three main things:
- It establishes nonpartisan, top-two primaries (similar to the primaries used in California and Washington state) for all congressional and senatorial races nationwide;
- It makes Election Day a national holiday; and
- It opens a path for nationwide redistricting reform.
When prompted to explain why he re-introduced the bill, Delaney said, "The central problem with Congress is that we don't work together for the common good."He argues that the way districts are created promotes gridlock in Congress. The lack of competitive districts means members of Congress are only incentivized to represent half of the country. HR 2655, he expounds, will make districts more competitive, and therefore, more representative of the American populace.
In response to Salit's prompt that 45 percent of the American public identifies as independent, Delaney said:
"It is a rejection of the political parties, in part, what they stand for...a lot of politicians rant and rave and accuse the other party of being entirely wrong on everything they believe in. It is an insult to the country if half the population was always 100 percent wrong. Politicians always make the mistake of underestimating the American people. 300 million smart Americans are not going to let some 500 members of Congress stand in their way forever."
When speaking specifically on the issue of "open primaries" (how the bill refers to nonpartisan, top-two primaries) and why some Republicans and Democrats are against them, Delaney explained that contemporary politicians are too vested in the current system.
"[M]any of them are a product of the political system...they are career politicians," Delaney said.
"They are part and parcel of the system we are trying to change. It is hard for them to reject the system that has helped them create their careers.”
Delaney believes the grassroots effort is key to changing the status quo, and is a critical component to passing the Open Our Democracy Act.
"The real leadership here in Congress that controls each of the parties is not going to break on this issue unless they see that there is political expedience to it," he remarked. "So, we have to really get voters, because while they can block them out of the primaries, they cannot block them out of the general election."
Listen to the full conference call here.
Image: U.S. Rep. John Delaney (D-Md.)