Voters, not the politicians they elect, are the fiduciaries of our democracy, and if we want this outrage to stop, one non-partisan advocacy group is proposing a radical solution that could begin to return functionality to Congress. But it must begin with the American people in November’s midterm elections.

As a student of governance and a retired college president, I understand the challenges of leadership when multiple constituencies with shared authority and diverse interests must be factored in making decisions. Like colleges and universities, healthy and functioning government requires deliberative processes which bring sharply diverse perspectives together into productive debate, negotiation and hopefully, compromise. This process is one of the fundamental principles of democracy, yet it has been abandoned by partisan extremists more concerned with exerting control than with leading democratically.

Today, rules and procedures within Congress make it virtually impossible for debate and bipartisanship to occur. It is no wonder that a 2017 Gallup poll revealed that only 19 percent of Americans approve of Congress, an abysmal rating that has been under 20 percent for nearly a decade.

  • The roots of our Congressional dysfunction center on the role of Speaker of the House. The speaker answers to no one except the elected House majority who installed him or her and controls what bills go to the floor of the House for vote. As former House Speaker Dennis Hastert once said, “The job of speaker is not to expedite legislation that runs counter to the wishes of the majority of his majority.” This so-called “Hastert Rule” has made speakers beholden (hostage?) to narrow factions within their party. So why do the speakers accommodate them?
  • A procedure known as a “motion to vacate” allows any House member to demand a no-confidence vote of the speaker. If the vote is taken, a simple majority of the majority can summarily remove the speaker. This means the House — and therefore Congress — is being controlled by those who place their partisan agenda above democratic principles. It is a large reason Congress is inexorably broken.

If we want to fix Congress, we must fix these flawed rules and rid the House of those who perpetuate them.

The next Congress will be electing a new speaker. Americans must therefore elect representatives who will embrace these changes necessary to restore our working government.

In November, vote for candidates who demonstrate a commitment to democratic principles and bipartisanship and who support The Speaker Project. Contact your elected representatives and advocate for this national initiative. Educate others through social media by sharing the No Labels proposal link above and getting them involved in restoring democratic principles to Congress.

We the People are responsible for our democracy. It is time to end congressional dysfunction.

If the politicians cannot, we must.

Richard H. Dorman is co-author of the book “Academic Leadership and Governance in Higher Education” and retired president of Westminster College (PA). He is a volunteer monitor for No Labels in Ohio’s 12th Congressional District.