Dual-Track Legislature: Possible Effects

Remind us again: What is a Dual-Track Legislature?
A portion of the members are elected by the state custom and others gain entry by some measure of merit and lottery selection. The resulting legislature is composed of part political elite and part natural elite. The latter members may enter and remain without being "political" - they may not choose to belong to a party or publish any platform. A dual-track legislature (DTL) that is split evenly is called a "balanced body."

How does one establish merit?
This could come from a number of methods. You could gain high marks in your profession; you could be nominated by some impartial order. The most common method would be passing a test demonstrating your knowledge of history and current issues along with the ability to think critically.

What do you think the major effects would be if a normal legislature changed over to a Dual-Track model?
We should expect tremendous change, from attitudes to policy. Here are some examples of differences from the view of sitting representatives. Let's call the elected party stalwart, Joe. Let’s name the person who never entered politics but was selected by meritorious lot, Jill.

Joe answers to his party organization and his legislative better. Jill answers to herself.

Joe's city builds ships. He spends his greatest efforts attempting to gain defense expenditure for a new aircraft carrier.  A pharmaceutical company is Jill's major local company. She owes it no allegiance; in fact she works to lower the cost of drugs.

Handsome Joe is a model husband and alder in his church – so he constantly tells voters. Jill, like forty percent of Americans, seldom visits a house of worship and she’s divorced. Even most of her friends don’t know her religion or her sexual preferences.

Joe disagrees with Governor Ed in belittling terms, because Ed belongs to the other party. Jill speaks out her displeasure without personal attack. She believes that good manners and common sense dictate that leaders should try to get along.

Joe leads a committee and controls who is allowed to testify. Jill’s committee tries to get the full spectrum of views, but asks that any person who appears before it detail any conflict of interest.

When discussing healthcare, Joe speaks about the wonder of America and how dedicated he is to public health. Jill says costs are rising much faster than incomes. She sticks to the issues without the embroidery.

Joe is always running for office, always raising money. Jill gained her seniority by peer ratings and has never raised a dime.

Joe is constantly giving speeches, both in the assembly and to major interests. Jill, like Washington and Franklin, seldom gives a speech, but she has several citizen cohorts that she consults.

Joe is a fixture on the Sunday talking head shows. Jill avoids them, unless they offer a serious stage for discourse.

Joe expects his staff to summarize a topic. Jill reads for herself. She consults the independent legislative analyst for advice.

Joe is proud to ba a party leader. He's never just Joe, he's party Joe. Jill likes to quote George Carlin about groups - first they wear hat, then armbands and before long they have fight songs and lose their identity to the "cause." To Jill each issue is a new territory and she's not afraid to be thought a liberal one day and a conservative the next.

Joe has a large staff dealing with district complaints. His high tech machine is constantly printing form letters, which end with a plea for donations. His database is huge and detailed. Jill represents herself and the entire state. She has staff peruse email for cogent content. She responds personally to a few – most receive a reply that all email cannot be answered, etc.

What effects would this have over the whole political system?
Political parties would have to adapt or die. They are like stores that have no competition except the look-alike down the street that charges the same prices. The second Track, the non-elective members of the legislature, will not accept the old practices.

But the parties are organized for political warfare while the non-elected aren’t. Wouldn’t they join to thwart the independents?
They will try. What the parties don’t have is the backing of the people. Only about one in ten Californians is satisfied with the legislature, 80 percent say we are on the wrong path and a heavy majority says that laws are made for the profit of the few not the gain of the many – and they’ve said this for over thirty years. 

Do you really expect a change in public attitudes?
World War II changed everyone’s attitude. Once folks say “we” instead of “them” in discussing how to address our problems - you’ve arrived
Would a Dual-Track legislature be able to pass an honest budget?
When one party becomes a minority its best strategy is to stall or blackmail the other party, to label it as irresponsible. In a way, each group is now a minority and they are forced to work together. If I’m not always campaigning for re-election I can be more candid. Candor is the first step towards honest budgets, honest planning.

What effect would this have on elections?
One group fear mongers, points fingers and specializes in false correlations. The other does none of these. It doesn’t take long before the public has a choice, heretofore unavailable, of choosing to place power in the hands of adults rather than juvenile-acting folks. Before long the boys and girls who run campaigns are looking for other jobs because candidates will want to emulate those of higher esteem.

You still have the problem of a governor or president who may be a demagogue, placing himself as the savior against the evil legislature.
Many of America’s founders worried that a singular executive could lead too much power in the hands of someone untrustworthy. It could lead to an unwise war. Madison, often called the Constitution’s Father, originally wanted a regional council to share executive power in some way. Benjamin Franklin wanted something like he headed in Pennsylvania, a five-person executive. There’s a lot of room for invention in the area of executive powers.

So what would be the most important effect of a Dual-Track legislature?
It might make citizens respect government. That respect could allow representatives to legislate for a real world, not one where debt and problem solving are left to a later generation.