Rep. Chris Shays and Jim Glassman Seek Competitive Elections

Rep. Chris Shays and Jim Glassman Seek Competitive Elections

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Christian Holm
June 23, 2015

Former U.S. Rep. Christopher Shays joined Jim Glassman, executive director of the George W. Bush Institute, headlined a June 19 Simpson–Mineta Leaders Series event to discuss a major crisis facing American politics: election reform.


Steve Scully, political editor of C-SPAN and SMLS faculty director, asked Glassman and Shays what measures they believe will provide Americans a more responsive and inclusive method of electing their leaders. The panelists suggested limiting gerrymandering, opening debates to independent candidates and making it easier for third-party candidates to compete in elections as possible ways to bring disengaged and moderate voters back into the fold.


“Having a third-party candidate participate would make Republicans and Democrats talk about issues that they otherwise wouldn’t talk about,” Glassman said. “This would revolutionize our political discourse and bring the two parties back to the middle, which is where most Americans want them to be.”


Glassman and Shays then took questions from several students. Some of the highlights:


Brett Kaufman (Institution: Towson University, Md.; Internship: Israel Forever) How would an independent candidate get the exposure they need to run an effective campaign?


Glassman: A simple rule change making it easier for independent candidates to appear on the ballot would bring many high-quality candidates into these elections. We could also have separate debates for independent candidates, which would bring up some issues that all Americans would pay attention to.


David Jackson (Institution: Willamette University, Ore.; Internship: U.S Marshals Service) How can independent candidates avoid being alienated by the existing campaign complex?


Glassman: There is no doubt that there would be intense opposition from existing campaign institutions, but I think voters would be really energized. In the end, it’s voters’ opinions that matter.


Erin Berry (Institution: Florida International University; Internship: Leadership Africa) With a lot of independent parties and candidates having such narrow platforms, is there a way for them to reach a broader base?


Shays: More Americans identify as independents than they do Republican or Democrat. The right candidate could really hit home with a lot people and identify with them in ways that the other two parties couldn’t.


As the event drew to a close, Shays praised the interns and their questions, expressing hope that they’ll play a role in revitalizing American politics.


“You all have demonstrated how excited you are to be here in Washington. Please stay that way. I feel much better about our future when I spend time with young, motivated people like yourselves,” he said.


Click here to view photos from SMLS

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