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Ideas Abound For Breaking Logjam, But D.C. Isn’t Listening

Publication Date: 
December 08, 2013
The Boston Globe
Michael Kranish

Professor Nathaniel Persily comments on the need for change in the way government is run to avoid another shutdown in The Boston Globe. 

Viewing the current stalemate as a grave threat to American democracy, political scientists and other experts offer ways to limit the sway of campaign money, extreme factions, and take no prisoners partisanship. In some places, such alternatives are already working.

On the October day that Congress nearly defaulted on the national debt, two dozen of the nation’s top political scientists gathered privately in California to discuss what they viewed as one of the greatest crises in the nation’s history. American democracy, they believed, was at grave risk, and something had to be done.


“We almost defaulted. That’s about as close as you get to the equivalent of a constitutional crisis as we have ever had,” said Nathaniel Persily, a political science professor at Stanford who helped organize the conference of political scientists. “If we looked at other countries coming this close to political breakdown we would say that is not a functioning system.”

Something has to change in order to end the gridlock, Persily said. On this point, if no other, there is something like consensus: “No one is happy with the current system.”