Our leaders are the finest men/ And we elect them again and again--Tom Paxton
Congress's approval rating is just slightly higher than head lice. The principal reasons are gridlock and that they pay themselves despite doing nothing. To add insult to injury, they go on recess more often than third-graders.
Possibly worse, Congress does not even bring key legislation to the floor for a vote. Hence, Congress not only does not accomplish much; it also does it by not even performing the most basic task of voting on legislation.
If Democrats offered a credible solution to these hated practices, it might strike a real chord with the electorate. Moreover, it would make the Republicans respond--that should be interesting itself!
Gerrrymandered districts pose a major obstacle to Democrats' winning Congress. Five-point programs to pass X, Y, Z will not grab the electorate's attention in part because no one believes it will happen.
But, suppose Democrats proposed a pay-for-performance system. THAT would grab peoples' attention. Suppose further that they committed to choosing a non-partisan Speaker to manage the House.
Here is the pay-for-performance proposal*: there are 13 appropriations bills that must be passed. If three are not passed by July 4th (passed and signed into law by the President), then the Members' pay is halted. It can be restored if all 13 are passed and signed into law by the President by September 30th of any year. Failure to pass all 13 results in loss of pay for the entire period of July 4 through December 31 of that year. A continuing resolution does not meet the criteria.
For the Senate, that has additional responsibilities, there would be more pay-for-performance requirements. All presidential nominees must receive a floor vote within 90 days. If there is no vote every Senator is docked $500 per day, and that can never be re-earned. Note, this does not require the nominee be approved, only that a floor vote is held.
The point of a non-partisan Speaker is to prevent the House from being abused for show amendments to further a party's interests, and to ensure that proposed legislation made it to the floor for a vote. A non-partisan Speaker would enable the "House to work its will."
True, if Dems gain control of the House, the Tea Party faction would lose its power. But, choosing a non-partisan speaker would be a good precedent to set. It might be difficult for any party in the future not to commit to a list of potential non-partisan speakers in advance. It would prevent a radical fringe from causing gridlock.
Who might fill the role of non-partisan Speaker? Former Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, former Secretary of State Colin Powell, former Joint Chiefs Chairman Mike Mullen, former Yale President Richard Levin, and so forth...
If the Democratic Party made the above commitments, perhaps a contract for America, it might convince enough additional voters to support a Democratic Party sweep. And, if they did not perform, the voters would throw them out two years later.
*[Would the pay-for-performance requirements pass muster with the 27th Amendment that prohibits any increases or decreases in Congressional pay until the next session? Nothing in these rules decreases Congressional pay, the Members need only do what is in their power to do. If, however, it is found to violate the 27th Amendment, the laws would be applied after two years. One wonders which Member would take the case to court to get his/her pay when they have not performed? Would that Member survive the next election?]