Reform Can’t Wait

Journalist George Packer laments the erosion of “middle-class democracy” (“Identity, Politics and Distrust,” 1/18). The fairness and balance we’ve lost since the New Deal is heartbreaking. He suggests expanding civics education, which could help.

However, we can’t wait for today’s young people to take over. We need political reform now. Building an inclusive and egalitarian representative democracy will require better leaders.

Uncontested offices are widespread in contemporary elections. When there is only one candidate on the ballot, voting is a hollow ritual without influence.

In Eugene, unopposed representatives rule. Only councilor Emily Semple won a contested election. Six of the councilors ran unchallenged and the other one was appointed. The mayor had opponents in the low-turnout May election, but got a majority. So, there wasn’t any runoff at the higher-turnout November election.

No wonder elected city officials are so out of touch with public opinion.

Is it time to consider full-time salaries for the council and mayor to enlarge the number of candidates? Paying meager part-time stipends limits the supply of people who can occupy office. Officeholders currently have to be affluent, retired or juggle two jobs, excluding many middle-class working-age residents from running.

Brian Wanty