Politics is broken. Washington is dysfunctional. The best way to fix it, goes the conventional thinking, is to destroy the system itself. Rand Paul wants to “defeat the Washington machine,” while Hillary Clinton wants “get unaccountable money out of” our political system. Good government groups press for redistricting reform that takes politicians out of the line-drawing process. Banning earmarks, said GOP reformers, will prevent taxpayer dollars wasted on “bridges to nowhere” and will ultimately produce better legislation. Yet, despite all the focus on reform in recent years, we have a system as broken as ever. A provocative new book by Brookings senior fellow and political columnist Jonathan Rauch called “Political Realism: How Hacks, Machines, Big Money, and Back-Room Deals Can Strengthen American Democracy,” suggests that these reforms have not only failed to fix our system, but that they’ve actually hastened our current political dysfunction. Instead of trying to reign in politics, Rauch argues that we should let it flourish in all its garish glory. Let it be messy and transactional and often done in secret. It won’t be pretty, but
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