Re: Is the American political system broken?

Billy Tauzin is a politician, lawyer and lobbyist. Of Cajun descent, he was a member of the Louisiana House of Representatives from 1972-1979 and the United States House of Representatives from 1980-2005, representing Louisiana's 3rd congressional district. In 1994, when the Democrats lost control of the House, Tauzin helped co-found the House Blue Dog Coalition, a group of moderate-to-conservative Democrats. Still considering conservatives unwelcome in the Democratic party, however, in 1995 Tauzin became a Republican, and the first American to have been part of the leadership of both parties in the House. From 2001-2004, Tauzin served as chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee. In 2005, the same day he left Congress and two months after having helped to pass the Medicare Prescription Drug Bill, Tauzin was named director of Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, or PhRMA, a trade group for pharmaceutical companies. Billy Tauzin is the original author of the Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1996 and the Cable Act, the only bills over the past ten years to become law despite Presidential veto. He received his BA from Nicholls State University in 1964 and his degree in law from Louisiana State University in 1967. He is currently a member of the Board of Directors for the Louisiana Healthcare Group.

  • Transcript


Question: Is the American political system broken?

Transcript:Well I mean the thing that troubles me the most here in the country is that we’ve become so partisan. I remember when I first joined the Congress way back in 1980, there was a rule. You know, “The partisanship stops at the water’s edge.” That’s gone. There was a time in that . . . in that history when I joined the Congress when one party had such a commanding presence in the Congress that the other never even thought about gaining control, so they got along. Now they both realize they can control things if they just destroy each other sufficiently. I mean the lesson of the Republican takeover of the House was that, you know, if you could tear down the institution so dramatically in the eyes of the American public, you could take it over. That’s been repeated now in the last election cycle. And it’ll be repeated again if partisanship is so important in this country that . . . that people are willing to, you know, to just attack each other rather than debate each other’s ideas. There was a . . . there was an editorial, I think, in one of the news magazines going way back, I remember. And it talked about the impact of television and negative campaigning upon the politics of our country. And it made the case that, you know, television was such a powerful entity that if you combined it with negative campaigning and negative (40:42) advertising you could wreck some pretty significant damage to our system. I think that’s happen. But they pointed out that if McDonald’s and Burger King had run ads for 10 years on television not talking about how good their products were, but how awful the other guy’s product were, and rotten, and disease causing, etc., we wouldn’t be choosing among brands. We would . . . We wouldn’t be eating hamburgers anymore. And the point that the article made was that, you know, we’re reaching a stage where we’re not choosing between candidates anymore. We’re turning off on the whole system. And Americans today are turning off dramatically the two parties and the system. The reputation of Congress is at an all-time low. The president’s reputation is at an all-time low, driven in large part by our willingness to attack each other rather than debate our ideas as civilized human beings. And I think we face a real danger here in this country if it continues. At some point respect for the institutions of our government either has to recover, or this all-time low we’re experiencing is going to pull it apart. And who knows what we get in its place?