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Extreme Makeover, Congressional Edition

Former Rep. Mickey Edwards (R-Okla.) thinks America could still become the world’s next top democracy. But there’s work to be done, as he explained Thursday night at Politics and Prose while discussing his book “The Parties Versus the People: How to Turn Republicans and Democrats Into Americans.”

“We can make the government work, but it’s going to take fundamental changes,” Edwards said. He went on to say that Americans are fleeing party lines and that change is imminent.

Edwards, who served in Congress from 1977 to 1993, does not fault any one party. He contends that both Democrats and Republicans are guilty of playing into hyper-partisanship and that both are trapped by a system that rewards inflammatory rhetoric over civil discourse.

Voting along party lines, according to the Sooner State solon, is not in the best interest of Americans.

“If you vote with your party 95 percent of the time, you’re not voting with your constituents. You’re not voting with your brain,” Edwards asserted.

“There’s a ‘kumbaya’ moment when you’re sworn in, and that lasts about 30 seconds,” Edwards joked about the current state of Congressional collegiality. He also said that many lawmakers on the Hill are fed up with the pressure to avoid cooperating with their peers.

He identified Rep. Cliff Stearns, a 12-term Florida Republican, who this week suffered a primary upset to tea party favorite Ted Yoho, as a lawmaker who had privately confessed to Edwards his frustration with the atmosphere in Congress.

“It’s like you’ll get cooties if you sit at the wrong lectern,” Edwards said.

We huddled with another former Republican Congressman at the talk, John Porter who represented a district in Illinois for 10 terms, to get his take on Edwards’ vision.

“I don’t know if it’s inevitable,” Porter told HOH, “but I certainly hope he’s right.”