Former U.S. Congressman Jim Leach says ending gridlock in Washington will require more sportsmanship and less money in the American political system. Leach, now a University of Iowa professor, is also calling for a reformed primary system. He says low primary participation has created a political environment where moderates are vastly under-represented.

That means, when elected representatives cross party lines to compromise on legislation, they may lose their next primary election. “The parties are asking for ironclad support,” Leach says. “Is the true loyalty to the Congress of the American public or is it to the political party? And what does that mean?”

Compromise must be an option, Leach says, if the alternative is a dysfunctional political system. Leach says the campaign finance system further fuels dysfunction. “We have a true trauma in American society about the increasing role of money in the political system…in the bedeviling way the Supreme Court has held that corporations can be direct participants in American political democracy, substituting for individual participation,” Leach said.

Leach led a discussion on the causes of congressional gridlock last night in Coralville as part of the University of Iowa Alumni Association’s Lifelong Learning Series.