Below are a few modest proposals that could help improve our capacity for self-government going forward.

Filibuster Reform. Remember the climactic scene of Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, where Jimmy Stewart conducts a one-man seminar in democracy by standing up and speaking until he collapsed? Well, the current U.S. Senate apparently doesn’t. That’s because the filibuster has gone from a rare physical endurance test to a routine parliamentary maneuver. Consequently, the filibuster is invoked more than ever before—from roughly one a year between 1920 and 1970 to an average of 70 times a year now. This takes the threshold for governance from a simple majority to a super-majority of 61 votes—giving the minority party the ability to block legislation from coming up for a vote. “Back in the 1960s, Strom Thurmond had to risk his bladder to filibuster,” says Congressman Jim Cooper (D-TN). “Now no senator has skin in the game. They just ask a staffer to file paperwork.” The solution is to re-impose the old tried-and-true rules that required senators to filibuster in person a bill they don’t like. By adding to the hassle factor, senators will be less likely to invoke this nuclear option. It will again be a special occasion rather than a first reflex…

Speaker of the Whole House. Here’s a big idea, championed by former Congressman Mickey Edwards (R-OK) in his upcoming book How to Turn Republicans and Democrats Into Americans—elect the Speaker of the House with a supermajority, requiring him or her to gain a portion of votes from the other party. This would help depolarize Congress and highlight the speaker’s role as someone who represents the entire institution of Congress rather than just the majority party. It would require concessions and constructive deal-making across party lines. Additionally, it turns out that under the Constitution, the speaker of the House doesn’t even need to come from Congress—it can be a prominent and unifying figure from the broad cloth of America. It’s a long-shot, sure, but it’s better than the choice between John Boehner and Nancy Pelosi, with Eric Cantor looking on jealously from the wings. We can do better.