It seems pretty obvious to me, a moderate independent who tries to look at the many facets of a complex social problem, that our present two party political system is failing in providing the citizenry of the United States with a government of the people, by the people, and for the people.
Numerous contentious issues are brought to our attention daily because we are the registered voters who must elect the candidates for public office. Unfortunately, tough issues continue to be unaddressed promptly by the governmen. It may be too idealistic to assume that a democracy will eventually solve a country’s social problems in a way that is acceptable to the majority of the people authorized to vote. However, the low voter turnout at the polls certainly indicates that the common man and woman are not attracted to the democratic system that has evolved in the United States today.
One man or one woman/one vote means literally nothing in a precinct that is dominated by one party or the other. The Gerrymandering of the districts assures that incompetent incumbents can be returned to office without having the support of the majority because so many voters don’t bother to go to the polls. And most of those who go to the polls usually vote for the candidates of the party that dominates the local scene. The inability of the election system to bring about a change of the constituency that dominates a State’s Legislature or the Congress of the U.S. dampens the enthusiasm of the public for the locked-in two party system.
Politicians contend that every individual in this country is valuable, has a divine purpose for being here, and possesses an unending list of endowed rights – some yet to be confirmed and bestowed officially. No human being wants to be “marginalized.” “Liberty for all” means that every man and woman possesses the freedom to express him/herself however he/she pleases, to utter whatever foolish opinions catch his/her fancy, to demonstrate for causes of small or large import, and to accomplish nothing that could be described as a positive contribution to the commonwealth.
All eligible adults are free to vote or not to vote. Not voting helps to determine the future of our society and of the disinterested, the abused, the forgotten, and the non-vocal residents in the fifty states including those human beings ineligible to vote due to their age, immigration status, and criminal record. “Getting out the vote” is the essential activity of both parties for no other reason than measuring the efficiency of the campaign tactics and the money spent to produce the rhetoric for stimulating the manipulated voters to show up at their local precinct to vote.
Facilitating the use of absentee ballots in California and other states only complicates the process of determining subsequently who voted legitimately. The number of ballots cast in the recent election for governor of the State of Washington in a large city precinct were 8,500 more than the actual registered number of voters in that precinct. And the court accepted all the votes as legitimate because there was no way to determine which votes should be eliminated. Ultimately, less than 200 votes determined who would be governor.
Any consensus among the members of a large population about any solution to a social problem is difficult to achieve. There has never been a spontaneous consensus in the history of this nation about going to war. There was always a strong resistant group of loyalists, anti-abolitionists, isolationists, and “peaceniks” against every war. Each group had a different reason to oppose war whether it was imperialistic, moralistic, or pre-emptive. And history records that the leaders of this nation in every case chose war over any other option regardless of how the majority of the citizens felt.
There is no consensus in our country today about abortion, marriage of homosexuals, the sale of arms, the protection of endangered species, the research using stem-cells, the appropriate way to reduce air, land, and water pollution, the need to go to the moon again, the methods of avoiding illegal immigration, the approach to aiding the unemployed, those without health insurance, and the victims of natural disasters, and the amount of military forces we need to defend this country. In each party there is a lot of bickering, but no consensus on these issues. Who, besides the co-authors, reads and believes “Party Platforms” anyway?
Then there is the fierce perennial dispute over how to manage the fiscal budget, fight inflation, promote economic growth, and finance “entitlements.” There is a vast majority who would vote for extended entitlements, and a vast majority who will vote for no increases in taxes to do that. With all the regional disagreements over financing and pork barrel expenditures, the result is that governments everywhere borrow money to avoid raising additional taxes in hopes that “one fine day” reason and fiscal responsibility will enter the political arena. When that day never comes, our savvy politicians will “drag their feet” hoping that the next generation will create the wealth to pay down the ever-increasing debt. When did a state government ever go through bankruptcy?
All issues are complex, and party loyalists refrain from making any specific suggestions about dealing with them except to recommend that more money should be spent on (or thrown at) the problem. Everything is handled ad hoc. The hottest issues at any moment require brand new studies or special committees to look into the causes of the current situation before making recommendations. This procrastinating policy buys time for the hot issue to cool down and for other issues to boil over and divert the public’s attention to them. Fixing anything takes years and legislation which is frequently inadequate by the time it is finally approved and implemented.
If you don’t think the American people are fed up, read the results of a September, 2005 telephone survey of 2,004 “California adult residents.” 1,013 or 50.5% of these respondents considered themselves “likely voters.” Of the residents interviewed in English and Spanish, 38% approved of the Republican governor’s performance, and 28% approved of state legislature’s performance where the Democrats have a substantial majority. The survey was conducted by the Public Policy Institute of California and has “a sampling error” of plus or minus three percentage points. The negative results of the survey shows the prevailing displeasure of the state’s adult population with the effectiveness of our two party system.
Can this unhappiness be remedied? Not with the lies, the promises, and the slippery, if not blatantly corrupt performance of the elected representatives responsible. Certainly not with the pressure of special interest groups who spend/donate the money to maintain the status quo, distort the facts, smear the opposition, and coerce those who are beholden to the special interests how to vote. The common sense shared by the members of any special interest group has always been that if they don’t take care of themselves, who will? No one, of course, so they have to find a sympathetic Party member who will push their agenda or refuse to challenge the status quo.
This hopeless state of affairs is common in all democracies in the world today. The problems are diverse and complex, the amount of taxes spent enormous, and the ineffectiveness of the public sector very discouraging. However, listening to a politician commenting on the stump about what needs to be done would induce a citizen to believe that the government can and will do something positive as soon as the next session convenes. Then, problems will be addressed so that everyone will benefit, if not be pleased.
Of course, the political opposition does not agree with the proposed solution for a myriad of reasons. There’s not enough money set aside in the budget, not enough people benefitted, not enough research done to prove that anything should be done immediately, and certainly not enough thought going into the solution by the proponents. Most importantly, the kudos may go to the wrong Party if such legislation ever is signed into law.
And that’s just one nagging issue that isn’t handled promptly or wisely. Multiply this approach to all the other pending issues demanding new legislation, or amendments to laws on the books, or emergency action for crises like a war, a natural disaster, or a sudden economic recession that curtails tax collections. There’s no need to worry, however. Congress will pass legislation to increase the federal debt ceiling and allow their Treasury Department to borrow more funds. The State legislators will delay payments to suppliers who hope that one day they will be paid.
The current election game is similar to roulette but not as sophisticated. The voters have only one real choice, red or blue; no odd or even, high or low, or take a number or group of numbers. The losers constantly complain when their Party loses and they have to pay up, but still they never leave Las Vegas. The government-run “casinos” in other democratic countries are pretty much failed two party systems, also. All of them tax, spend, and borrow, or spend, tax, and borrow.
When a fed-up group of voters tries to wrest the power of the state legislature from the do-nothing incumbents, another costly game is played with “propositions.” The vested interests pool their money to influence the vote on each proposition, and the opposition does likewise. When a change in direction is approved by the voters, the approved proposition must pass muster in the courts, and this can take years. Even when a proposition is finally made law, some ambitious member of the legislature will take the initiative to void the action approved by the people.
Isn’t democracy fun?! Isn’t the two party system great?! Despite term limits, special elections to unseat governors, and the voluminous propaganda pro and con about the various issues that the media feels are important, very little satisfaction is gained in the process. The polarization of America is nearly complete. Only a few voters are left standing in the middle of the road! Believe it or not, everything will be done that can be done in the defense of the “little man and woman” who are abused by the laws of the land which may not conform to the intent of the Constitution!
So, the system isn’t fair, the system doesn’t work, the system is most likely irreparable if not broken. Does anyone know how to fix it? Do the special interests? Do the rich donors to the political parties? Do the clever incumbents in office? Does the naive average citizen confused by propaganda? Do the guy and gal next door who stand at the first step of the power pyramid waiting to cast their ballot with little confidence in the words coming at them from all directions? If their vote is for the President of the US, and the results turn out differently from the majority in their state, their vote is null. Bravo again for the two party system.
Does it surprise anyone that more and more citizens don’t bother to vote in America? Perhaps voting should be mandatory here as it is in other countries. Vote or no more entitlements! Vote or be assessed a new tax or a stiff fine for “failing to do your duty.” Vote or do community service. Vote or stop complaining about the incompetence of those chosen by their omniscient peers to run our bloated bureaucracy. Vote or surrender your citizenship so that all those illegal immigrants can be given the right to vote. If we truly consider voting a “sacred” right, vote or be damned!
Conventional wisdom is this: if you decide to vote this month or in November, vote the Party line. Stay loyal to the Party of your choice regardless of the stand the Party leaders take on the specific issues that are important to you. And celebrate when the Party finally takes over. They won’t forget you. Ever!