Saturday, March 27, 2010

Comments On Political Parties (2)

The political parties that control all political activity in the United States are in no sense democratic. The American people do not elect those who control the parties. In fact, most Americans don't even know who they are. They are appointed by their party and serve at the party's pleasure. We, the people the parties are supposed to represent, have no control over who these people are, how long they serve, or the deals they make to raise the immense amounts of money they use to keep their party in power. They constitute a ruling elite above and beyond the reach of the American people.

When we allow those who control our political parties to usurp the power of governing our nation, it is foolish to imagine that we retain the power bestowed on us by our Constitution. It is a tragedy that so few of us recognize (or are willing to acknowledge) that we have relinquished our right to govern ourselves to unknown people who proclaim themselves our agents.

Corruption pervades our political system because the parties control the selection of candidates for public office. Candidates are not chosen for their integrity. Quite the contrary, they are chosen after they demonstrate their willingness and ability to dissemble, to obfuscate and to mislead the electorate. They are chosen when they prove they will renounce principle and sacrifice honor for the benefit of their party.

The result is a circular process that renounces virtue and is ruled by cynicism:

* Candidates for public office cannot mount a viable campaign without party sponsorship, so they obtain sponsorship by agreeing to the party's terms.

* The party, assured of the loyalty of its candidates, attracts donors because it can promise that its candidates will support the objectives set by the party, i.e., the goals of the donors.

* From the donors, the party obtains the resources it needs to attract appealing candidates and bind them to the party's will.

This cycle makes political parties conduits for corruption. Businesses, labor unions and other vested interests give immense amounts of money and logistical support to political parties to push their agenda and to secure the passage of laws that benefit the donors. The political parties meet their commitment to the donors by picking politicians who can be relied upon to enact the laws and implement the policies the donors' desire. The politicians so selected are the least principled of our citizens, but are the only choices available to the American people in our "free" elections.

None of this is a secret. The parties conduct their business with our knowledge and tacit approval. We know, full well, how they operate. We know about the "party bosses", "pork barrels", "party loyalty", "slush funds", "party whips", and the whole lexicon of political manipulation. Since we know these things exist and do not prevent them, we are party to the very corruption we decry.

Some believe we cannot remove corruption from our political systems because humans are corruptible. Why should we believe such a canard?

We are misled by the high visibility of deceit and corruption in our culture. The idea that it is inescapable leads to the self-defeating notion that trying to correct it is futile.

The reality is that the vast majority of humans are honorable, law-abiding people. They have to be, for society could not exist otherwise. By far, the greater percentage of our friends, our relatives, our co-workers and our neighbors are trustworthy people.

The reason our political leaders are corrupt is that party politics elevates unscrupulous people by design. It does so by heeding the notion attributed to B. F. Skinner: "The bad do bad because the bad is rewarded". Since the goal of a party is to advance its own interest, it rewards those who do so unfettered by the restraints of honor. Once these unprincipled people achieve leadership they infect our society because morality is a top-down phenomenon.

The idea that we can't remove corruption from our political systems because we are corruptible is nonsense. It is a myth. The problem is not the people; it is a political system that demands subservient politicians at the expense of integrity. The vast majority of our peers are honest, principled people. When we make probity a primary concern in our electoral process, the pervasiveness of dishonesty in our society will diminish.

Political parties appeal to emotion by applying the principles of behavioral science to manipulate the public. They mount, finance and staff campaigns designed to inflame the passions of the electorate.

Communication during election campaigns is one-way. There is no genuine attempt to consult the public interest and the serious issues are seldom those raised during a campaign. Surveys are conducted to find "hot buttons" which generate a desired response and professionals use the information to mold "messages" which the candidates and the parties feed the public in a flood of misinformation. It is a rabble-rousing technique.

Intelligent decisions require dialogue; assertions must be examined, not in the sterile environment of a televised debate, but in depth. The electorate must be able to examine candidates and discuss matters of public concern, and, with the knowledge so gained, make decisions. They have no opportunity to do so.

The U. S. Constitution separated the powers of government in such a way as to operate as checks upon each other. Separation of Powers is lauded as a cornerstone of our Constitution. I'm unaware of any substantive disagreement with this view of the intent of our Founders.

Political parties persistently attack the Separation of Powers. They use their immense resources to maximize their power by forcing our public officials to vote en bloc on crucial issues, making a mockery of the safeguards we rely on to protect our freedoms. When a single group of people with a common interest succeeds in controlling multiple branches of our government, it is ludicrous to imagine we have a system of checks and balances (as was vividly demonstrated by our recent experience with the baneful effects of single party dominance.)


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