Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Fixing the US Political System

Posted in response to this question on Quora:
U.S. Politics: Politics: What would it take (realistically) to overcome the situation the United States Government is in with its two party political system? Creation of a third party, or bringing a majority of the representatives back to the moderate middle.. what can be done?
If we are "(realistically) to overcome the situation the United States Government is in with its two party political system", the first step must be to recognize that it has taken well over 200 years to reach our present state of political degradation.  We cannot realistically reverse it in a day.

The second step must be to understand why The Noble Experiment failed.  Our historical records show that our founders were fully aware of the danger of factions (parties) and did their utmost to reduce the threat.

In spite of those efforts, a party system developed, and, as George Washington warned in his Farewell Address, parties became "potent engines, by which cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men (were) enabled to subvert the power of the people and to usurp for themselves the reins of government".  Elbridge Gerry, who foisted gerrymandering on our nation, is a prime (and well-known) example of those "cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men" - but he was not alone.

When we realize correcting our government will be a slow process and that doing so requires finding a way to embrace parties and partisans without allowing them to control government, we can, as Joshua Engel wrote, "eliminate the conditions that have led to two parties having primary control" and begin the slow healing process.

Once we understand our adversary, we must face the challenge of preventing a recurrence of our present condition by conceiving a practical method of achieving a truly democratic political process.  That will require a careful examination and analysis of new ideas, an approach that may not be possible on Quora, where answers are subordinated rather than treated as contributions to a discourse intended to resolve a problem.

Given the stranglehold the major parties have on the electoral process, it seems likely the healing will begin in the smaller communities and gradually spread throughout the nation.  Michael Moore's We Want You (www.wewantyou.us) concept, though a bit ambitious on the national scale, may be one approach in communities trying to shed the evils of party politics.

An important adjunct will be academia.  After an initial conception is devised, we need academics to hone the process.  Sadly, our academics are strong supporters of partisan politics.  Somehow, they must be encouraged to open their minds and address the destructiveness of the system that evolved in the United States.  Jane Mansbridge has made an excellent start (see Beyond Adversary Democracy, Jane J. Mansbridge, The University of Chicago Press, 1980), among other works.  Perhaps others can be encouraged to follow her lead.


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