Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Flaws in the US Political System

Originally posted on Quora:
U.S. Politics: How could we fix the root problem(s) in US politics?
The first step must be to identify the root problem(s).  Jameson Quinn started that process by asking:  "What is the root problem in US politics?", but that effort is incomplete.  It avoided investigation of the flaws in the party-based system that controls politics in the US.  If we really want to find the root problem(s), we must have the courage to look under the rug.  We must examine the establishment and understand how it controls our nation.  We must consider:

  1. The wisdom of perpetuating a system that depends on creating controversy among the people instead of seeking solutions to the people's problems.
  2. The obfuscation, misdirection and deception that pervade political campaigns and the adverse effect of this atmosphere on the people.
  3. The devastating effect of campaigning on the candidates' integrity and corrosive effect of the process on their psyche.
  4. The corruption inherent in soliciting funds to advance partisan interests (he who pays the piper calls the tune).
  5. The oligarchic nature of political parties and the ill-advised notion of letting them pick the candidates the people will be allowed to vote for (those who control the options control the outcome).

In seeking the root problem(s), we should not overlook the work of Stafford Beer.  He has shown that the only way to achieve a stable democratic government is to ensure that all the people are able to participate in their government in a meaningful way.  I had the privilege of downloading one of his works, Designing Freedom, from:


I'm not sure it that is still available, but I have the .PDF file.  (Is there a way to post it on Quora for reference?)

In a similar vein, we would do well to consider the philosophy of Alasdair MacIntyre who tells us ...

"Human beings, as the kind of creatures we are, need the internal goods/goods of excellence that can only be acquired through participation in politics if we are to flourish.  Therefore, everyone must be allowed to have access to the political decision-making process."

Stated in my own terms, meaningful public participation in the political process will lead to improvement in our society.  That seems less far-fetched when we consider the deleterious effect on the people, of party bosses, pork barrels, soft money, party loyalty, slush funds, party whips, and the whole lexicon of political manipulation that surrounds our parties and inundates us.  A description of MacIntyre's philosophy is available at:


Rob Brown wrote,
"The simple, straightforward way to fix the partisanship in our politics is to have a voting system that does not directly cause it."

I might agree if I knew the "voting system" Brown refers to.  The term "voting system" invokes an image of individuals visiting polls and expressing a preference for one or another of the options made available to them by political parties.  We must understand that voting is not limited to that vision; we can vote in many ways, some more powerful than the 'ballot'.

I mention voting systems because of the danger of confusing our democratic right to vote with the act of casting a ballot for options chosen by political parties.  They are not the same.  In America, political parties control the choice of candidates the people may vote for in our so-called "free elections".  That is the way the "cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men" George Washington spoke of in his Farewell Address were able to "subvert the power of the people and to usurp for themselves the reins of government".

When the people vote for candidates chosen by political parties, control of the government is vested, not in the voters, but in the parties that chose the candidates.  The ability to choose from options provided by political parties does not give the people control of their government.  When they're offered options that affect their lives, options that they've had no voice in defining, the ability to choose one of them is neither free nor democratic.

A party-based political system is the antithesis of democracy.  It expresses our status as subjects of those who defined our options - the political parties.  Instead of uniting the people and advancing their common interests, parties incite antagonism among the people in order to gain and maintain power.  They dominate by the most basic principle of conquest:  Divide and Conquer.  That is unacceptable.

If we are going to fix the root problem(s) in politics in the US, the first step must be to understand what those root problems are.  Only then can we discuss ways to correct them.


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