Tuesday, April 2, 2013

U. S. Political System

Posted on Quora:
I want to thank Jameson Quinn for providing a link to this site.

The comments on this topic show the breadth of the problem.  They mention campaign finance, inability to select the government we want, inhibiting social progress, duopoly, partisanship, special interests, competition rather than consensus, plurality, lack of choice, and greed.  They include Gary Payton's description of the state of American politics and Michael Moore's description of the solution.  With care and patience we can build on these thoughts to gain an understanding of these issues and resolve them.

Even though, as Kevin McAleer points out, politics is a complex topic, it is still appropriate to seek the roots of our political dilemma.  To work our way through the complexity Kevin describes, we must select small parts of our political experience (threads) and examine them with as much objectivity as we can muster.

One thread - which has been mentioned in various ways - is partisanship.  Partisanship is natural.  We align ourselves with others who share our views.  Through them we hone our ideas and gain strength from the knowledge that we are not alone in our beliefs.  This gives breadth, depth and volume to our voice.

Partisanship is an essential ingredient in the evolution of society.  It provides a force by which change is accomplished. Progressive thoughts emerge from the cauldron of our ideas and attract popular backing.  We move forward as that support coalesces into a framework for improved conduct.

Unfortunately, partisanship is also dangerous.  It is a tool used to Divide and Conquer a people.  As George Washington said in his Farewell Address in 1796, it is the means by which, "cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people and to usurp for themselves the reins of government".  That is precisely the condition in which we find ourselves.  A larger dose of the poison that's killing us is not a cure.

Partisans seek the power to impose their views on those who don't share them.  Communism and National Socialism showed these tendencies.  Both had features that attracted broad public support throughout a national expanse and both degenerated into destructive forces because their partisans gained control of their governments.

The danger in Communism and National Socialism was not that they attracted partisan support; it was that the partisans gained control of government.  In general, partisanship is healthy when it helps us give voice to our views.  It is destructive when it achieves power.  All ideologies, whether of the right or the left, differ from Communism and National Socialism only in the extent to which their partisans are able to impose their biases on the public.

Constructive resolution of political issues (from the point of view of all the people, not a subset of the people) requires, first of all, lawmakers with the ability to extract the value from competing points of view.  That is impossible for officials elected to represent partisan interests, as was driven home so forcibly by the recent national debt debacle.

Clearly, partisanship presents us with a dichotomy in human relations.  It is an essential part of the evolution of society and is also the core of corrupt political institutions.  We must improve our understanding of these phenomena and use the knowledge to devise a political process that strengthens the voice of partisanship while denying it a platform for power.

Fred Gohlke

No comments: