Do Political Parties Make Sense?
Are political parties a necessary fact of life? People do like to band together and as a group, champion some position. In the US, the two major parties are the Democrats and the Republicans. One just as easily might see them as the blue party and the red party, or the chestnut party and the acorn party, or the triangle party and the pentagon party. There is nothing in the names or current performance of “Democrat” and “Republican” that indicate what these parties stand for.
You might be quick to say, “why Democrats are for the average person and have been since Franklin Roosevelt championed the new deal”. Or if you are new to national politics, you might say, “what the Republicans are the party against taxes, Obamacare, and undocumented workers”. Hmmm.
For the past 6 years or so, Democrats have been given a free ride. They could plead on behalf of the average person, the undocumented resident, and those in need of entitlements. There was little chance that much if any of their agenda could be implemented given that Congress was controlled by their opponents. In short, Democrats could speak firmly about their ideas and know there would no proof at the next election that the most extreme Democrat ideas would have worked as advertised.
The Republicans, on the other hand, have amassed an unbelievable record of saying “no” to everything, predicting the worst of outcomes, and blocking Congressional action even to the point of shutting down the Government. And for what purpose? Each Republican prediction has been shown to be wrong and the dire circumstances Republican leaders assured Americans were around the corner, simply have not been found. Hmmm.
The Congressional farce currently underway featuring a dysfunctional Republican Party trying to elect a new Speaker of the House sums up the broken nature of the Republican Party. When Paul Ryan is considered “too liberal” by the most conservative House members, one needs to pay attention. Ryan has championed a Federal Budget which strikes at entitlements, provides tax relief to the wealthy, and sets in motion a repeal of Obamacare. Does that sound “too liberal” to you?
The underlying causes for Congress’ poor performance can be attributed to two factors, (1) a slowing growth rate, and (2) a dysfunctional political system.
The famous American dream seems every day drifting further and further from the average person’s grasp. What is lost on most Americans is that the American economy is still the best in the world and that a return to high growth last experienced following the second world war, is simply not going to be in the cards. Get used to it.
The Supreme Court’s “Citizens United” decision is often named as the culprit for Congressional dysfunction. (it may be fairer to say, Citizens United accelerated the decline of Congress). Following Citizens United, campaign spending limits became a thing of the past. Free speech was immediately redefined to be the commodity of the wealthy, the more money one spends, the more free speech one has. Laying this campaign financing need on top of a sophisticated and equally well healed lobbying activity, individual Congress members have lost their moral compass and their sense of true north. Without a compass, the current Republican foolishness can be quickly understood.
If political parties wished to remain relevant, they would be wise to address the dysfunctions on display daily in Congress. Congress members are tasked to raise money for their national parties and run the risk of obscure committee assignments if they do not produce enough donations.
Why it is not common sense that there should be a limit to individual campaign donations is a mystery to me. And the notion that corporations are people, and should therefore be held to same no limit campaign spending, is naive and dangerous.
Regrettably there is little or no incentive for the media to champion these fundamental changes. Special interests and unlimited campaign spending has been a financial boom to newspapers, TV stations, and political strategists and pundits. Who would want to bit that hand that feeds it?
America is a big country and it is full of many people who march to different drummers. Out there, in media land, there are competent and wise people who can see the depths of the current Congressional dysfunction. (Can you imagine the current Congress supporting intelligently a national emergency such as World War II?) These hidden Americans need to spread the true story behind Congressional dysfunction.
Life is never all this or all that. Accordingly one can not expect campaign spending reforms to suddenly reverse the uncontrolled nature of today’s system. We cannot also expect to throttle the wasteful and ethically challenged free money from lobbyists. But in both cases we could set in motion meaningful corrective measures that could lead to our elected representatives thinking about their Congressional duties first and their personal wealth accumulation second.