Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The One Party System

We often read about leaders and governments “over there” that have elections that involve a single political party and the pundits and talking heads wax on and on about how unfortunate those citizens are. They talk about how much better they would be if they were exposed to our democracy, multiple Parties that provide choices and different philosophies. Unfortunately the truth is that we don’t have a multi-party system either and haven’t had one for awhile. We in the US feign democracy and tell ourselves we live in the most free nation on earth while in reality we in the US have long abdicated our responsibilities as citizens of a free society.

In a nation where barely half of all eligible voters actually vote, with voter disenfranchisement growing with every election cycle, and with new election laws restricting voter participation rather than encouraging it. We have long ago retired from the political process to pursue consumerism. Elections don’t really matter so long as they continue to feed the monster. No sacrifice and no surrender of the American “way of life”. We don’t want to hear about savings, we don’t want to hear about cutting back, and we don’t want to hear about fuel efficiency. In the midst of a thirty year energy crisis rather than cutting back and downsizing we became addicted to the largest vehicles in the history of automobiles.

We complain about the political system and the politicians but we don’t do anything to change it. We no longer have a multi-party system, in stead it has been replaced by a single party system. The single party system we now have is incumbency. Politicians today are concerned with only one thing, to be re-elected. Many of them begin campaigning right after coming to Washington. The founding fathers never conceived of career politicians, the concept was never even considered. They just assumed that our system would promote turn over among our public officials. Somewhere there has been a disconnect between what they had envisioned and what we have today. The political system we have today is a mockery of the original design of the founders of this nation.

When your major concern as a public servant is getting re-elected this prevents you from having any real convictions. It prevents you from making any tough decisions, because your main focus is fund-raising you follow the funding. The main funding is coming from special interests and corporations so all legislation is tilted towards those groups. Public officials today no longer work for the good of the country, today they work for re-election. The truth is that it doesn’t matter whether they are Republican or Democratic, they have all abandoned the people who they are suppose to be protecting. I believe that if the founders of this nation could see the system we have today they would not be able to recognize it. And the sad truth is that we have allowed it to happen through apathy and the pursuit of selfish pleasure.

A perfect example of this modern phenomenon is the case of Senator Ted Stevens of Alaska. Senator Stevens is a six-term Senator. It is written that power corrupts and that absolute power corrupts absolutely. The case of the senator from Alaska is a portrait in corruption and the arrogance of power. Senator Stevens has been a senator for forty years and in that time he has amassed a personal fortune as a public servant. The senator has been at the center of political controversy for many years, he has been a poster child for “pork barrel” spending and questionable donations. He is the builder of the “bridge to nowhere” and the “airport for no one”. Yet despite his obvious disdain for the American people and what is best for them, he has won every election with an average of 66% of the vote. Currently the Senator is under indictment on corruption charges. No public official should ever be allowed to stay in office for this long. It doesn’t matter who it is or what Party they belong to.

Washington is currently broken, it is broken because of this party of incumbency. The election of 2006 is another prime example of this phenomenon. The Democrats campaigned on the issue of ending the war or at least making the White House more accountable with the purse strings. Needless to say because of political pressure and fear of losing they did nothing. They allowed themselves to be bullied by a President with a 30% approval rating, despite the fact that the majority of people wanted the war to end. So rather than doing what is right for the country and standing for one of the most important issues of our time they are more concerned with re-election. Senator Reid and House leader Pelosi are typical of this attitude of appeasement for the sake of political expediency and in the process we all lose.

The list could go on and on. There would be the torture issue, the loss of personal freedoms, and of course the military tribunals in Gitmo. We are now facing a housing crisis, an economy that is tanking, and gas prices that are through the roof. With our country facing these monumental issues what can we expect from our representatives? Absolutely nothing. Unless one Party has an absolute majority no one will have the courage or be able to overcome the politics of obstruction now so prevalent in American politics. The American people have taken a back seat to re-election politics. Unless we begin to demand term limits and remove those who would rather obstruct than to govern, we can expect little to change.

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