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Seeking True Democracy
Posted by: koikaze (IP Logged)
Date: September 06, 2007 05:18AM

It would be inappropriate for me to suggest a way to attain true democracy without first laying some groundwork. When the United States of America was founded in 1787, it was the first nation founded on democratic principles. Many people felt it wouldn't work and referred to it as "The Noble Experiment". Over time, the noble experiment turned ignoble and many of us are here because of that. We would do well to learn from our experience.

If we want to build a better political structure, we should begin by understanding why democracy failed in America. There were, of course, many reasons, not least of which are those described in the following comments on American political parties. I urge others to challenge any they think inaccurate.

Political parties are quasi-official institutions designed to acquire the reins of government. They sponsor candidates for public office by providing the resources needed to conduct a campaign for election. As a condition of their sponsorship, they require that the candidates support the party, thus giving the party ultimate control of the elected officials.

In America, our governmental system is defined by our Constitution, and nothing in our Constitution expresses or implies the need for political parties. They are an extra-Constitutional invention, devised to advance partisan interest. The problem of partisanship was well understood by the framers of our Constitution:

"When the Founders of the American Republic wrote the U.S. Constitution in 1787, they did not envision a role for political parties in the governmental order. Indeed, they sought through various constitutional arrangements such as separation of powers, checks and balances, federalism, and indirect election of the president by an electoral college to insulate the new republic from political parties and factions."
Professor John F. Bibby

A party system developed in our nation because our early leaders used their standing to consolidate their power. Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson, two men who were intimately familiar with the way the non-partisan Constitutional Convention had sidestepped some issues and compromised others to produce an impressive document, did not have confidence in the judgment of their peers when they felt their vital interests were threatened.

Instead, either through ego or fear, they felt compelled to supplant reason with passion to enforce their will. They rallied support for their divergent views by forming political parties and creating rules to preserve them and aid their operation:

"The Democratic-Republicans and Federalists invented the modern political party -- with party names, voter loyalty, newspapers, state and local organizations, campaign managers, candidates, tickets, slogans, platforms, linkages across state lines, and patronage."

These features advance party interest at the expense of the public interest. They show how political parties are an embodiment of human nature; they put self-interest above all other considerations. They function precisely as a thoughtful person would expect them to function.

Political parties are grounded in partisanship. Partisanship is natural for humans. We seek out and align ourselves with others who share our views. Through them, we hone our ideas and gain courage from the knowledge that we are not alone in our beliefs. Partisanship gives breadth, depth and volume to our voice. In and of itself, partisanship is not only inevitable, it is healthy.

On the other hand, partisans have a penchant for denigrating those who think differently, often without considering the salient parts of opposing points of view. They seek the power to impose their views on those who don't share them, while overlooking their own shortcomings. 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.

Partisanship is a vital part of society ... provided it is always a voice and never a power. The danger is not in partisanship, it is in allowing partisans to control government.

The political parties that control all political activity in the United States are in no sense democratic. The American people do not elect those who control the parties. In fact, most Americans don't even know who they are. They are appointed by their party and serve at the party's pleasure. We, the people the parties are supposed to represent, have no control over who these people are, how long they serve, or the deals they make to raise the immense amounts of money they use to keep their party in power. They constitute a ruling elite above and beyond the reach of the American people.

When we allow those who control our political parties to usurp the power of governing our nation, it is foolish to imagine that we retain the power bestowed on us by our Constitution. It is a tragedy that so few of us recognize (or are willing to acknowledge) that we have relinquished our right to govern ourselves to unknown people who proclaim themselves our agents.

Corruption pervades our political system because the parties control the selection of candidates for public office. Candidates are not chosen for their integrity. Quite the contrary, they are chosen after they demonstrate their willingness and ability to dissemble, to obfuscate and to mislead the electorate. They are chosen when they prove they will renounce principle and sacrifice honor for the benefit of their party.

The result is a circular process that rejects virtue and is ruled by cynicism:

* Candidates for public office cannot mount a viable campaign without party sponsorship, so they obtain sponsorship by agreeing to the party's terms.

* The party, assured of the loyalty of its candidates, attracts donors because it can promise that its candidates will support the objectives set by the party, i.e., the goals of the donors.

* From the donors, the party obtains the resources it needs to attract appealing candidates and bind them to the party's will.

This cycle makes political parties conduits for corruption. Businesses, labor unions and other vested interests give immense amounts of money and logistical support to political parties to push their agenda and to secure the passage of laws that benefit the donors. The political parties meet their commitment to the donors by picking politicians who can be relied upon to enact the laws and implement the policies the donors' desire. The politicians so selected are the least principled of our citizens, but are the only choices available to the American people in our "free" elections.

None of this is a secret. The parties conduct their business with our knowledge and tacit approval. We know, full well, how they operate. We know about the "party bosses", "pork barrels", "party loyalty", "slush funds", "party whips", and the whole lexicon of political manipulation. Since we know these things exist and do not prevent them, we are party to the very corruption we decry.

Some believe we cannot remove corruption from our political systems because humans are corruptible. Why should we believe such a canard?

We are misled by the high visibility of deceit and corruption in our culture. The idea that it is inescapable leads to the self-defeating notion that trying to correct it is futile.

The reality is that the vast majority of humans are honorable, law-abiding people. They have to be, for society could not exist otherwise. By far, the greater percentage of our friends, our relatives, our co-workers and our neighbors are trustworthy people.

The reason our political leaders are corrupt is that party politics elevates unscrupulous people by design. It does so by heeding the notion attributed to B. F. Skinner: "The bad do bad because the bad is rewarded". Since the goal of a party is to advance its own interest, it rewards those who do so unfettered by the restraints of honor. Once these unprincipled people achieve leadership they infect our society because morality is a top-down phenomenon.

The idea that we can't remove corruption from our political systems because we are corruptible is nonsense. It is a myth. The problem is not the people; it is a political system that demands subservient politicians at the expense of integrity. The vast majority of our peers are honest, principled people. When we make probity a primary concern in our electoral process, the pervasiveness of dishonesty in our society will diminish.

Political parties appeal to emotion by applying the principles of behavioral science to manipulate the public. They mount, finance and staff campaigns designed to inflame the passions of the electorate.

Communication during election campaigns is one-way. There is no genuine attempt to consult the public interest and the serious issues are seldom those raised during a campaign. Surveys are conducted to find "hot buttons" which generate a desired response and professionals use the information to mold "messages" which the candidates and the parties feed the public in a flood of misinformation. It is a rabble-rousing technique.

Intelligent decisions require dialogue; assertions must be examined, not in the sterile environment of a televised debate, but in depth. The electorate must be able to examine candidates and discuss matters of public concern, and, with the knowledge so gained, make decisions. They have no opportunity to do so.

The U. S. Constitution separated the powers of government in such a way as to operate as checks upon each other. Among the methods used were the definition of separate Executive, Legislative and Judicial branches, and the further division of the Legislative Branch into two distinct bodies, each intended to represent a different constituency, namely, the interests of the several states and the interests of the people of those states, and an Electoral College to insure broad-based support for a successful Presidential candidate. Separation of Powers is lauded as a cornerstone of our Constitution. I'm unaware of any substantive disagreement with this view of the intent of our Founders.

Political parties persistently attack the Separation of Powers. They use their immense resources to maximize their power by forcing our public officials to vote en bloc on crucial issues, making a mockery of the safeguards we rely on to protect our freedoms. When a single group of people with a common interest succeeds in controlling multiple branches of our government, it is ludicrous to imagine we have a system of checks and balances (as was vividly demonstrated by our recent experience with the baneful effects of single party dominance.)

Political parties, in their omnivorous quest for power have, during my lifetime, gone a long way toward destroying the greatness of my homeland. Unrestrained, they will succeed.

It need not be so.

Those who seek good government need not tolerate the corruption of party politics. We do not need partisanship, which sets one person against another; we need independent representatives who will think for themselves and reach intelligent decisions on matters of public concern. In other words, to improve our government, we must change the way we select our representatives.

We have the technological ability to support a more democratic method; the big hurdle is to get people to acknowledge the problem. Many fall victim to the common malady of believing our press clippings. We've been told so many times through so many years that our political system is the best in the world, some of us can't admit it is a cesspool of corruption, funded by special interests that buy the laws we endure.

Most Americans assume political parties are legitimate centers of power under our Constitution. That is untrue. Nothing in our Constitution authorizes, institutes or enables political parties. The difficulty lies, not in our Constitution, but in our will. We must want to build a political system that puts public interest above partisanship, a method that responds to vested interests but is not controlled by them.

Political systems are always an embodiment of human nature. Until we learn to harness our own nature, we can improve neither our politics nor our society. There is no Constitutional bar to devising a more democratic process; the only impediment is ourselves. Since we can not divorce our political institutions from our own nature, we must make virtue a desirable attribute in those who seek political advancement. That may be difficult ... but it is not impossible.

Fred Gohlke

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Subject Views Written By Posted
  Seeking True Democracy 1729 koikaze 09/06/2007 05:18AM
  Re: Seeking True Democracy 456 koikaze 09/25/2007 10:32AM
  Re: Seeking True Democracy 595 PVR 09/06/2007 10:48PM
  Re: Seeking True Democracy 1312 koikaze 09/09/2007 06:33AM
  Re: Seeking True Democracy 551 MiKolar 09/18/2007 08:24PM
  Re: Seeking True Democracy 465 koikaze 09/23/2007 08:25AM
  Re: Seeking True Democracy 446 RoyDaine 09/23/2007 10:02AM
  Re: Seeking True Democracy 447 koikaze 09/23/2007 10:12AM
  Re: Seeking True Democracy 427 RoyDaine 09/23/2007 11:24AM
  Re: Seeking True Democracy 426 MiKolar 09/24/2007 08:58PM
  Re: Seeking True Democracy 450 BrEggum 09/24/2007 09:07PM
  Re: Seeking True Democracy 458 RoyDaine 09/24/2007 11:31PM
  Re: Seeking True Democracy 507 koikaze 09/21/2007 06:19AM
  Re: Seeking True Democracy 511 koikaze 09/20/2007 04:45AM
  Re: Seeking True Democracy 566 RoyDaine 09/20/2007 09:18AM
  Re: Seeking True Democracy 532 koikaze 09/21/2007 06:22AM
  Re: Seeking True Democracy 521 RoyDaine 09/21/2007 07:45AM
  Re: Seeking True Democracy 518 koikaze 09/22/2007 06:25AM
  Re: Seeking True Democracy 534 BrEggum 09/21/2007 08:42AM
  Re: Seeking True Democracy 508 koikaze 09/22/2007 06:30AM
  Re: Seeking True Democracy 527 RoyDaine 09/22/2007 08:09AM
  Re: Seeking True Democracy 549 BrEggum 09/22/2007 09:04AM
  Re: Seeking True Democracy 527 WebMaster 09/22/2007 06:37PM
  Re: Seeking True Democracy 516 BrEggum 09/22/2007 07:09PM
  Re: Seeking True Democracy 471 RoyDaine 09/22/2007 11:14PM
  Re: Seeking True Democracy 464 BrEggum 09/22/2007 11:33PM
  Re: Seeking True Democracy 464 RoyDaine 09/23/2007 12:00AM
  Re: Seeking True Democracy 462 BrEggum 09/22/2007 10:32PM
  Re: Seeking True Democracy 453 MiKolar 09/24/2007 08:26PM
  Re: Seeking True Democracy 449 BrEggum 09/24/2007 08:34PM
  Re: Seeking True Democracy 502 WebMaster 09/29/2007 01:37PM
  Re: Seeking True Democracy 490 WebMaster 09/22/2007 10:06PM
  Re: Seeking True Democracy 513 RoyDaine 09/22/2007 09:39AM
  Re: Seeking True Democracy 500 RoyDaine 09/22/2007 08:31AM
  Re: Seeking True Democracy 547 BrEggum 09/22/2007 07:40AM
  Re: Seeking True Democracy 530 RoyDaine 09/21/2007 10:55AM
  Re: Seeking True Democracy 546 RoyDaine 09/21/2007 07:57AM
  Re: Seeking True Democracy 543 PVR 09/11/2007 04:52AM
  Re: Seeking True Democracy 526 koikaze 09/11/2007 01:34PM
  Re: Seeking True Democracy 548 PVR 09/18/2007 05:50AM
  Re: Seeking True Democracy 530 koikaze 09/20/2007 04:41AM
  Re: Seeking True Democracy 497 PVR 09/21/2007 04:52AM
  Re: Seeking True Democracy 565 koikaze 09/21/2007 12:23PM
  Re: Seeking True Democracy 534 PVR 09/21/2007 09:19PM
  Re: Seeking True Democracy 463 koikaze 09/23/2007 07:48AM
  Re: Seeking True Democracy 524 koikaze 09/19/2007 11:39AM
  Re: Seeking True Democracy 587 koikaze 09/07/2007 02:01PM

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