Monday, September 22, 2014

...on parties

What about parties?

Parties are nowhere in the constitution, and the fear Madison had about small factions is what our current two party system brings us.

Madison envisioned a 'variety' of parties,

"Does (the proposed federal constitution) consist in the greater security afforded by a greater variety of parties, against the event of any one party being able to outnumber and oppress the rest? In an equal degree does the increased variety of parties comprised within the Union, increase this security. Does it, in fine, consist in the greater obstacles opposed to the concert and accomplishment of the secret wishes of an unjust and interested majority?"  
President Washington, among others, warned of what is happening now, because of the vengence inherit in 'the spirit of parties':

 "The alternate domination of one faction over another, sharpened by the spirit of revenge, natural to party dissension, which in different ages and countries has perpetrated the most horrid enormities, is itself a frightful despotism. But this leads at length to a more formal and permanent despotism. The disorders and miseries, which result, gradually incline the minds of men to seek security and repose in the absolute power of an individual; and sooner or later the chief of some prevailing faction, more able or more fortunate than his competitors, turns this disposition to the purposes of his own elevation, on the ruins of Public Liberty."

Ah, the glory of centuries old men...we can't go back, we must go forward.

I think the populace has an inkling of Washington's notion.  Only 25% of the population describe themselves as Republican and only 31% Democrat.  47% of Americans identify themselves as independent.

So, where does this leave our political system, which has been institutionalized within the Republican and Democratic parties?

Parties are set up with local, state and national chapters.  They choose who runs for office, manage and finance campaigns and develop positions and policies that all of the US are forced to choose from.

Why do we use the two party system, even though it is not part of our constitution and even though we were warned of the dangers we now face?

"...because, it works."  Said Ann Lewis, the head of Dems in the 1980s on a panel for Columbia U.  "Because it has been successful." Said another on the panel.

Parties are not in the constitution, but have evolved out of need, said another.

However, all the panel agree that the electoral college, the seemingly arbitrary delegates and electors, institutionalized within parties are cause for worry.  "A disaster waiting to happen?" they are asked...most agree-Yes.

The threat they point to is the ability of parties to control who is selected as candidates apart from public votes, or to decide the outcome of pres. elections apart from public votes.  The only assurance they wont? ...a sense of good ol justice...the hope and faith that delegates and electors will do the right thing.

Are you laughing or crying?

There are independent candidates and third parties.  However, unless the views or members of these parties are co-opted by Dems or Repubs, they don't go very far.

The power structure of our political system definitively lies within political parties, and the structure systemically keeps non-traditional leaders out.  According to Kira Sambonmatsu, the 'old boys club' keeps outsiders out, because those in power support those in their network (i.e. golfing buddies), and push their friends to the top above others.  This old boys club system is in dire need of retirement.

...and maybe it is on its way.

Parties are no longer a need, but a threat, disenfranchising voters and pitting US citizens against each other.

Parties are no longer successful, as more individuals are empowered with the freedom to vote (minorities and women), but choose not to join a party.

Check out the campaign being run by the Independent Voter Project, who seek to bring top two voting to the US, and end partisan primaries. 

Similar electoral reforms have been successful in CA and will be voted on in Oregon in November.

If one considers that only 25% of US citizens identify as Republican and 31% Dem, and then factor in that less than 20% of eligible voters showed up to vote in 2012 primaries (one of the lowest ever)- about 5% of US citizens choose who we are voting for. 

Outliers have been successful in the past.  Most notably, Vermont's Bernie Sanders, Jesse Ventura of Minnesota, Joe Lieberman of Connecticut and Angus King from Maine (though I can't say I would support this bunch...I had never heard of King before researching this post, but I would not vote for the other way.)

Keep a lookout this year and in coming years for a shift in the way the US votes, and the persuasion of those who are running.

The most touching reason to vote that I've come across lately is- Hope.