If a building is structurally flawed and unsafe it gets condemned.
We need a similar solution for our current political system, because it is deeply flawed and unfit for the purposes it is supposed to serve.
The biggest structural flaws are (in no particular order):
- · The two party system
- · The money influence
- · The election system
I see these flaws as interconnected and believe that they each need to be addressed simultaneously if we want our political house to be re-designed to absorb the shock waves that our nation is enduring now and will have to endure in an uncertain future. Having said that, I realize the enormity of the challenge to get anything of this nature implemented. It is no sinecure to turn a battleship around! But the existing structure is falling apart; it is unsuited for future use and ought to be condemned.
THE TWO PARTY SYSTEM
The polarization between the two parties in our current political system has come to the point that it is rendering the whole system dysfunctional. It has become a political suicide for a Republican member of Congress to support a Democratic initiative and for a Democratic member of Congress to underwrite a Republican legislative proposal. The Republican Party will not allow the Democratic Party to be seen solving the nation’s pressing issues and vice versa. The end-result is that nothing of importance gets done in Congress or if something gets done –like the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act better known as Obamacare – it is ill considered and ideologically biased. The jealousy and hatred between Republicans and Democrats is such that neither one can stand the thought that their nemesis might have contributed to if not crafted a solution to a public problem. This is why Congress has not taken the first step towards solving the most prominent challenges to our nation faces:
- · Deficit elimination and Debt control
- · Entitlement Reform
- · Tax Reform
- · Tort Reform
- · Immigration Reform
- · Energy policy
- · Cyber Space protection
- · Infra-structure renewal
- · Education reform
- · Health Care reform and wellness policy (obesity and drugs)
The obvious solution to the problem is the creation of a centrist third party that is less ideological and more pragmatic and that can govern by forming a coalition either with the right or the left, depending on the outcome of Congressional elections. A centrist party that could attract moderate Democrats and Republicans who want to be freed from the shackles of the ideological extremes within their parties as well as a large proportion of declared independents would, if not by itself, in a coalition with either the Democrats or the Republicans (depending on election results), produce a large enough majority in Congress to break through the existing stalemate.
THE MONEY INFLUENCE
Money, not competency is now the critical success factor for any national elected office and for most of the high profile State and Municipal elected offices. Combined with the freedom of speech, which allows any interest group or superpac to craft any commercial pro or against a candidate for office without regard to truth or material content, money has taken control of the political process in the USA, starting with the election process.
Only in America! Nowhere else in the democratic realm of nations has money taken such a commanding control of the political process and its outcomes. The only saving grace –if you can call it that – is that there are so many rich purses fighting for control that there are off sets and countervailing balances. The result is that hands are tied and nothing of importance gets done.
We are so far along this corrupting road that it is hard to imagine that we are capable of freeing ourselves from the influence of money on the outcome of our political system. But we should try with all of our might and the following steps would go a long way towards removing the controlling influence of money:
- · Limit the period during which the media are allowed to run political advertisements in similar ways as currently practiced in Canada and the UK.
- · Prohibit private funding of election campaigns and replace it with a system of public funding in equal amounts for each candidate.
- · Pay members of Congress a million dollars per year and prohibit them from earning or accepting any money (other than from existing investments) from private sources for the time of their tenure.
THE ELECTION SYSTEM
Many flaws in our current political system are the result of the high frequency of national elections in this country. Congressmen have to go to the mat every 2 years. The President has barely time to get familiar with the office before he gets to get back in a campaign mode for re-election. And –as long as private money is allowed to be used in election campaigns – fund raising rather than governing becomes the most time consuming job for the incumbent.
If, like proposed above, we pay our elected officials royally for serving the nation, let’s have them focus on the job they have to do for us and not be distracted all the time by the need to get re-elected.
The system would also be served by term limits which would prevent Congress from being dominated by career politicians rather than be citizen servants like intended by the Founding Fathers.
Another major flaw of the current system is the absence of any requirement to address in a campaign the most important challenges presented to the nation for which the political system will have to provide solutions.
Case in point in the 2012 elections was the total absence of any discussion among the candidates for national office about how to eliminate the deficits and bring the national debt under control. How can the voting public determine who they want in office if we have to wait and see how the elected official will deal with the most pressing needs of the nation?
For these reasons I believe that the nation would get much better results from Washington DC if the following changes were implemented:
- · Establish a list of the major issues facing the nation and require each candidate for national office to publish a position to be taken on each of them. This will help providing a mandate for the elected officials and increase accountability.
- · Decrease the frequency of national elections by limiting the office of President to one term of 6 years and by limiting the office of members of Congress to three terms of 4 years for the House and two terms of six years for the Senate.
Are we condemned to live with the flaws in our current political system and accept the consequences of undue influence, politicians who are hand strung and beholden not to their constituencies but their campaign contributors and the resulting dysfunction and paralysis or will we exercise the people power to condemn the political structure that has evolved over time and bring it “up to code” for the challenges of modern times?
(Frans Jager is Principal of Castnet Corp. (www.castnetcorp.net) a Business Consultant for the Green Industry and an Executive Coach. He frequently writes about matters pertaining to the Green Industry. He can be reached at email@example.com)
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