July 18, 2024

A Hate Letter to the Party System

The American political system is a drag at times like these, when one is about to become disenfranchised in Washington.  Barack Obama will have an all-Democrat, all-the-time Congress to work with and, unlike the Republicans’ little train wreck this far this century, they’re probably going to get a lot of their agenda made into law.

The problem with the result, aside from the obvious liberal, neo-socialist outcome, is that it’s driven by the party system, a corrupt, artificial channeling of votes into pork-laden, least-common-denominator policies preferred by the powerful.  Where can a true maverick fit into our current system now that the national party bosses have a stranglehold on the electoral process all the way down to the local level?

In fact, the 2 major parties completely dominate politics at the highest level to the extent that 3rd party candidates are completely excluded from the presidential debate process.  It’s effectively impossible for anyone not willing to kow-tow to one of the parties to become the leader of this nation.  That’s bad because the best thing that could happen to Washington D.C. is for a true outsider to be elected president with a mandate to whip their sorry rear ends into shape.

Wouldn’t Sarah Palin be great in that role?  She’s not the best person to lead the U.S., particularly with the financial and international issues that we’re facing, but a Palin presidency could result in the bursting of a ego-bubbles on Capitol Hill.  Sadly, that’s not going to happen for at least a few more years.

Another way to get some fresh blood and increased accountability back into Washington would be to implement term limits.  Frankly speaking there’s no good reason for people like Joe Biden or Trent Lott to make a life’s work out of sitting in Congress.  Serving so close to the center of power corrupts people and we need to be protected from them.  Given the incumbent advantage, the simplest way to realize this goal is for their departure to be made mandatory.

The argument that experience is required to fulfill one’s responsibilities in Washington is fallacious.  Oh, it’s true enough given the effectively lifetime reigns of Robert Byrd and Strom Thurmond, both of whom went senile while sitting in the Senate.  Remove these permanent fixtures and a more meritorious mechanism for distributing power will quickly surface.

Washington’s complexity is in large part due to the entrenched powers that are protected by the very complexity that rejects outside interference.  Representatives whose terms are limited have no need to protect their positions – there’s nothing to protect.  The natural response would be to create streamlined systems so that actual work can be accomplished in the little time an elected official has in office.

Sneaking term limits past the U.S. Congress and into law would be akin to pulling a Radio Flyer wagon up to Fort Knox and asking for it to be filled up with gold bullion.  Not going to happen unless there’s a truly special individual willing to make change happen no matter what.

One characteristic of this person would be a fundamental belief that he/she should do what is right at all times, regardless of party affiliation.  The two-party system rejects these people automatically, but occasionally one will slip through.  A real agent of change always votes his conscience and that cannot be allowed in the 2-party system.  Real rebels are not wanted here.

I’ll be voting against Chet Edwards, the Democratic representative from Texas, this fall.  As Chuck points out, he’s somewhat out of touch with his constituency in a very conservative district, and he’s been in office for too long as it is.  But one thing that can be said is that Edwards at least pays lip service to a fundamentally important idea:  voting one’s conscience.

Edwards said any action he takes in Congress is guided by independence and reason, rather than by partisan politics.

Chuck sees this as a problem but I disagree.  Voting one’s conscience is essential in a representative.  Assuming that’s what Edwards has done, his beliefs are out of step with the people in his district, as Chuck says.  But the solution is for the voters to elect new representation, not for Edwards to vote per polls instead of his own values.

Barack Obama claims to be this change agent that’s needed in Washington.  Though his record indicates otherwise there is always a chance that once he’s elected he could turn on the Democratic party that shepherded him into power and rule, as Edwards says, according to his independent judgment and reason.

Lipstick-covered pigs could fly, too.

Our best chance at revitalizing the democratic process in this country is to pursue a Constitutional amendment to limit the terms of the House and Senate as the presidency is limited.  Not only would this churn the waters in Washington but it would have the effect of aerating the parties themselves by forcibly injecting new personalities and values into the parties themselves.  While not as optimal as having a viable 3rd party option to vote for, change within the existing parties would certainly benefit Americans by making elected service a job with limited longevity.

What say you?


Marc is a software developer, writer, and part-time political know-it-all who currently resides in Texas in the good ol' U.S.A.

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5 thoughts on “A Hate Letter to the Party System

  1. It is always the party out of power that wants term limits. Did you vote against Sen. Kay Bailey H. to remind her of her promises to term limit herself?

  2. I’m sure you’re right about the opposition favoring term limits more. It’s still a good idea.

    Here’s something I wrote in 2002, when the Republicans’ were still dominating:

    “Incumbents hate term limits, which is nearly enough to recommend them on that point alone. Their argument: their dismissal would lower the quality of government. Hah! If anything, regular, forced turnover would raise the bar considerably by infusing stale government committees with new blood.

    The city of Houston has terms limits and its quality of service has not declined. The fact is that there are far more Americans qualified and capable of leading than there are positions to fill. Every country should be so lucky. The only reason to oppose term limits is a love of the corrupt, insider’s game that currently dominates the republican process.”

    Re Kay Bailey, I actually didn’t vote because of a move and subsequent failure to re-register. I would have voted for her, however, because I can’t point to anything bad that she’s done.

    The problem with voter-imposed “term limits” that you’re alluding to is that it’s too late by that point. The only option is to vote for the other party, something that’s very likely to be ideologically unpalatable.

  3. I’m honestly not certain where I stand on term limits. I agree with you in principle, and I think if I were forced to decide I’d come down in favour of them. However, I can’t help but think they’d make that much of a difference.

    What I’d truly love to see is our nation making a move towards proportional representation, giving third parties a chance and making districts more truly representational.

  4. I wouldn’t be opposed to more representative government at all. But I think that – no matter what one’s ideology, heritage, or gender – a limited time in public office would help to ensure ethical, accountable behavior.

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