Sunday, June 18, 2006

Things They DIdn't Teach Me in Civics Class

I haven't posted in awhile so I thought I might share what I've learned about the institutionalization of the two-party political system.
I personally feel that partisan politics is poison to any version of democracy. It has been my experience that at some (early) point in the life of any organization the organization will begin to put its own interests over those of their former constituents. I don't care what "club" my representatives belong to. My concern is whether or not they will represent my views in the legislature. In American politics it is all about which "club" the representative belongs to, the Republicans or the Democrats. I was particularly struck by my reading that Sen. Jim Jeffords, following his switch from Republican to "Independent" had to make the Deal to align himself with the Democrat's Senate Leader in order to retain his committee assignments. In effect, any truly independent candidate sent to Washington (or Sacramento) would also have to make the Deal if she were to have any power in the legislative process.
The two-party system was institutionalized in the Senate in the 1920s. The Majority and Minority Leader positions have existed in the U.S. House of Representatives since 1899. The rationale for these positions, which have no Constitutional basis, was that governance had become so complex that legislative leadership needed to be defined and consolidated.
It's kind of sad. In 1854 the Republican Party was formed and received more than 30% of the votes in 1856 (John Fremont was considered by many to be too soft on immigration). They elected Lincoln in 1860. That's unlikely to ever happen again.
In other modern governments... the U.K. and Israel to name two... it is not uncommon that no party wins an outright majority in the general elections and collaboration and compromise are called for to form an effective government. Here we have A or B, chocolate or vanilla, and that's effectively it.
The voters have all of the power to take control back from the Republican and Democratic Party fundraisers, but apparently have little interest in doing so. In California only 34% of registered voters cast a ballot in this month's primary election. The Party-backed candidates all won nomination. Once again potential change-agents stayed home in droves.
It's hard not to get discouraged. From now until November I'll hear why Schwarzeneger is a better or worse choice than Angelides, and neither one of them has any interest or intention whatever in representing me.


Anonymous joared said...

Wonder if much of the lack of interest from so many citizens is because they really don't understand how the system works and how much power we the people do have -- at least, presently, unless we give it all away, by doing nothing, not even voting.

3:18 AM  
Anonymous Joared said...

Well, whaddaya think AQ, are the L.A. schools gonna get better now that the mayor is taking them over???

You don't suppose this has anything to do with acquiring more political power???

9:28 PM  
Anonymous Joared said...

Time to get rev'd up again AQ as we're coming into an election season. Hope you're researching and writing for us.

11:08 PM  
Anonymous Joared said...

Just reread the last paragraph on your post AQ. Here we are in mid-Oct. Guess you said it all last June. Surely do hope the voters come out this next election, but for what? Well, maybe there are some issues....

2:58 AM  

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