Good intentions fueled our political problems

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The American political system’s dysfunction is a product of polarization, irresponsibility and the role that money plays in political campaigns.

A candidate for public office used to be selected by party leaders. Reformers, thinking this inconsistent with true democracy, devised a system of primary elections, causing polarization as they came to be monopolized by the extreme wing of the party concerned.

Many problems have a simple solution if tackled well in advance, but become progressively more difficult as their solution is delayed. Polarization results in nothing being done until a crisis develops.

Party leaders avoided this problem because above all else they wanted to win, and chose candidates with the broadest possible appeal. They chose centrists.

The framers of the Constitution were concerned the executive might be too powerful, even oppressive as they thought King George III was, and so separated the executive and legislative branches of government.

King George was merely a back-eddy in the current that was transferring power from king to parliament, where power and responsibility now lie. While the president’s power is circumscribed, responsibility is split between the executive and legislative branches. If responsibility cannot be assigned, government will be irresponsible, and the blame game takes precedence over governing and legislating.

The executive’s power is also limited when the people are free to criticize those who govern. The First Amendment to the Constitution, which guarantees that freedom, also permits candidates for public office to begin their campaigns years before an election is held. Long elections are expensive and time consuming, enhancing the importance of fundraising, and discouraging many well-qualified candidates from seeking public office.

Elected officials spend most of their time soliciting money and campaigning, rather than what they are paid to do: conduct the public’s business.


Ironically, these problems were all brought about by good men who meant well. The Law of Unintended Consequences was their undoing.

Gordon Philpot

Walla Walla

Comments

Igor 9 months, 3 weeks ago

I agree with most all you say, however, I think that the majority of the problems we have today with political polarization are not due to our system of government but are rather attributable to a goon electorate that will not take the time to educate itself on the issues but rather relies on the media to guide it. This is true with both the right and the left.

You do not have to be an Einstein to detect all the propaganda that both sides are spreading. I feel that’s there’s been a failure of leadership at all levels starting with the POTUS. But, in the end, I blame my fellow voters for their laziness, their resultant ignorance and their blind ideology. There is nothing wrong with our system of laws as conceived by the framers of our Constitution and enacted by the states.

The failure, I believe, is due more to the “fat, dumb and happy” syndrome, where the majority of our electorate allows itself to be manipulated by political hucksters on both sides. Many of the framers are quoted as saying that the system they gave us will only work with a virtuous and involved electorate. Unfortunately, the electorate of today is nothing of the sort they could have ever envisioned.

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PearlY 9 months, 2 weeks ago

Big pots of honey draw big clouds of flies. Big pots of money do too. When less than 1,000 people get to decide how to spend more than $4 TRILLION - more than 1/4 of the economy - the flies are naturally going to be a pretty thick cloud around them.

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