Op-Eds Speaking Truth to the Powers-That-Be
America is the perfect imperfect, and the U.S. Constitution reflects the achilles heel of Framer thinking that is killing our democracy: Elections. The Framers weren’t big on the details. They should have been, at least when it comes to the process of picking the people elected to uphold the document and the democracy upon which it is based. A fatal flaw in the system is destroying the foundations of our democracy and our society.
The Founding Fathers did not establish a two party system, but one evolved quickly as a result of the voting methods used. The Electoral College, and our Winner Take All or “First Past the Post” (FPTP) system are fatally-flawed.
Historically, on both the Left and Right we’ve seen our electoral system compromised and misused, but it took the Tea Party and their 1% backers from the Dead Billionaires Club (DBC), who’ve spent billions of dollars and more than fifty years patiently building the infrastructure to exploit the system’s fatal flaws, to use elections to grind the gears of government into dust.
What are our political system’s fatal flaws?
The Tea Party Win-Win.
The Framers never envisioned that a highly well funded minority within one of the political parties could, through use of that money and power, put a strangle-hold on both the electoral system and the government and ignore the will of the 99%.
Here’s how it works:
Win One: Candidate Intimidation
Modern elections are no longer a two party, two contestant affair. There is always a third person in every American race: A DBC-backed “Republican” who is really an anti-government Libertarian. As we have seen they are usually not politicians, highly dogmatic, and often exceptionally ignorant of all but a narrow agenda for which their funders have trained them.
A fiscal conservative or a moderate social conservative who has to win a general election has to run so hard to the far Right to survive the primary process. The Republican primary voter is a much smaller sub-set of Libertarian die-hards, extreme social conservatives, and extreme special issue voters, from race to guns to anti-government zeal, that they most moderates in the GOP cannot win.
The campaign money for moderates in primary contests comes from the slightly less extreme Neoconservative movement of Karl Rove & Co. They were the last two decades’ radicals, engaged in a very un-Civil War with the Libertarians who quietly shanghaied their extremist base and pushed it even further rightward. They still pedal an agenda that many moderates can’t swallow either, leaving a fiscal conservative with neither NeoCon or Libertarian leanings without funding.
Even for those who think that they can beat both extremist groups, the fear that they can’t, and the inability to fund a campaign intimidate them into one of the far-Right camps.
In less conservative states, and in national elections, this has led to the “Romney Effect” where a candidate’s primary positions caught on video make it impossible to run to the center enough to capture a general election. Even though the GOP has shrunk to near non-party levels, they have managed to exploit traditional conservative voting patterns in broad parts of the South and the less populous midwest and radicalize them by providing no spectral conservative alternative than the most extreme of candidates.
WIN TWO: Mid-Term Weakness
The proscribed process for holding elections was designed upon an 18th century model that has become totally dysfunctional. Middle elections are low-turnout affairs that the far-Right uses to stack state-houses and, as of 2010, the United States Congress. The Democrats are now realizing the importance of putting more money into the 2014 contest, but mid-terms still greatly favor highly motivated, highly partisan voters. Democrats, by-and-large, have become a far more spectral party and lack that extremist zeal. So a party running on ideas that are spurned by the majority of the American public in polls can ignore the will of the people and run and win anyway because Americans don’t vote mid-term.
WIN THREE: Gridlock
Gridlock is not a two-party problem any longer, but the extreme end of the one party on the Right, the GOP. Speaker Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell have pandered to the extreme Right of their party because they live with the institutional level of Tea Party blackmail that exists with candidate intimidation. There are Tea Party candidates who can be run to the right of them and outspend them. Lead Tea Party pack dogs Rep. Cantor and Rep. Ryan are chafing at the bit to assume the mantle of power in the majority.
The goal of the funders who have been plotting the dismantling of New Deal government since it sent their great families into the shadows during the Great Depression pay for elected officials who are nothing more or less than monkey wrenches dropped into the cogs of goverment.
During the debacle that was the “debt ceiling debate” Boehner was bringing in experts who were just shy of putting on a puppet show to try to explain to the Teahadi hordes in the GOP caucus why gridlock on that issue was going to complicate and expand the federal debt, not reduce it.
The current Congress has fared no better. The House runs witch hunts on everything from reproductive rights to Benghazi to try and whip up scandal that will cover the stark bald reality that they have done effectively nothing on any major fiscal or social issues before their legislative bodies.
In the Senate, the Teahadis have used the rules of the body to stop most, if not all legislation. With the mere threat of a filibuster, which has been used more times in the few years of the Tea Party Era than ever in the Senate’s history, the minority of the minority can effectively stall the workings of government.
So the Dead Billionaires win when they hold the electoral process hostage; They win by exploiting the electoral weaknesses of the system both with nimrod candidates and the threat of their entry into races; They win, even with a minority of members of an elected body, by enforcing governmental gridlock that dries up the lubricant of public policy: Compromise.
The minority wins. The majority loses. That is the reality of politics in modern America.
Since the Founding Fathers could have no understanding of a world with instant media increasingly owned by the same people who want to “strangle the government” as Teahadi chieftain Grover Norquist puts it, there were no provisions made to adjust the system to bring power back to the vote, not the dollar buying politicians.
How Do We Fix this Mess?
The Founding Fathers have no words of wisdom for it. In our backward-looking system, there is no miracle cure for the erosion of the bedrock of American politics and our democratic system.
Independents and moderates in the GOP need to form a reform party. They and the Democrats need to come to the table and put the rules of the House and Senate into working order. They need to find better systems than Winner Take All to represent the will of the people, and keep the special interest money less concentrated on putting the fix into the system.
The American political system is broken. The shrinking white majority is being exploited by the extreme white minority, and the nation is slipping into a polarity from which, if moderates of all stripes do not act, it can only fracture into un-civil extremes.
My shiny two.