Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Partisans vs. The People

A piece in The Atlantic last week pointed out the elephant in the room: that most Americans are no longer Democrats or Republicans yet the Party organizations control the whole apparatus of representative government:
Ours is a system focused not on collective problem-solving but on a struggle for power between two private organizations. Party activists control access to the ballot through closed party primaries and conventions; partisan leaders design congressional districts. Once elected to Congress, our representatives are divided into warring camps. Partisans decide what bills to take up, what witnesses to hear, what amendments to allow....
I am not calling for a magical political “center”: many of the most important steps forward in our history have not come from the center at all, including women’s suffrage and the civil-rights movement, and even our founding rebellion against the British crown. Nor am I pleading for consensus: consensus is not possible in a diverse nation of 300 million people (compromise is the essential ingredient in legislative decision-making). And I’m not pushing for harmony: democracy depends on vigorous debate among competing views. The problem is not division but partisanship—advantage-seeking by private clubs whose central goal is to win political power.
Although Mickey Edwards focuses on the machinations of Congress, there are larger implications for control of elections and ballot access:
 State and local governments have abdicated their responsibility to oversee America’s election process. Not only have they turned the job over to political parties, but they take money from taxpayers to pay for these party functions.

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