It is often asked how we can possibly change the nature of politics in the U.S. Ironically, this question often directly precedes or follows a party-centric idealistic rant premised on the idea that one party or the other represents the solution. And this, in fact, is where the problem lies. But in all fairness it is not the existence of parties which is inherently bad, just people’s blind adherence to them that is dangerous.
People use party identification to predict how a politician might act. This is a good thing and can be an accurate tool for quickly measuring a politician’s central platform. The problem is, people allow the parties themselves to define what that means; in this sense, party affiliation is a poor indicator. A proper analogy would be if a father were to allow his daughter’s date to effectively characterize himself as a celibate angel who would never have physical intentions…and then believe it. In the analogy, it is not surprising the date is trying to sell that garbage, only that the father buys it. The same is true in politics. I am never shocked that politicians are disingenuous; I am instead constantly shocked that we continue to fall for it.
Two good examples are this:
a) Republicans constantly are declaring how Republican politicians like the free market and
b) Democrats continue to believe that Democratic politicians wish to help the “disadvantaged.”
In both examples, voters who blindly follow those assumptions ignore two important potential implications:
1) Both are ill-suited at accomplishing their positions or
2) They are spurious declarations of ideology.
Let us assume the least offensive choice (#1) is true, then why do we keep voting for idiots who cannot, after many decades, even begin to accomplish their task. It is not as if these people have spared any cost in the “pursuit” of these objectives; so they have clearly availed themselves as incapable of accomplishing anything [perhaps this is why slip-on shoes are in such high demand in Washington?]. However, I am resistant to accept the explanation that they are just stupid which requires many more moving parts to be accurate.
Next, let us address option #2, that the political parties are instead not being genuine about their intentions. This would better explain why seemingly intelligent people continuously act in ways contrary to their stated intentions. Employing Occam’s Razor would tell us that number 2 is the correct reason for politicians saying one thing and doing another.
The logical next question to ask is why would they do this? Well, most simply put, because it works. The parties spew forth hyperbole, and the electorate laps it up. And when a voter is confronted with the fact that their party’s policies have been utter failures at achieving their stated objectives, the trained response is that it is the other party’s fault. This is evidenced by the parties constantly trying to redefine each other; they do not see earning voters through merit as a primary concern, instead they see affecting the others image as a more effective method of winning elections through voter attrition. Even those people who are self-proclaimed independents often buy into the party mantras. The sad reality of political failures is simple: if we (the voters) want to see what is wrong with American politics we would better benefit from using a mirror than a microscope.