Part of the reason that there is so much dissatisfaction with the current state of politics is that neither party is listening at all to what the voters are saying. The electorate’s frustration over the lack of responsiveness of BOTH parties has grown to the point that large groups have found the need to form grassroots groups outside of the party structure to express this dissatisfaction. Both the Tea Party and Occupy movements were forged from this frustration with communication and responsiveness. As Strother Martin famously said in the classic movie Cool Hand Luke, “what we have here is a failure to communicate.”
Both parties have evolved strategies that have run their course and have to start new – or face the unlikely but desireable fate of being replaced whole cloth. We may view both parties as permanent fixtures of the American poltical system – virtually synonymous with “democracy” – but that is a very recent phenomenon. Until the 1950′s American politics saw a major realignment of voters that resulted in either a recreation of a party in a new form or in the end of one party and the creation of a replacement. Called “realigning elections” these had occurred roughly twice a century starting with the 1800 election of Thomas Jefferson which saw a shift from the Federalist Party to the Democratic-Republican Party, the 1828 election of Andrew Jackson, the 1860 election of Abraham Lincoln, the 1896 election of William McKinley and finally the 1932 election of Franklin D. Roosevelt. After that, the modern parties dug their heels in and created self-sustaining strategies. It’s about time for another realignment and for an end to both modern parties.
The Demcratic Party’s strategy, starting with the socialistic policies of FDR and continuing today through the socialistic policies of Obama, has been quite simple – create a dependent class of people who get more from the government than they give and can support their dependent lifestyles simply by returning Democrats to office. With somewhere between 49% – 51% of the American people now pulling more out of the public weal than they put into it, this strategy has been relatively successful from a purely political perspective. Only problem is that a healthy economy can’t be sustained with less and less folks contributing so it is a house of cards ultimately destined for failure. In addition, the Democrats have created a rich history of patronage where they constantly expand the role of government which has the simultaneous benefit of creating more public jobs to dole out. Add a variety of “hidden” and very lucrative benefits (like lifetime pension for being ELECTED to Congress even if you only serve two years) and you have a great tool for making friends and quieting opponents.
Republicans have always tried to distinguish themselves from the Democrats by touting “conservative” principals while never quite agreeing what that means. On the economic side, the Republicans have failed every bit as much as the Democrats by doling out “corporate welfare” and creating a tax code that has so many “friends of congress” provisions that it has created an entire cottage industry simply to interpret the meaning of the overly complex code – a code that is intentionally overly complex to hide the embarrassing and disgusting give-aways that are found on every page. Even though they tout themselves as “conservatives,” Republican administrations have done no better job limiting the size and rate of growth of government than their Democratic “opponents.” Elections are all about donations and Republicans realize just like the Democrats that if you dole out the public bucks it comes back to the campaign coffers with a healthy return on investment – please just ignore the fact that those are public dollars used to gain private advantage.
The result of this is a system built more on patronage, influence and position than at any time in history. People aren’t stupid and they know that the system is broken and corrupt – they simply don’t know what to do to fix it. It is no wonder that under those circumstances people feel compelled to take to the streets expressing frustration with a system that is broke with absolutely no incentive to fix it from within. It is also not surprising that these movements are often in-cohesive expressing more anger than solutions.
I really do believe that we are at a turning point in history. Either party can establish dominance by doing a simple thing – listen to the people, stop playing favorites to individuals and to corporations alike and stop doling out public money as the personal tool of elected officials to maintain campaign coffers. So simple and yet so hard.