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bitter, party of two
looking to turn the political tables
by roger striffler
8.30.02
general


This is my first, and very likely my last, political column. Which is not to say that I won't write things that stir up a hornet's nest, leave me with a divided readership, or spark heated debate. It simply means that if all goes well, I won't write another column about politics. Ever.

I can't stand politics. Many people have said that they find that odd, and that if anything, they think I'd make a good politician. "You're so good at getting along with people", they say. Or better yet, "You have the perfect personality for it!"

Well I have news for you. I don't. In fact, I've taken several personality tests in my lifetime, including the Myers-Briggs and the Kolbe Conative Index, and while the exact words may vary slightly from test to test, they always agree. Mediator. Facilitator. These are the kinds of words that they use to describe my personality.

Now on the surface, those words may sound like they lend themselves well to political situations, but they don't. The problem with those words is that they imply solutions. Results. Making progress. From what I can tell these things have little or nothing to do with American politics.

Turn on C-SPAN. Watch as the Democrat stands before his fellow legislators and passionately presents his plan. His fellow Democrats look on thoughtfully and with great interest, nodding their approval. Notice, too, the Republicans. Watch them gaze listlessly about the room. See them tap their pencils on the table in distracted and obviously uninterested silence. Several distinguished gentlemen sit idle, while others check their watches. When the vote is called they will immediately and automatically vote "Nay" without a moment's consideration. It's clear that their vote was decided long before the speaker began.

But please, feel no pity for the Democrat. When the Republicans take the stand they will vote in kind - rejecting the proposal without a hint of consideration, toeing the party line.

And that drives me frickin' crazy.

These are not representatives, acting on the wishes of their constituents. This is a room full of people on power trips, vying against each other not to accomplish, but to block. A game of us vs. them which has lost sight of the fact that people they represent are more important than the party.

After the attacks of September 11th, there was a time of hope. There was a single voice ringing from the steps of the Capital, and solidarity was in the air. Republicans and Democrats alike spoke of the need to act together, with a new bi-partisan spirit.

But it didn't last. Less than a year later not a day goes by that the Democrats don't claim to have stopped the Republicans, or the Republicans announce some victory over the Democrats. Like two young children fighting over a box of blocks, the bitter struggle goes on, and precious little is actually built.

What's needed now, is a mediator. Something to facilitate the process. Not me, of course, but something that can break the stalemate of these two battling giants. As I see it, we have several choices, the first of which is to introduce new political parties into the system.

Having two parties lends itself far too readily to us vs. them dynamics. Multiple parties would give the American people more freedom to choose candidates more closely aligned with their personal views on the issues. The Constitution actually allows for this option, but the odds are stacked heavily in the favor of the two existing parties.

Perhaps an option is to do away with the party system altogether. This is an idea that really scares people. It seems far too radical, and at the surface would seem to undermine the so much of what the Constitution provides us as a legal framework. But imagine for a moment a world where candidates have no other obligations but to do the bidding of their constituents. It's crazy stuff, I know, but it really is an option.

Today's political system is built not only on the principles that were established over 200 years ago, but on a framework designed to represent the country at that time. While the principles may not have changed, the country certainly has. Concepts like the electoral college made sense when the population was highly dispersed and communication was difficult and slow. A two party system made sense under these conditions as well, as a new world was brought into order.

But with the technology of today, we have the means to not only disperse information quickly and efficiently to all of the American people, we have the means to retrieve it as well. We have the capability for the will of the people to be truly and accurately heard. Unfortuantely, we have a government of bickering legislators only arguably aware of that will, and not motivated to act on it.

It's time for a change. Time to get interactive. Time to bring the age-old spirit of democracy into the 21st century. It's time to take a government that's of the people and for the people, and make it truly by the people.


ABOUT ROGER STRIFFLER

See that job title? Check it out: "Spy". How cool is that? I know, you're probably wondering what it means to be a spy for an international organization like Intrepid Media, huh? Well I'd love to tell you, but I can't. It's all part of the spy game, baby.

more about roger striffler

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COMMENTS

robert melos
8.30.02 @ 2:52a

Oh man, do I agree with you! I personally hate politics as well, but have been dragged into them on occasion out of the need to voice my concerns over situations. I really do hate politics. You really pegged the politicians.

roger striffler
8.30.02 @ 8:08a

You know, I find a lot of people agree with on this, and yet nothing ever seems to change. Sure, every once in a while someone like Jesse Ventura gets elected as sort of a knee-jerk response to things, but after one term it's usually back to business as usual.

wendy p
8.30.02 @ 8:14a

Did I just hear Roger for president?
Seriously, though, I couldn't agree with you more. I'm sick of Jesse Helms complaining about Ted Kennedy and watching all of these distinguished gentlemen (and ladies) sit around and get nothing accomplished.

russ carr
8.30.02 @ 11:02a

Eighty-percent of the time, I'd wholeheartedly embrace the no-party system. The only time I'd waver is when it comes time for budget work. Most people, given the choice, will not vote to have their taxes raised. Occasionally, much as we hate it, we must be subject to laws which don't feel good.

However! I'd propose a one-term limit on every elected office in this country, each term to last six years. Candidates for office would be required to pass a battery of competancy test to measure their skills in civics, political science, economics, foreign relations, literacy and constitutional law. Their diplomas, their connections, their money -- won't matter.

adam kraemer
8.30.02 @ 12:57p

Yes, that won't be too much of an expense for the taxpayers. Every six years.

russ carr
8.30.02 @ 4:04p

There are already federal elections every two years, you know. If you eliminate the ever-present distraction of re-election, these officials might find a little more time to actually get stuff done.

roger striffler
8.30.02 @ 5:12p

Yeah, I think the key is single terms, although then you have to wonder who would do it, since you'd have to have a regular job and put that on hold.

russ carr
8.30.02 @ 5:46p

That's the way it was when the country was started. But hey -- want a new example? Sen. Fred Thompson (R-TN), who is leaving when his term expires in January, is returning to acting, with a recurring role on all the "Law & Order" shows. He's already filming some scenes, even though he's a sitting senator. (Note: Congress is on Layba Day break.) Maybe if our reps actually had to work for a living, instead of being paid exorbitant salaries for lollygagging around Capitol Hill, they'd be a tad more in touch with the common man.

robert melos
8.31.02 @ 11:36p

Was Fred Thompson "Gopher" on Love Boat?


michael driscoll
9.1.02 @ 12:52p

Of the people, by the people, for the people...seems like I've read that somewhere before...

roger striffler
9.2.02 @ 12:03p

If you have, you're not like most high school kids these days, which is truly sad.

Anyway, I'm not claiming to have come up with the line, just pointing out that part of it doesn't seem to be true anymore.

adam kuehn
9.2.02 @ 12:45p

Actually, Roger, mediators and facilitators are *exactly* the personality types that make good politicians. Saying things that don't piss people off is a talent very useful in politics, and you have it. Fortunately, you don't usually write that way.

You speak of the odds being "stacked heavily in the favor of the two existing parties." If by that you mean the Republican and Democratic parties, it may interest you to know that neither of those parties existed at the time the Consitution was written. George Washington was a Federalist, and Thomas Jefferson founded the Democratic party in 1792 to combat what he thought was Washington's elitist group. The Republicans didn't come around until just before the Civil War, largely as an anti-slavery party. If the odds are heavily stacked against "other" parties, it isn't so much so as to prevent turnover.

Oh, yes, and the primary purpose of the electoral college is to give more power to the smaller states. It was sort of a purposeful anti-majority construct. It may or may not be a good thing, depending on how much of a believer in states' rights you are. But please keep in mind that pure democracy is not always a good thing. The republican form was chosen for a reason. Especially if you consider yourself a member of a minority group, you would do well to think through the implications of changing the system that was chosen expressly to protect minority interests.


[edited]

roger striffler
9.2.02 @ 8:10p

Hey Adam, good points on all fronts.

I was aware of the history of the parties, but am not all that knowledgeable on what was required at the time to create a new party. I'll have to look more into that, but I suspect it was considerably easier to do at that time than it is now.

I think that conceptually speaking this form of government can be said to be designed to protect the interests of minorities, however I would have to question if the government in its current form and practice is doing that. My impression is that the majority of decisions made and votes cast by our representatives are not heavily influenced by the desires or beliefs of the consituents they presumably represent.

[edited]

jael mchenry
9.10.02 @ 1:16p

Oh, and this is really belated, but Fred Grandy (R?-IA) was Gopher on Love Boat. Close, Robert.

michelle von euw
9.18.02 @ 3:32p

I live in a state which should not have a two party system: everyone in Mass. calls themselves Democrats, even when they are not, and it's silly and ridiculous, not to mention confusing. I like how they do it in Louisiana: every candidate runs in the primary, and in the general election, it's the top two vote-getters, regardless of party affiliation.

Of course, I voted for a dead man yesterday, so feel free to disregard my opinion.



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