“No democratic government can last long without conciliation and compromise.”

Benjamin Franklin

Partisan politics have been part of the American landscape since the bitter 1798 presidential campaign between John Adams and Thomas Jefferson.  However, the endless divisiveness and unwillingness of our Beltway representatives to work across party and ideological lines has so tainted the political discourse that those few elected representatives willing to seek a middle ground on important issues are often shunned by their own parties … to the detriment of our nation.

This polarization of our elected leaders and their inability to work together stems from many causes; four of which poison post-election political environments.

  • As an increasingly large portion (estimated as high as 40%) of the electorate, dissatisfied with the two major political parties, now register as Independents, Libertarians, Greens, or other smaller political parties or have dropped-out of the system altogether.  As a result, the Democratic and Republican parties are increasingly populated with the most extreme activists within their parties; and tend to nominate individuals who share their more radical and uncompromising views.  Ensuing elections then become choices between individuals whose views may be unpopular with and counter to the beliefs and aspirations of majority of the electorate.
  • The Democratic and Republican parties, at all levels have enacted restrictive ballot regulations making it difficult, if not often impossible, for “third parties”, with their often more moderate candidates and comprehensive  positions on important issues, to gain ballot access.
  • Election advertising has become increasingly disingenuous and frequently, downright untruthful.  These ads, whether created by the respective campaigns or produced by their surrogate PACs, invent lies and/or intentionally take statements, votes or other aspects of their opponent’s lives out-of-context … all without any consequences.  What ever happened to honesty and integrity?
  • All too many of our elected representatives spend vastly more of their time raising monies than representing their constituents.

2010 figures:        House ($1.4 million spent by winners)

Senate ($8.5 million spent by winners)

Estimated spending for 2012 Presidential Race:             $1.0 to $1.5 billion

for jobs whose base pay is $174,000 for House and Senate seats and $400,000 for the President;

This also requires they pander to the narrow whims of fat-cats who’ll open their wallets and, while money may not always buy their votes it clearly buys them near unlimited access, well beyond that enjoyed by the constituents of these elected officials.

Unless changes are made, our representative democracy is in grave danger of further losing the confidence of its people; opening the doors for demigods who will try to convince the public that adopting his/her views on spending and taxes, national defense, social programs, morality, the role of government and adherence to the Constitution will make things right … while not revealing it will be at the expense of their freedoms and individual liberties.

Some possible solutions:

  • Remove ballot access barriers.  Our politicians are quick to preach such inclusive policies to foreign governments while conspiring to limit the number of individuals appearing on American ballots.
  • Open primaries to all voters.  This should ensure more of the candidates in the general elections, while they may be passionate about the issues they are running on, will be open to listening to and working with people with whom they may disagree if elected.
  • Accountability.  Require all candidates to personally view and sign-off on all electronic, print, Facebook, Tweet and other forms of advertisements.

In parallel, it might be equally worthwhile to require Members of Congress certify he/she has personally read every bill, in its entirety, before, voting on it and, in the case of the President, before signing it … eliminating the irresponsible nonsense of “voting for it so we can find out what’s in it.”

  • Stem the growing influence of money.   Allow natural persons (only) to make sizeable contributions, with total disclosure prior to any such funds being expended; while, legislatively reversing the Supreme Court’s ill-advised Citizens United decision which now allows unions, corporations and other organizations to make unregulated and unaccountable contributions to lobby, directly or indirectly, for candidates for federal office.
  • Term limits.  Our founding fathers never envisioned career politicians.  Officeholders should commit 100% of their time to representing their constituents, not trying to get re-elected.