Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Contradictions of Our Flawed Democracy: What Can Be Done?

Libertarians Matt Welch and Nick Gillespie have written a new book "Declaration of Independents: How Libertarian Politics Can Fix What's Wrong With America." (See the article in the conservative below) 
"(W)hen you get independent from politics, things are going great because people can experiment, they can innovate. ... We should squeeze down the (number of) places where we need a consensus to the smallest area possible, because all the interesting stuff happens outside of that."

While I completely agree with people experimenting and being innovative and "squeezing down where we need consensus," frankly, I don't believe that libertarian politics can fix anything, never mind "what's wrong with America."

For one thing, I don't think there is a "fix" for what ails us:  it's a historical problem. And for another thing, I don't think there's anything "wrong" with America.  The contradictions in our flawed democracy are quite real and very active. That's the stuff of revolution and it's up to the people to move us forward. Yes, the history of our country that has produced the current entrenched partisan structures needs to be changed. There won't be any real change unless there is development, unless we the people move beyond a narrow partisan agenda. And that is happening!

Fortunately, there is a new developmental movement growing throughout the country that is organizing independents and addressing core American values of democracy and fairness., for example, has launched a national campaign to lobby Congress to hold hearings on the structural discrimination in our electoral system against independent voters. See also Jackie Salit's keynote at the national conference of independents last February, now available as a documentary on DVD "Can Independents Reform America?")

I recommend reading Death of the Duopoly in the WSJ last week, penned by our libertarians Matt and Nick:
 -- "Fortunately, a more efficient system is finally on the doorstep of America's most stubborn, foot-dragging, reactionary sector—government at the local, state and especially federal levels—and its officially authorized, customer-hating agents, the Democrats and Republicans. As the number of independents rises, voters who are free from party affiliations are more inclined to view political claims with due skepticism. By refusing to confer legitimacy on the two accepted forms of political organization and discourse, they hint strongly that another form is gathering to take their place."

More on this:

  • A New Day in Politics (John Stossel, Town Hall) Most Americans used to call themselves Republican or Democrat. These days, more call themselves independent. What does that mean for American politics? A lot. "Independents are everywhere, and they're becoming the largest single voting bloc in the country," Reason magazine Editor Matt Welch says. " (T)hey can determine every national election and every ... election for state office. So independent voters -- people who refuse to say, 'I'm a Republican or I'm a Democrat' -- that's where all the action is."
  • Iowans offered conflicting assessments of Obama’s record on the economy (BY STEVE TRAINOR & LYNN CAMPBELL, Missouri News Horizon) Strawn said Democrats once had a 113,000 voter registration advantage over Republicans, but that has shrunk by nearly two-thirds. As of June 1, Iowa Democrats had a 36,342-person advantage over Republicans. The state had 609,500 active Republicans at 29.1 percent, 645,842 active Democrats at 30.9 percent and 698,516 active independents at 33.4 percent among Iowa’s 2.1 million registered voters, according to the Iowa secretary of state’s office.
  • Americans Broadly Favor Obama's Afghanistan Pullout Plan (by Lydia Saad, Gallup) The vast majority of Democrats and independents, as well as half of Republicans, favor the outlines of Obama's plan, according to the June 25-26 Gallup poll.
California’s new independent redistricting process could endanger 5 Republican House seats (Washington Post) Republicans account for roughly 31 percent of California’s voters and 36 percent of its congressional delegation — at 53 members, the nation’s largest. Democrats comprise 44 percent of the state’s voters and 62 percent of its congressional delegation. About 1 out of every 5 California voters declines to declare a party preference.



Calmoderate said...

Interesting post. I agree that the Libertarians aren't going to solve anything. They are enslaved to their ideology. As best as I can tell, ideologues generally arent't very good at creative thinking or problem solving. They typically cannot accurately see issues or solutions to problems because the underlying reality contradicts their beliefs. Reality seems to have a knack of doing that to most ideological political and religious "truths".

On the topic of whether there is something 'wrong' that needs fixing, I think there is. Sure, our system is designed to accomodate contradictions, vehement differences of opinion and all that. Nonetheless, since the end of the second world war, we come from a position of great strength with every political and social advantage. How did we get to where we are now? While some (most?) people would call that little sojourn political success, I call it failure.

Now, it may be the case that if our system can accomodate pretty much everything, contradictions, political extremism, selfless altruism, ruthless greed, etc, then it ought to be able to accomodate political failure. Maybe the failure I see doesn't mean anything is 'wrong' because it fits in our system, but I still would like to see something better. Something sure feels like it is broken.

Breaking away from entrenched political structures as you suggest is about the only way to effect meaningful positive change that I can see. The hard question is how to do that. One can try to reform politics from within or try to force change from the outside. I don't believe the former is possible (entrenched partisan structures won't step aside unless forced), so I default into the latter. We need a new political party that is grounded in unspun reality and pragmatic problem solving.

I believe that that means accepting political solutions that are liberal, conservative, compromise or none of those, if that is what the unspun situation dictates. That kind of politics is simply incompatible with the Democratic, Republican, Libertarian or other parties. They are all grounded in their sacred, inviolate ideology, which is a big part of the entrenched partisan structure that needs to be moved beyond.

Nancy Hanks said...

Yes! Right the f... on, Calmoderate, and let's build what we need to build to do the right thing. Thanks so much for your thoughtful comment! - NH