Is Politics Broken?

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Does two party or multi party politics better represent a nation? In a time when people seem to be disengaged with politics I ask if the system is broken and if it can be fixed and asking if having more than two parties allows for a bigger spectrum of views to be reflected.

I have long had an interest in politics having studied it when I was in High School, my late Father at one point even said I should be a politician, and knowing what I know now about politicians I don’t know if that is a compliment or not.  If he meant I would be the sort of person who would stand up for the people he represents with true honour and commitment then he was perfectly correct I would make a good politician, however it seems to me that politics as an institution is broken, not fit for purpose and is a mockery of democracy.

The population of the USA are currently taking part in primary elections in order to establish who the two candidates will be who will contest the 2016 Presidential Elections.  From my TV screen in the United Kingdom I see reports daily about a primary in this State or caucus in such a State and watching the candidates bashing, lampooning and ridiculing one another, and even worse pronouncing policies which they will almost certainly have absolutely no chance of turning into law or actually achieving in any way, the prime example of this is Trumps policy of building a wall on the Mexican border to stop illegal immigration, which I will come back to later.

Although in American there are lots of parties at state level there are currently three parties (for this purpose I am including independents as a party) representing the population in Congress, however one could argue that the United States operates on a predominantly two party system and if we want we could argue further particularly at a Federal Level in that there are only two independent members of Congress.  The United Kingdom on the other hand absolutely operates on a multi-party system with the population represented by members of 11 different political parties.  So it creates a question in my mind, can a two party system like that in America ever provide a consensus which truly represents the views of constituents?  Do you need more parties and more shades of political thought to genuinely reflect the views of an electorate?

With the American two party system are they both basically fighting for the same political ground, every party wants to consider itself to be a centrist party who purport to represent the views of the so called silent majority who it can be argued form the largest section of the electorate.  However currently in the American race the two extremes of views seem to be garnering the greatest support from those taking part in the primary elections.  Donald J Trump appears to be an ultra-conservative with some of his views on immigration and abortion, his idea of building a wall fascinates me, he says he is going to build a wall to keep out illegal Mexican immigrants and that they will pay for it.  The question this raises for me is how is he going to get Mexico to pay for the wall, is he going to demand payment in advance?  Is he going to build the wall and then invoice them for the work?  If they refuse to pay what is he going to do sue them?  Send in the Marines to demand a cheque?  It is the biggest piece of rhetorical speech-making I’ve ever come across, there is no way he would get it passed by Congress to begin with, so what will he do issue an Executive Order?  In a recent documentary shown in the UK the current holder of the office of President of the United States Barack Obama is quoted as saying “ Im President of the United States, Leader of the Free World and I cant make anything happen” so if he cant get anything done how does Mr Trump believe he can get some of his wildest policies passed into law.

So all he is doing in effect is blowing hard with no prospect of getting it done and the vocal minority who attend his rallies appear to be falling for it and lapping it up.  Of all the coverage I have seen, and we get a lot of coverage of American politics in the UK I have not seen any coherent policy statement from Trump, I mean I don’t know what his tax policy is, I don’t know what his business strategy is, I don’t know other than banning entry to Muslims what his foreign policy is oh and bombing so called Islamic State, does he have policy stances?  All I ever see is him standing at a podium talking about his numbers.

This makes me wonder if people who feel they are disconnected from politics and feel disenfranchised are therefore drawn to the loudest voice?  I guess my question specifically relates to those who would consider themselves Republican in the USA, as the voice of Bernie Sanders isn’t necessarily the loudest of the voices and yet he is connecting on the liberal side of the divide particularly with young people on the left side of the argument in the Democratic Party.  The thing I haven’t said is that I have a lot of family and friends in the USA and amongst the younger members of this group Bernie Sanders is definitely getting a lot of support from them.  They seem to have developed a wider world view and a real social conscience and dare I say are in some ways rejecting the individualistic self-centred message  of the American dream, they do believe in trying to better yourself as best as you could but seem to have a more philanthropic thinking than previous generations.  They don’t seem to see harm in giving support to someone who is less fortunate than themselves.

Which makes me question if Bernie does become the Democratic nominee if the US population as a whole would accept someone who has such liberal and socialistic views when it appears from this side of the ocean that anyone who appears to have views that have any link no matter how small to the concept of communism are seen as dangerous and subversive.  To me much of the American people are in a cult, and it’s a cult I would call the cult of the self, they don’t really like sharing with others, unlike the British for example they didn’t have to endure the rationing we did during the Second World War when helping your neighbour was a way of everyone getting through the war.  I remember for example my Grandmother (Nan) using the phrase share and share alike, basically meaning everyone should get a share so no one is left out, but when it comes to the idea of sharing wealth with anyone else I get the feeling that Americans baulk at the idea, unless of course they are very wealthy and can get a tax break out of being philanthropic.

I genuinely fear the Cult of the Self, I fear that we are becoming a generation in which the sense of a community disappears from our vocabulary and from our activity.  When I was growing up I remember there was a sense of community where I could go to my mates house knock on the back door and walk in, I also remember that people in my community would do anything they could to help you out if you were in a difficult situation.  Yet now I find we are in a position where many people do not even know the names of their neighbours, I for one live in a city where almost everyone is anonymous and they like being in that situation, however the city in which I was born is totally different where you could sit on a bus and have a conversation with someone without them thinking you might be a serial killer.

British Politics as we have established works on a multi party system which in my view allows for a spectrum of views which gives people the opportunity to vote for a party which most represents their own views on the world.  It means that in a Parliament in which there are in the current parliament there are 11 parties representing the population.  And if we see politics on a linear scale (which I don't personally, i see it more as a circular scale with left and right being closer together than they suggest) with Labour/Liberal/Democrats on the left of the scale and Conservative/Republican on the right then there are a number of what we can term minor parties on the left and a number of parties on the right.  So in a multi party system there has to be much more consensus in order for anything to pass through a legislature and often relying on the support of parties on the same side of the spectrum as the main party which holds power, unless one is in the situation of needing to form a coalition government, which is the situation in many nations around the world. 

My personal view on why someone enters politics has changed over the years, I used to believe that people went into politics because they believed they could do the best possible job for their constituents.  Having observed politics in resent years however I have taken the considered view that politicians now see the job as a career option, so rather than entering politics having worked in industry or a profession people go into politics straight from university or having worked as a parliamentary researcher or speech writer or an assistant, which to my mind reduces the knowledge and expertise they can bring to representing the people in their constituency.  Im also further disturbed by the idea that politicians often parachuted into a constituency by a party and have no real understanding of the people they represent rather than finding someone from the area who actually cares about the people they are to represent.  Finally I find it hard to accept politicians having less and less room to talk about matters based on their own beliefs, the beliefs and views of their constituents and their consciences and instead follow the party line often even if it is not the best thing for the people they represent.

Disenfranchisement is a huge concern for me, in the last UK General Election for example the government was elected on a national turnout of 66% of the electorate and of that won a vote share of around 37%, and yet they say they have a mandate from the country to implement their policies as set out in their manifesto, but do they truly represent the electorate, arguably not.  And I believe that this is because people have become disconnected from the so called political classes who appear to be operating for their own self interest, friends business interests and their own investments.  They don't see why they should vote when all they will get is another group of politicians pushing policies which are filled with self interest and ideology which doesn't seem to provide any benefit for the population.  Ive hear people say that it never matters which party is in because the government is always the same, meaning that the machine of government in all of the different departments stays the same its just the puppet masters who change, so the actual business of government just goes on.

I have come to the conclusion over a number of years that politics might very well be a broken entity which will never again be an institution of government of the people, for the people, by the people.  In the sense that we are ruled by political classes who often have wealth power and influence and provide we the people with very little choice in who to vote for and as such are not completely of the people by the people and as such the political system no longer provides a true democratic vehicle that represents the people of a nation.  Can we ever have true democracy ever again, who knows?  I believe if we can go back to a system where people genuinely want to do good for the people of their area we can create a system that is truly of the people.  I believe that with more independent voices we get true representation of the views of a nation and not just the views of a political party parroted by those within it, and also we have a system which means that countries have work to form consensus in order to do the best for their country.  So do I believe a two party system works best for a nation, no I do not.  Does a multi party system work, I believe it can if it contains enough independence to truly represent the population.

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