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Steve_A's avatar

What do you think of this statement?

Asked by Steve_A (5102 points ) February 20th, 2010

“Much has been made of late about the hyper-partisan political environment in America. On Tuesday, Sen. Evan Bayh explained his surprising recent decision to leave the Senate by lamenting a “dysfunctional” political system riddled with “brain-dead partisanship.” It seems you’d be hard-pressed to get Republicans and Democrats inside and outside of Washington to agree on anything these days, that if one party publicly stated its intention to add a “puppies are adorable” declaration to its platform, that the other party would immediately launch a series of anti-puppy advertisements.”

Do you agree?

What can we do as Americans to help fix or bring balance into this, if it is true?

What would you do about it?

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38 Answers

marinelife's avatar

We could elect those who are willing to reach across the aisle and partner with those of other parties to get stuff done instead of being ideologues.

LunaChick's avatar

I completely agree with this statement and I wish Sen. Bayh would run for reelection, as an independent.

Partisan politics are ruining our nation. In 2008, I joined a group (Unity ‘08) that was trying to get two major politicians, one from each party, to run on the same ticket.

My wish, for the future of our nation, is to abolish the two party system.

Cruiser's avatar

The 2 party system is broken. To fix it bulldoze K Street, set terms limits and limits on campaign contributions would be a great start.

Captain_Fantasy's avatar

Meh
He’s right but we’re not seeing anyone doing anything about it tho.
In fact this guy was in a position to be able to do something about it and then quit.

filmfann's avatar

Let’s make a third party!
Let’s see… If we make it a Tea Party, we drain votes from the right.
If we have a Moderate party, we drain votes from the Left (since there are NO moderates on the right)
If we make it a Sarah Palin party, we get all the nutbags assembled in one place, where we could surgically strike, and fix lots of today’s problems!

jerv's avatar

I think that most of us agree that the two-party system is bullshit, but the problem is that many of the people who actually vote are apathetic sheep, often either too jaded or too ignorant to get anything done about it without some major wake-up call.

And when you consider that the current breakdown of the government isn’t enough to make most people care enough to do much (often because they are too busy trying to get by in this economy to even be able to afford to think beyond themselves), I don’t see anything happening to remedy the situation anytime soon.

I hope I am just being cynical here. I hope that people will look at Sen. Bayh’s actions, wake up, and start telling the government to cut it out and do their fucking job. After all, they are for the people, of the people, and by the people, and there are a lot of unhappy people right now.

stranger_in_a_strange_land's avatar

I think that all we can do short-term is to vote against all incumbents, just keep stirring the pot until the politicians get the message “listen to the people, not monied interests”. Ignore the scare-mongering and vote against all the “ins”. Just ignore the campaign ads and the special-interest “scare” ads. Take a list of incumbents into the voting booth so that you know whom to vote against, if the major-party opponent is a total loon, vote third-party.

laureth's avatar

I agree with the statement.

I think a big contributor to the problem is media balkanization. That is, with the two big groups getting their news from totally separate sources, people can’t even agree on what the facts are anymore. Until we can agree on facts, it will stay bad. But when each side believes that the other side is lying, there’s no incentive to work together.

I’m not sure that voting out incumbents of every stripe is the answer, though. People who know the system know how to make the system work. If we change it up every time, we’re unlikely to get people who know the political art of “compromise.” It’s like emptying out the hospitals every year and restocking them with fresh medical school grads – or better yet, plain folk with no medical training because “only they can really understand patients’ needs.” I’d rather have a trained doctor.

CyanoticWasp's avatar

Did you think this was new? This has been “business as usual” for most of the life of this republic. I, for one, prefer it this way. When both sides of the aisle agree on a policy, and the Congress agrees with the President, then they’re usually making a huge mistake.

Remember 2003 and the Iraq War?

phoenyx's avatar

Major campaign finance reform

This bill looks interesting.

laureth's avatar

@CyanoticWasp – The rabid disagreement is new for the most part – at least within recent memory. It used to be, one party designs a bill, the other party says, “Well, if you put A, B, and C in it, I’ll vote for it,” and that’s how things got passed. Now, the other party says, “Put A, B, or C in the bill” and then doesn’t vote for it because they can’t be caught dead voting for the opposition’s bill – they’ll be voted out of office next time around.

lucillelucillelucille's avatar

Democrats controlled the Presidency,the House and Senate with a super-majority and therefore could have passed any piece of legislation at whim.The problem is not that Republicans disagree with Democrats.It is that Democrats don’t agree with the far-left Democrats controlling Congress today.
Personally,I think disagreement is balance.

ETpro's avatar

I fear that what is really happening is that the corporate money buying politics today is running the decision making process, and is throwing up partisanship as the curtain behind which the Wizard of Oz operates. The Wizard wants it all. There is still money out there to be extracted from the middle calss and even the poor.

phoenyx's avatar

A presentation by Lawrence Lessig on what I’m talking about: http://fora.tv/2009/10/08/Lawrence_Lessig_on_Institutional_Corruption

(what @ETpro said)

Dr_Lawrence's avatar

While US politics sometimes makes for good entertainment, the reality of a government so paralysed that they fail to do the people’s business and fullfil their purpose is tragic and dangerous. The people will need to take back their government from religious and corporate interests and restore the rule of law by servants of the people elected by an involved and concerned electorate.

Good Luck.

CaptainHarley's avatar

I have been saying this for several years now. The American people need to clean house. Toss out BOTH parties and begin with an entirely new slate.

essieness's avatar

I completely agree with the statement commend Senator Evan Bayh for bowing out.

The two party system is broken. It’s like a bad marriage that you can’t remember the reason you got together in the first place and it’s just too late, and there’s been too much hurt, to make it work. Both sides have become “right fighters” and put the ideologies of their respective parties ahead of what’s best for the people.

As for how to fix it? I’m not going to even pretend to know enough about politics and government to start running my mouth about that. I’ll just hope that those people who are in a position to make it better will be afforded the opportunity to do so.

laureth's avatar

One of the best ways to fix it would be to change the Constitution to adopt Instant Runoff voting. That way you can vote for the party you really want to win (even if it’s the Greens or Libertarians or Natural Law, or whatever) and then the rest in your order of preference, including D or R if you want. If your first choice didn’t get enough votes to win, it goes to your second choice, etc. The big advantage is that you don’t have to vote for the Demmican or Republicrat that you hate the least so that the greater evil doesn’t win by default.

On the other hand, to do this would require changing the Constitution. And to do that would (almost) require Congress to act – a Congress that is full of Ds and Rs that have a vested interest in keeping the current system (and with it, their jobs). In other words: unlikely to happen.

Until something like this happens, we’re going to be stuck with two (relatively centrist) parties that are really more like coalitions of different interests that are working together to elect a candidate. (Wacky fringe candidates of either end of the spectrum would have a hard time garnering enough support from the middle of the political bell curve to be elected.) If you throw out the D and R parties, two very similar parties would pop up in the vacuum they leave behind – one that appeals to those just left of center, and one that appeals to those just right of center, and would probably look much like the current system.

The problem, though, is that the Primary system (lately, like the last 15 years or so) has been selecting for the most extreme D and R candidates to support, and the whole spectrum has been drifting Rightward. Things that Ronald Reagan supported (like trying terror suspects in civilian courts and not performing torture) are now seen as bleeding-heart liberal views. Many of Republican Barry Goldwater’s views are seen as liberal today. When Saint Reagan is closer to the Democrats and the “gay agenda” is to turn people into Goldwater Republicans, you can tell the Right is not where it used to be.

I’d like to see a party anymore that works for the center for centrists like me, rather than the sort of spread we’ve been seeing. I don’t think the Tea Party is it at all. To me, as a fiscal moderate and social liberal, the Democrats have come surprisingly close, but are still not perfect. I’m not sure what party would come down the pike to do my work in Congress, which is why when I vote, I vote “issue” rather than “party.” Still, Instant Runoff would help open things up.

Dan_DeColumna's avatar

According to the source, the Supreme Court decision on Campaign Finance is uniting the two parties in all demographics.

Off topic, when I read your question, I had to smile. I had just read those lines the day before. I was thinking, “Someone else saw the headline on yahoo too, lol”

ETpro's avatar

I think it is naive to believe that the problem griping and constipating government in the USA is the party system, or that having enough lawmakers of the Green or Libertarian or Luddite or Know Nothing party would somehow remedy it. In fact, such a view is probably just self serving, casting blame on others instead of examing our own contentiousness and greed. What’s wrong with America is greed run amok. Greedy voters vote for politicans who promise to give them ever more while taxing them ever less, then they shake their fists and grab the pitchforks to kill the “stupid bastards” that did just that. Greedy, thoughtless voters rail against pork barrel politics and deficits and big government, then reelect the congressman and senator from their districts again and again because they bring federal funds to the district.

We aren’t going to get at the problem till we honestly confront what it really is.

laureth's avatar

Good points, @ETpro. Even Obama made the point recently that pork is what the other congressmen spend, and projects in your own district seem thoroughly reasonable.

hiphiphopflipflapflop's avatar

As the depredations of the real rulers become more blatant, the greater the “partisanship” level is cranked up to distract the bystanders.

wundayatta's avatar

We elect our politicians to prevent the other side from fucking up the country too badly. We do not elect them to do anything constructive. Most of us are more afraid of the excesses of the other party than we are concerned that our own party will fix the mess we’re in.

It’s just another version of gridlock. People who blame the politicians are in denial. This is our problem. The voters’ problem. If we want something different in Washington, then we have to elect politicians with a different attitude. Blaming the parties is just burying our collective head in the sand and refusing to take responsibility.

Part of the problem is that far too few people actually educate themselves enough on the issues. Instead they believe in “compromise.” Or think they do. The middle is the best place, right? Not too extreme?

That does not take into account where the poles have been located. It is another way of being lazy and giving up responsibility. Then we throw up our hands and shake our heads dolefully and call for a third party, as if we are doing something when, in fact, the whole mess in our responsibility in the first place. Calling for a third party is simply disingenuous. It says “I don’t know what to do, so let me roll some dice.”

Politics takes work. It takes involvement. It’s like a marriage in trouble—you have to have commitment. It’s easy to give up, divorce, and go find someone new. And when they don’t work out, another new person. People who are serious remain committed to changing how the people we elect work. It’s hard work, and we don’t have counselors guiding us. But it has much more chance of success than cutting and running, like Evan Bayh. What a twerp!

laureth's avatar

@wundayatta – You’re right that most people don’t educate themselves on the issues. That’s how we get a lot of wackjobs that I see getting politically involved lately. They don’t know whatall went into the stimulus plan, but they know it’s an awful lot of zeros in that number and because of that it’s bad. Or their Rice Krispies told them that someone’s lying, or that the IRS needs a plane flown into it. These people are not the middle.

You say, “f we want something different in Washington, then we have to elect politicians with a different attitude.” Okay, I’m with you. And then you say, “Blaming the parties is just burying our collective head in the sand and refusing to take responsibility.” So, do you plan to find your attitude-adjusted politicians from within the ranks of the Two Major Parties? How’s that working out for you?

There are often many sides to every issue. Public services are great, but they take money. Having the best army in the world is great, but it takes money. Part of “compromise” is all the sides working together to figure out where to allocate scarce resources. Not everyone gets everything they want, but in the best of all possible scenarios, everyone gets something they want.

I agree, it takes involvement. It takes education. And it is like working on a marriage. But how do you know when to keep working on the marriage because there’s something salvageable there, or when to give up the marriage because it’s irrevocably flawed? When do you decide that neither of the major parties is producing candidates that you can support and try for something else?

You seem to imply that the center is not always the best/right place to be, but then you say that asking for an option other than the centrist parties is disingenuous. It sounds very much like your idea of “working” on this particular marriage is to marry the wrong candidate and hope they’ll change.

wundayatta's avatar

@laureth I understand the art of compromise. I’m saying that we are not electing our politicians to compromise. We are electing them to keep the other politicians from taking away what we have. The problem is that the American people, en masse, do not want to compromise. They want what they want, and the hell with everyone else. We don’t know how to share in this country.

Working our political system is like fixing a marriage, except for one thing. Divorce is not an option. We can choose to split the house in half and never set foot in the other person’s have (which is what we have now), or we can try to cooperate. If we are going to cooperate, then the people need to elect politicians who can do that.

In this, a third party will never be viable. The reasons for this are technical, and I have explained them numerous times here, so I won’t repeat myself on this question.

You ask, “So, do you plan to find your attitude-adjusted politicians from within the ranks of the Two Major Parties? How’s that working out for you?”

It’s not about finding. That’s the “poor little me” way to do it, and it doesn’t work.

It’s about creating the candidates we want. That means people working to become candidates. If you want things done a certain way, then, I’m afraid, you’ve got to do them, because no one else is going to step forward and do it.

Trying to set up a third party is shooting yourself in the foot and wasting your energy. For better or for worse, we’re like any one-part state. Change can happen, but only within the party. We’ve got two parties, but the situation is otherwise the same. Unless things get so bad we can have a Gorbachovian revolution, the two parties are it.

laureth's avatar

@wundayatta – I know how third parties are non-starters. I described a bit of it above.

What I’m missing is this: You say, “If we are going to cooperate, then the people need to elect politicians who can do that.” And then you say, “I’m saying that we are not electing our politicians to compromise.” Are you saying that cooperation is good, but compromise is bad? I am failing to see the difference between the two.

I agree that Americans haven’t voted for politicians to cooperate or compromise lately. That’s one of the reasons for the hellacious partisanship we have of late. I do think, though, that we elect politicians who support the agenda we like the best. To get that agenda passed, even a little bit, there has to be some working together. If we are smart, we’ll elect politicians who cooperate, and get enough of our agenda done to make us happy, rather than electing stone walls that get zero percent of our agenda done.

wundayatta's avatar

I guess I don’t like the word compromise. The reason is that it’s a cut the baby in half kind of approach. You have your position, and I have mine, and let’s meet in the middle.

Cooperation, I think, is different because it says “let’s work together to build something.” That’s quite different from building two different cars, and then trying to mash them together somehow.

Is that what you were asking? At first I thought you were trying to get at something else, but I’m not sure what that something else might be.

laureth's avatar

The way I see it, cooperation is working together to get something done, and compromise is the work part. If you and I are going to build a house together, but we have different ideas of what the floor plan should be, we each give up a little bit to make the other happy (and thereby want to help build it), but in turn, we also get the bit that makes us happy.

Instead, now we have this:

“GOP member: ‘I’d like this in the bill.’

“Dem member response: ‘If we put it in, will you vote for the bill?’

“GOP member: ‘You know I can’t vote for the bill.’

“Dem member: ‘Then why should we put it in the bill?’

…and instead of passing a health care bill that both parties are at least somewhat happy with, we get this:

The panel has been in mark-up for weeks now, and along the way, has approved 160 Republican amendments—and for all that largesse, not a single member of the minority voted in its favor.

jerv's avatar

@CaptainHarley I have to say that one thing I loved about elections in New England is that you could see credible third-party candidates. Hell, Bernie Sanders is a Socialist who managed to get to Washington, and almost 20 years later he is still there! Whatever your feelings are about Socialists, you have to admit that it’s good to see a third-party person actually be able to win such a high office and keep it.

If coalition politics and multi-party systems work for Europe, why can’t they work here? I mean, I thought we were the United States. Or is it that our country is too young to know better and too rebellious to even think of trying something that works for foreigners?

dalepetrie's avatar

I agree completely, and here’s how I’d fix it:

Step one: Reinstate the REAL filibuster. The filibuster used to require that the opposition party would actually have to basically shut down the government by standing up in the Senate and talking for hours, if not days on end…it was really fighting for what you believed if you filibustered. In the 70s, they decided to make a gentleman’s agreement that you would just have to say you were going to filibuster and they would table discussion unless they could get 60 votes. Before this happened we had 4 or 5 filibusters a year, now it’s nearly 140 and has been rising exponentially. Parties don’t have to try to come to agreement on anything anymore, the party in power can push through whatever it wants and the minority power can play obstructionism. If we made Senators actually stand up for what they believe and really filibuster if they are that opposed to something, they would only do it if they were really, legitimately, sincerely opposed to something with every fiber of their being…now it’s a convenience issue, a tactic.

Step two: completely reform the electoral process for all Federal offices, including the institution of completely publicly financed campaigns, truth in advertisement laws pertaining to campaign ads, completely banning 3rd party campaign ads. Advertisements would have to be factual and informative and would have to focus on what the candidate believes and intends to do, not on the personality of an opposition candidate. A certain number of political parties, let’s say the 5 parties which receive the largest number of votes in an early nationwide primary, would be allowed to field candidates and all 5 candidates would get equal exposure on public airwaves. The general election would be moved under the supervision of the Federal government, not 50 state governments plus DC, and the electoral college would be replaced by popular vote, with IRV for close races. Everyone 18 or over with a Social Security number would be allowed to vote, no registration laws that differ from state to state. And keep the polls open 24/7 for one week.

Step three: institute laws to ensure journalistic integrity in our news reports. Today’s news is about making money, not about getting the real story, true investigative journalism is expensive and usually ruffles the wrong feathers. Perhaps news needs to be publicly financed as an essential part of Democracy (an informed electorate) and journalists need to be held to a standard of objective truth, not editorial opinion mongering.

I think if we did all this, we’d have an informed public where far more people had a reason to vote, the majority of points of view would have at least one voice running for office, and everyone would have time to get their vote in, people would know the facts about the candidates’ positions and there would be no fear mongering…people would vote FOR candidates, not AGAINST them, and when our leaders were elected, they would serve in an environment where many, not just two points of view were to be considered, and they would HAVE to honestly debate and consider each others’ ideas because no one majority party could just push through its agenda and no one minority party could obstruct progress. They’d have to learn to play nice, and we’d have a better government.

Steve_A's avatar

Thank you all, I do plan to use this information doubt if I will get anywhere but I will try.

laureth's avatar

Dale Petrie said it!

Except that bit about making news outlets have integrity by law. I think that would be the best thing, but that pesky First Amendment stands in the way. That’s the one that FOX invokes when they defend their right to lie in court.

dalepetrie's avatar

@laureth – lies are not protected speech in the First Amendment however, and what I’m talking about wouldn’t force news outlets to say anything specific, they simply would need to only tell the verifyable truth during the news, and anything resembling an opinion would have to be labeled as such.

laureth's avatar

@dalepetrie – I’m fully in favor of what you are suggesting. However, did you happen to check out my link? Here’s a more clear version than that court document: On February 14 [2003], a Florida Appeals court ruled there is absolutely nothing illegal about lying, concealing or distorting information by a major press organization. “The ruling basically declares it is technically not against any law, rule, or regulation to deliberately lie or distort the news on a television broadcast. ”

dalepetrie's avatar

@laureth – Yes, very interesting link. Basically I suppose the argument is true, there’s no law against it, and that’s what I’m saying, there should be….I mean you should be able via the First Amendment to say whatever you want, even if it is a lie. But I don’t see anything in the First Amendment that says you are allowed to lie AND misrepresent it as the truth. Inasmuch as there is no specific law against presenting a lie on the news, I suppose that the court ruling notwithstanding, if someone could actually quantify actual dollar value damages, they could sue Fox for fraudulent misrepresentation of a material fact, which anyone who has taken a Business Law 101 course will tell you may or may not be a criminal penalty depending on circumstances, but is a civil liability issue in all cases. I would state that there is plenty of legal basis, even though it’s not specifically adjudicated as illegal, to create laws which would force “truth in labeling”, requiring that anything presented as news be vetted by specific standards. Again, not to the point of censoring free speech (as one can say whatever they want in the appropriate venue), nor to the point of denying one’s First Amendment rights, but simply to enforce existing Business Law statutes regarding fraud in the inducement of the TV viewer.

laureth's avatar

Sounds like you want something like this. Only mandatory instead of optional. :)

Dan_DeColumna's avatar

Sadly, we need the scumbag heartless reporters and writers. Their lack of scruples also equals a lack of fear to the establishment, and sometimes the establishment needs to be reported on.

dalepetrie's avatar

@laureth – exactly.

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