Friday, June 3, 2011

What's breaking Democracy in America

We all know that America is a Republic not a Democracy. Still we believe that by voting for politicians we are influencing the direction the country takes. The ever growing feeling by more and more Americans that our votes don’t matter coupled with the government taking a continuously increasing fraction of our money and freedoms is fueling the Tea Party and other anti-big government movements.
How often have you heard that “all politicians are the same” or that it’s those “Washington insiders” who run the show? People believe there is a disconnect between what they want, what they vote for, and what gets done. This in turn generates a feeling of powerlessness and frustration that is often channeled into attacks on all politicians and the entire political establishment.
While some Americans have always felt unrepresented it’s only very recently that a very large fraction of Americans, perhaps even the majority feel excluded and ignored.
Three primary mechanisms are responsible for this massive wave of disenchantment with our government.
  • The growth of government
  • The unConstitutional expansion of Judicial power
  • The collapse of a shared vision of what America stands for
In the past government played a smaller role in the average persons life so that the average voter was much more likely to find a candidate who shared their vision on political issues. The growing role of government has changed that.
As government expands its tendrils intersect with peoples lives in more and more ways. People therefore are interested in more issues than they were before. Sadly however they still can only vote for one Representative, two Senators, and one President. If you’re a single issue voter then that’s plenty of choices. But if you care about multiple issues-- say abortion, the federal deficit, and ending the war in Afghanistan-- you may be hard pressed to find a candidate who agrees with all of your positions.
When you have no candidate who supports all of your positions you’re at least partially disenfranchised even before you cast your vote. Many socially conservative Republicans felt that way when McCain was chosen as “their” candidate for President.
Political gerrymandering adds to this problem by ensuring that large fractions of people in many districts are permanently disenfranchised.
For example in my district the same Democrat has been elected for 38 years. I have no hope of seeing a Republican, or even a conservative Democrat, elected. The only way I can make my voice heard is by contributing to political campaigns in other districts. And I am far from alone.
The second source of problems is the legislative role taken on by the judiciary. Irrespective of your position on abortion it should be bothersome that the Supreme Court overturned the laws of all 50 states, even the most liberal ones, and declared that abortion for any reason at any point in a pregnancy is legal. Clearly the people who wrote and ratified the Constitution never intended it to protect abortion since abortion was considered a heinous crime back then.
The long list of Judicial legislation, including judges ordering taxes to be increased, has given many Americans a feeling of powerlessness. Look at Prop 8 in California. It was overturned by one, gay, Federal judge. Millions of votes, millions of dollars, millions of volunteer hours down the tubes because one Judge decided that the Constitution, written and ratified by people who thought homosexuality was an abomination, some how secretly said that marriage needed to be redefined to include two men.
Judicial legislation is particularly offensive because it’s nearly impossible to overturn. The only way to overrule the Supreme Court is to either restrict the cases it can act upon, a tool that has never been used, or to pass a Constitutional Amendment.
To reject the decision of just five judges it’s necessary to get a 2/3rds majority in the House and Senate to vote for the Amendment. Then 38 states have to vote for the Amendment. All that to overturn the decision of five rich lawyers.
Because it’s so easy for the Courts to overthrow the will of the people and so hard to correct the Courts people know that unless five Supreme Court justices agree with you no amount of political effort is worth anything.
Just like serfs in a monarchy people who don’t happen to agree with the Courts vision of America are feeling powerless and oppressed.
The final source of voter anger is the breakdown of a consensus on what America is and should be. We see one side or another saying that their position is favored by most Americans when the split is 45% to 55%.
Look at California one of the most liberal states. Yet even there Jerry Brown only got 54% of the vote. That means that 46% of Californians didn’t want him as governor.
It doesn’t bode well for popular support for the political process when 46% of the voters are depressed about an election.
Americans are nearly evenly split on a host of key issues including the role of government and a plethora of social issues. Coupling that with questions about Democrat support for illegal voting produces and steadily increasing taxes means that a very large fraction of the populace is effectively taxed without representation; the very formula that led to the original Tea Party.
America needs to take steps to address the valid concerns of the governed. The most effective step would be a return to the more limited government defined in the Constitution.
That’s why at the core of the Tea Party movement and the current discontent with Washington is the desire to limit the role of government. People know that whenever the Federal government comes to help it does so at the expense of individual wealth and liberty.
Neither a Republic nor a Democracy can survive when the scope of government is unlimited because in that ecosystem the only winners are the political animals not the common man.
If we are to retain our freedom we must work for a fundamental revision of the role of government. Simply reducing taxes isn’t enough. We must return power to the people; not the judges, not the political insiders, not the professional politicians, not the liberal media, and not the unions.

No comments: