Thursday, October 12, 2006

Victims of Party Politics

The news today that Mark Warner had decided against seeking to be the Democrats' nominee for President in 2008 was proof of how we all suffer from politics that is driven by party affiliation rather than being driven by what is best for the country. I consider it to be good for the country to have two strong parties that can debate the issues from different perspectives, but when that escalates to our current system it becomes counter-productive.

One Democratic official friendly to Mr. Warner said: “He realized how hard this was going to be. He’s a great general election candidate, but he thought he would have difficulty winning the primary.”

When candidates find it necessary to make themselves appear more extreme in order to "energize the base" for primary elections and then attempt to appear moderate for the general election the result is that the voters can never tell which version of the candidate to believe.

That is one of the greatest failings of party-driven politics.


Jason & Denise Black said...

I'm right with you on this one, with one important qualification. I don't believe that this is "one of the greatest failings of party-driven politics". Parties do the things they do because, like it or not, it's what people want. It's not what they say they want, but what they show they want when they go to the polls.

I think that the problem you described can more properly be labeled as one of the greatest failings of an apathetic (read uninformed) public, who rely so heavily on their party or on the news to tell them who to vote for.

Apathy and laziness in general are to blame for the current situation. Consider what would happen if voters would take the time and energy to decide for themselves what they really believe about principles (rather than policies or parties). When the parties, candidates and media come out with mud-slinging and spin, it wouldn't faze the voters - it wouldn't work. Voters would make decisions based on their deeply held beliefs about principles. A couple of elections like that and the whole system would change. The parties would recognize that the old system won't work anymore. They'd quickly find that honesty about what principles they stand for is the best way to bring voters to their side. Today, however, due to the laziness of the average voter, parties and candidates do not succeed by simple and quiet honesty. The voters today won't stand for that.

Meanwhile the non-lazy voters - those who really know what they believe and vote for those who stand for their principles - continue to be frustrated with the system. But it's not the system that's to blame. The blame lies with us, the voters, for buying into the spin.

David said...

Is it easier to change the political system or to change the whole of society? The answer is, we have to change society to change the current system.

You are right that voter apathy drives parties to do what they do. I don't think that what parties do is what people want, I think parties do what gets people to respond.

I think the reason the mudslinging works is that the natural result of voters not working to become informed on the issues and the candidates. When voters have not studied the issues they tend to run away from the worst candidate rather than seeking the best candidate. If the goal of voters is to avoid the worst candidate then the goal of parties to to make sure the other candidate looks worse than yours. How bad a candidate looks is not a matter of issues, but of things like character.

I don't mean to suggest that character is unimportant, but when the full campaign focus is on character you can get away with anything in on the issues.