several weeks back, i came across a commentary on the current state of politics in america, how it came to this, and how we might move back toward reason and compromise. how american politics went insane, from the atlantic, is a piece i’d strongly encourage everyone to read, twice….
still, despite the high quality of the piece, i have my criticisms.
after painting a humorous, if not horrifying caricature of what could be waiting for us in the 2020 election season, the author suggests the primary races for both major parties were “eerily” similar. the terrifying, evil asshole ted cruz and the bombastic, stupid blowhard donald trump led the republican field, while the democrats had bernie sanders in a strong second to hilary clinton. according the author, bernie isn’t a real democrat, just as trump and cruz aren’t real republicans:
The Republicans’ noisy breakdown has been echoed eerily, albeit less loudly, on the Democratic side, where, after the early primaries, one of the two remaining contestants for the nomination was not, in any meaningful sense, a Democrat. Bernie Sanders was in independent who switched to nominal Democratic affiliation on the day he filed for the New Hampshire primary, only three months before that election. He surged into second place by winning independents while losing Democrats. If it had been up to Democrats to choose their party’s nominee, Sanders’s bid would have collapsed after Super Tuesday. In their various ways, Trump, Cruz, and Sanders are demonstrating a new principle: The political parties no long have either intelligible boundaries or enforceable norms, and, as a result renegade political behavior pays.
i don’t believe the major political parties are experiencing rebellion because renegade candidates have chosen to throw the middle finger to their respective parities of choice. the renegade candidates have, seeing an opportunity to take advantage of tired, poor, and angry people, have chosen to run because the democrats and republicans have utterly failed to represent and genuinely work to address the electorate and their lives’ hardship.
and though here i have criticisms with the author’s characterization of “renegade candidates,” i’ll refocus and move on to his real thesis.
the balance of political power and influence has, for a long time been held in place by a system of checks and balances in the framers’ construction of our government, but also in the vast and far more complex political system that has been built in decades and centuries since.
the supposition here, the core argument of the piece is that careful and complex political system has, over a period of time, been dismantled. the vacuum left behind has allowed for, what the author calls, “chaos syndrome:”
Chaos syndrome is a chronic decline in the political system’s capacity for self-organization. It begins with the weakening of the institutions and brokers—-political parties, career politicians, and congressional leaders and committees—-that have historically held politicians accountable to one another and prevented everyone in the political system from pursuing naked self-interest all the time. As these intermediaries’ influence fades, politicians, activists, and voters all become more individualist and unaccountable. The system atomizes. Chaos becomes the new normal—-both in campaigns and in the government itself.
so, how did we get here exactly? what are the “reforms” made that put us on the path to chaos? well, the author has some very clear ideas. and i’ll take a look at them in part two.