To Americans, political accountability is in our blind spot. Why is our political system focused on fighting for power, not about accountability? Because neither our politicians nor we citizens know what “political accountability” means. Do you?
(This is the first of 6 posts. For those of you that want to skim, please at least read the 2-3 bold header titles in each piece. If you really want to skip ahead, here’s the outline:
- We don’t really know what Political Accountability is.
- Political Accountability Defined
- A system for delivering Political Accountability, part 1
- A system for delivering Political Accountability, part 2
- Benefits of PeopleCount, part 1
- Benefits of PeopleCount, part 2
America is an oligarchy, not a democracy
In America, we have a notion that we live in a democracy, even though we only have the trappings of it. The 2014 Princeton study found that what the people want has no correlation with the laws that are passed. What a tiny fraction of wealthy people want has a high correlation with laws passed. America is an oligarchy. Our taxes fund the 1%. While everyone wants a strong middle class and low unemployment, the needs of the well-connected come first. From the study:
“… economic elites and organized groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on U.S. government policy, while mass-based interest groups and average citizens have little or no independent influence.”
Americans think solving our political problems is impossible
Americans are in widespread agreement that we have political problems. But Americans assume these problems are impossible to solve, so no one tries. Well, not quite impossible. Most people think that with enough effort and money, “we” can beat “them”. But the wealthy have arranged for Democrats and Republicans to fight each other while both parties keep the tax money flowing to a few corporate interests. So we’re busy fighting each other.
The political front-runners are Hillary Clinton, committed to keeping the current system running, albeit “better” in a progressive sense, and Donald Trump, a billionaire who has benefitted from the system and who’s only plan seems to be to assume power and shoot from the hip. They’ve raised hundreds of millions of dollars to fight each other. Not to support democracy. Not to be accountable to the people.
And the real power is in Congress, yet those races are rarely talked about, compared to the presidency. That’s where we really need accountability. We have none.
Political accountability is in our blind spot
How else can we solve our political problems? Obama said his biggest regret is the partisan divisiveness. Yet if you look on his website, Whitehouse.gov, and begin a letter to the president, there’s no “partisan divisiveness” subject to choose, or even “political reform.”
There are solutions to America’s political problems, but they’re solidly in our blindspot. We are not listening for them. Our mythology about corruption, apathy, ignorance, us being right and them being wrong, big vs small government, all these blind us to the real problem. Our politicians are not accountable to us, the people.
Our system gives power to the people. Since politicians can not be accountable to us, other people and groups step in to take over. It’s not anyone’s fault. But this view of the problem will lead naturally to a solution.