There is a solution to America’s political problems. It’s well thought-out, well-planned and requires about two more months of work to launch. Two great things about it is that it can succeed without a political battle and without using our dysfunctional political system. But I can’t finish it alone, nor launch it alone. I need a team and funding.
I’m sorry that it sounds so far-fetched. I’ve written extensively about it, but few people can hear it from reading. Consider this possibility: Our common truths about politics are not completely true, they’re cultural myths. And they prevent us from understanding an outside-the-box solution.
Unsolvable: Money in Politics
Money is a big problem in politics, but campaign financing laws are a lousy solution. They require that our broken political system fix itself. Plus they’re like the drug war- trying to reduce the supply instead of reducing the need.
Recall that this has been a known problem for decades. We even had campaign financing laws for years. Yet the problem kept getting worse.
Corruption is a huge problem in Washington DC. Half of US members of Congress and their senior staffs go on to work for the industries that contributed to their campaigns, as John Boehner did recently.
This problem is solvable. The American Anti-Corruption Act was proposed in 2009, but Congress has always been too corrupt to pass it. What do Americans want? A survey found 97% of Americans favor such legislation. But a solution that requires Congressional action simply won’t happen.
The real problem isn’t corruption. The real problem is a combination of members of Congress’ need for campaign funds and lack of accountability to voters. Since they’re not accountable to voters, they’re easily accountable to donors and the parties. Again, we’ve had these problems for many, many years and they keep getting worse.
Unsolvable: Apathy and Ignorance
American citizens are famous worldwide for our low voter rates and our ignorance about political issues. Many startups and non-profit organizations have tackled this problem with all sorts of better voter information. Nothing has worked. Voter ignorance in this last election highlights the issue.
In conversations with over 500 voters, I learned the two reasons for apathy and ignorance. First, what voters know on issues matters very little to most of them. Voters vote for people, not for issues. Almost no voters side with their party on all issues. Over time, elections have become a popularity contest, rather than about issues. Second, most voters find that the more they know, the more frustrated they are. The easiest ways to lessen the emotional pain about issues are to stop caring and to learn less about them.
The two major parties have a lock on power, and they’re not giving it up. This is true even though 45% of voters register unaffiliated (independent), and 60% of voters think we need a third party. Again, while Congress is run by the two major parties and members are not accountable to people, this won’t change. In particular, Congress is very unlikely to adopt a voting system like Instant Runoff voting or Approval voting which can give third-parties a chance.
The Solution: Outside-the-box
These problems are all inside the box of politics. Everyone blames others. Inside-the-box is the standard political answer- we need a movement. But it hasn’t worked.
The solution is outside- create something entirely new which requires no changes in law. Give politicians ways to be accountable to citizens, and gives citizens ways to hold them accountable. This gets at the root problem which underlies the above problems. It also vastly lowers the amount of money a politician needs to stay in office. Politicians will be freed from being accountable to donors and parties.
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