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Can the American political system be reformed with elections, or is a revolution necessary?

+2 votes
And by revolution, I do not mean one that employs violence.

But I do want to know if people on this board believe electing the right people to office is sufficient to halt the progress of the plutocracy and restore power to the middle and working classes. Personally, I'm dubious about the system's ability to heal itself. In fact, I think one of OWS's unintended consequences was to wake up in a broad sector of the people fervor for the idea of a better, more equitable system. I suspect most people who or participated in OWS or watched it with interest felt similarly to me. I've been feeling bereft of that spark all winter and am wanting to reignite it in myself this spring. But one thing that hasn't changed for me is advanced skepticism about the political system as is to be a vehicle for real change.

What do you all think?

asked 2 years ago in Political Reform by ChristofP
I agree with you. The system cannot be fixed. For one thing, the system relies on labor having a value people are compensated for to provide their life necessities - but labor is being replaced by robotics and technology.

1 Answer

0 votes
Hey ChristofP,

I think getting people of integrity into office is a necessary component of change. But I also think having an electorate that is engaged, literally on a day to day basis, patrolling their representative's activities for signs of corruption, is also essential.

People need to be able to know when their reps are twisting public policy to suit private interests, and withold support from both the rep, AND the businesses that are seeking unfair favor. And to make their views known to all concerned.

I think corruption is like an infection that only the entire immune system of the body politic can fight. Right now, its just an open steal fest at the public trough.

I think using even one dollar of private money for campaigns for public office is corrupt. Spending or receiving money to influence public policy in favor of private interests over the public interest is corrupt. And rewarding reps before, during or after their terms of service with gifts, speaking fees, cushy jobs, and all the rest, is just flat out corrupt.

It only stops when the people show up. SOPA and PIPA, planned parenthood, the Virginia probe law reversal, and Rush Limbaugh's "apology", it only happens when people make their voices heard.

You have to start somewhere. But it never happens if you give up. If you give up, the bastards win. That's my thinking, but easier said than done I suppose.
answered 2 years ago by jay
You seem to have more faith in the system's ability to fix itself than I do, or perhaps less hope than I that a new system can be built specifically to rebalance the power structure away from the wealthy and corporate to the people.
I think the American constitutional republic was designed to funnel power up to an elite. It was designed to make change painfully slow, which doesn't favor the people. It requires the people always to expect delayed gratification, even for dangerous stresses like wars for corporate interests or laws that harm the masses at the expense of the corporate few. We're taught to be patient while the system does its slug-paced magic. Angry with the damage Citizens United has already wrought on the election process? Just elect enough representatives to write a new law against corporate personhood and be able to override any veto. And if the SC rules that law unconstitutional? Just wait until enough justices have been placed on the court to overrule the Roberts wing. You might not live that long? Well, tough!
I really believe we need a new constitution that respects new realities. It should of course include a bill of rights, but it should be designed to be much more responsive to the needs and wishes of the people. Is such a system possible? I don't know. No one will know until they really try it. But I think the GAs are an experiment in real consensus and they may provide a model for a new system that puts power back in communities where we live and therefore much closer to our own hands.
Well this tells me where you're coming from, and now I understand your posts, and your position.

I don't disagree with anything you've observed, I think I've seen pretty much the same. You're insight on the constitution funneling power to the elite, wasn't at the top of my mind, but I'll go along with that too. The only question is, are your negative conclusions about the prospects for peaceful change in the future warranted, based on past disappointments? Or, is there cause for hope?

My belief that there is cause for hope stems from my belief that, yes the system is broken, but it can be fixed. But the fix I'm after is not primarily political.

I wrote an article about sustainable growth, here's the link in case you're interested:

http://dotearth.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/01/04/a-bottle-bill-for-the-climate/

But the gist of it is that as long as the environment is considered a free resource, it gets used at a super accelerated rate, and we're doomed. So we have to fix this problem, or its game over for the planet.

If you get my meaning here, your way ahead of most other people I've tried to explain this to.

As for throwing out the constitution and starting over? With what? Written by whom? Accepted by whom? To take this position means you're isolating yourself from a national conversation. Of course you can, but what does it get you? It gets you what we already have, and its a losing hand.

The existing system may not be perfect, but its here, its universally accepted, and its open to change. If things move slow, its a lack of communication and coordination. When people show up, things move fast. It's not the structure that's the problem in my opinion, its the people who inhabit it, and the way they continue to hold sway and block progress.

Concerning AmericansElect: The votes to win on AE are within this group's ability to rustle up. What's to lose? Just getting on the top slot on the site forces the media to deal with that fact. Its a chance to put OWS views in front of the country, and a chance to demonstrate the power and appeal of consensus. A recent poll showed 55% of Americans wanted all of congress to be replaced with new members. People want another way to the standard corruption, but there's no option they can vote for. An OWS platform on AE could be that choice.

AE and OWS are two once in a lifetime opportunities, at least in my lifetime, that happen to coexist at the same time. It seems a terrible waste not to try to combine these forces. Just less than 30 days to do it, April 3rd deadline, what do you think? You game?

I'm ok with failing. But I hate like hell not at least trying.
As long as money is in politics, it will not matter who we elect.  They will only respond to the.needs of those who put them into (and can take them out of office).
Monica, I think you must have edited your comment before I was able to respond to it. [Update: suddenly your comment appears above this one.]


I just wanted to say that the SOPA/PIPA, women's reproductive rights and Limbaugh victories are signs that an energized opposition to the present system can change the whole thing. I'm pessimistic that the system is built to be fixed. I think it needs to be scrapped and a better system, more in tune with contemporary realities, built on top of it. We have to stop being scared of the system in place. It requires consent of the governed. Do we consent? If not what sort of government do we consent to?
I am fine with the current system.  The whole game will change once money and politics are separate.  What kind of a new system do you envision?
A system built on the premise of separation of money from politics would be an example of a possible alternative. I don't have a ready-made alternative. No one person does (although the occupy movement seems to be working on a model for mass adoption). An ideal alternative is one the people (whatever that means) create together by consensus.

The present system may be salvageable if the people take bolder efforts to reform it. It won't be saved if voting is the only tool the people use to make that change. This system is designed to move slowly unless the powerful demand speed, and then those changes are virtually impossible to undo. It's designed, in other words, to keep the people at bay, which is why our leaders are prone to such constant mischief.
I agree with Monica about getting money out of politics, that you can't expect representatives to ignore the people who pay for them to get elected, or lobby them while in office, or give them jobs when they get out of office, or reward them for appointing industry types to regulate the industries they hail from. The money distorts everything.

And I agree with Christofp that things do change when people make their voices heard, and don't change when people rely only on an occasional vote, and 'trust' their reps to do the right thing.

But I don't think it follows that you have to scrap the whole system, even though it appears now thoroughly riddled with corruption. Separating money from politics doesn't mean you're creating a whole new system, its just a change in the way we run elections.

I think OWS faces the same organizational and deliberative issues as the US congress, or any legislature, in trying to make decisions on behalf of a group. Its not easy, but there have to be rules for interacting. Throwing out the current system doesn't get rid of the underlying difficulty of reaching consensus among a diverse group of people.

I think the answer is electing people of integrity to office. who will work to undue the corruption - starting with getting money out of politics - and being vocal in supporting them when they are in office. But I do think you need both.

So why isn't that the goal? Why not try to elect people who want to get money out of politics? Why not try to engage the process with people you believe represent your interests? Why is it better to leave the field to the openly corrupt, rather than try to fix the problems?

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