Party politics: Why can’t we have that?

Another post in my series of posts whining about things that they have in other places but that we don’t have in the US.

The political system in the US is broken. The clincher for me was this few minutes in which the Democratic National Convention Chairman, Antonio Villaraigosa, disregarded the democratic process to push though amendments to the party platform. Of course we could get into a heated discussion about the substance of the amendments (adding god to the platform and saying that Jerusalem was the capital of Israel), but let’s skip that. In the very subdued (on the liberal side, anyway) discussion of this flagrant disregard for the convention rules and the will of a good portion of the delegates representing their localities in the construction of a party platform, more than a few times apologists gave some line about how platforms don’t really matter. The logic there is a bit tenuous seeing as if the platform didn’t really matter then there should have been no need to amend it but, all the same, it speaks to a truth the platform should matter more than it does. It should matter a lot and that is one of the problems with politics in the US.  In a national political landscape in which the Democratic party fails at democracy, something needs to change.

Imagine this. You have political parties. Members of those parties convene and hash out a platform. If it is an established party, that platform will resemble past platforms in many ways but their may be with some changes that reflect the compromise and consensus of the group. Most members of the party accept those changes and those who cannot move to other parties or establish new ones. The party identifies individuals, functionaries really, whose job it will be to implement that platform and policy priorities of the group at various levels of government. Elections roll around and people vote for the representative of the party whose platform they favor most. The resulting government is made up of people who represent specific and well-defined political platforms and policy proposals. Government results from compromises and the identification of common ground between different platforms. I call this party-based politics. That’s what they have here in Sweden.

Now imagine this. You have parties but they are so large and diverse as to be basically meaningless in terms of political philosophy and goals. The party has a platform but folks see it as basically meaningless political talk. Individual candidates are affiliated with parties but they may or may not be in agreement with the platform and, instead of being led by clear ideal and policy plans in which people vote consistently with other members of the party, consensus has to get worked out within the party on a case by case basis and in relationship to the individual proclivities of particular politicians. Voters understand that words are wind so the best they can do is pick the candidate they think shares their values (whatever they decide this means) and hope that  the person will make the right choices once in office. Voters of most stripes feel underrepresented in government and are dissatisfied with their slate of candidates. I would call this cult-of-personality politics (yes, I know that this same term is used to describe the political landscape that brought us Stalin and Hitler, among others).

US politics is too much cult-of-personality and not enough party politics. I don’t really care to engage in all of these discussions about what kinds of people my candidates are. I am tired of the litany of campaign promises. All of this holier-than-thou posturing the candidates and the populace do around social values and morality (on both sides) is ridiculous. Instead of voting for a “hero” or against “evil” in whatever form, I would like to identify the party that has political goals and concrete policy plans that I agree with. I would like to cast my votes for people who understand that it is their job to work to achieve those goals and implement those plans. I would be quite satisfied with compromise solutions based upon the recognition of shared goals and policy recommendations.

Why can’t we have that?

Coming soon: Part 2 in which I explain the strategy behind my decision not to vote for Barack Obama.
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