Saturday, May 12, 2007

What's Wrong With American Politics

I just got done reading a book called Why Americans Hate Politics by E.J. Dionne, Jr. In the book, he talks about where the Republican and Democratic parties have lost the majority of Americans. The book was origionally written in 1992. It has been updated to include only a new introduction tat says, basically, that nothing has changed, and has gotten even worse, since he wrote the book.

So, why do Americans hate politics?

Because of the particular myopias of the left and right, American politics came to be mired in a series of narrow ideological battles at a time when much larger issues were at stake. While Americans battled over the Religious Right, Japanese and German industrialists won ever larger shares of the American market. While left and right argued about racial quotas, the average take-home pay of all Americans stgnated. While Michael Dukakis and George [H.W.] Bush discussed Willie Horton and the Pledge of Allegiance, the savings and loan industry moved inexorably toward collapse. While politicians screamed at each other about the death penalty, more and more children were being born into an urban underclass whose life chances were dismal and whose members were more likely to be both the victims and perpetrators of crime. While conservatives and liberals bickered over whether the government or private enterprise was the fountainhead of efficiency, America's health system -- a mishmash of public and private spending -- consumed an ever larger share of the Gross National Product. While veterans of the sixties continued to debate the meaning of the Vietnam War, communism collapsed and a new world -- probably more dangerous and certainly less predictable than the old -- was born.

Thus, when Americans say that politics has nothing to do with what really matters, they are exactly right.


In the meantime, the sheer volume of money that flooded through the electoral process made it an increasingly technocratic pursuit. Democratic politics is supposed to be about making public arguments and persuading fellow citizens. Instead, it has become an elaborate insider industry in which those skilled at fund-raising, polling, media relations, and advertising have the upper hand.

However, a solution is offered. The short version:

When Americans watch politics now, in thirty-second snatches or even in more satisfactory formats like "Nightline" or "The NacNeil/Leher News Hour," they understand instictively that politics these days is not about finding solutions. It is about discovering postures that offer short-term political benefits. We give the game away when we talk about "issues," not "problems." Problems are solved; issues are merely what politicians use to divide the citizenry and advance themselves.

1 comment:

Ben said...

true. david brooks has some really refreshing views on politics (good or bad as that might be). check out:
see what you think