Thoughts on Political Candidate Selection

One reason many people don't vote in the United States is that the game is rigged. Why should they bother? It makes no sense to vote when the only choices are candidates committed to serving vested interests.

The political parties arrogate to themselves the conduct of our government; they write the rules by which the government functions, sell legislation to vested interests, and choose candidates committed to enact the laws written for them by the people who underwrite their election campaigns.

That's a clear case of setting a fox to guard the hen-house!!!!

Although it is outside the United States, we would do well to study the Report of the Commission on Candidate Selection (a board composed of the leaders of five large political parties in Great Britain). It describes "a picture of a narrow group of representatives selected by a tiny proportion of the population belonging to parties, for which ever fewer members of the public vote and for whom even fewer people have any feelings of attachment."

In the United States, voter participation is limited to picking one of the blackguards chosen for them by the corrupt political institutions that run the country. It would be hard to imagine an arrangement more destructive of the common interest. As long as money controls our political parties and the parties control the nomination of candidates for public office, attempting to influence the government by voting is futile.

Political scientists laud the confrontational nature of our political system saying it lets partisans aggregate power to accomplish their goals. They ignore the destructiveness of the process; it divides the people instead of uniting them to solve common problems.

Confrontation inhibits public participation in politics because interest in adversarial relationships diminishes rapidly as the distance from the principal contenders grows. This is evident in all conflicts from sports and games to politics and war. Adversarial systems leave most people on the periphery, remote from the process. Their interest lags and they don't participate. This is the reality that lets politicians Divide and Conquer our nation.

It is not as if the evils of our system are hidden. Our first President warned us, over 200 years ago, that parties were likely to become "potent engines, by which cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people and to usurp for themselves the reins of government". At the start of the 20th century, Theodore Roosevelt warned us of "the unholy alliance between corrupt business and corrupt politics". In 1915, Robert Michels explained why political parties become an end in themselves and ultimately transcend the will of the people.

We know how parties operate. We know about the 'soft money', 'party bosses', 'pork barrels', 'party loyalty', 'slush funds', 'party whips', and the whole lexicon of political manipulation. We know these things, but we can do nothing about them for the simple - and obvious - reason that the parties control our access to our government.

There is no hope of achieving a democratic government in the United States until the people have meaningful participation in the selection of candidates for public office and the definition of public issues.