What is the root problem in US politics?
Walt Kelly described the root problem in US politics best when he had Pogo say, "We have met the enemy, and he is US."
If we are concerned about politics in the U. S., we must look at ourselves - with as much objectivity as we can muster. There are at least two aspects of our nature that lay at the core of our political problems, our tendency to pursue our own interest and our tendency toward partisanship.
We can examine the pursuit of self-interest in political relationships most easily by thinking about simple societies. In pre-historic times, we can imagine that small groups of people decided their leaders by consensus - they followed the individual they thought best able to keep them fed and safe. They did not did not think of themselves as being equal. They considered their leader better able to advance the interests of the group than they could, given whatever qualities they possessed. They did what was best for the group by doing what was best for themselves.
While every member of the group was pursuing its own best-interest, the leader was better equipped to do so than the other members of the group. Those with the ability took more of the available resources than those less able. That has not changed through the centuries. All that has changed is the rewards the leaders have taken by reason of their position.
Physical prowess is no longer the prime test for political leadership. Leadership has come to be decided by financial resources and the ability to manipulate the people. If we want to improve our political existence, we must learn to harness our tendency to pursue our own interest by devising ways to make probity and the ability to resolve public issues the traits required to achieve leadership positions.
Another issue at the root of our political problems is our tendency toward partisanship. Partisanship is an essential ingredient in the evolution of society. It provides the force by which change is accomplished.
Thoughts that move beyond accepted dogma emerge from the cauldron of our ideas and attract popular backing. We align ourselves with others who share our views. Through them we hone our ideas and gain strength from the knowledge that we are not alone in our beliefs. This gives breadth, depth and volume to our voice. As our ideas coalesce into an acceptable framework, society moves forward.
Unfortunately, partisanship is also dangerous. It is a tool used by cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled individuals to Divide and Conquer the people and take the reins of government for themselves.
Partisans seek the power to impose their views on those who don't share them. Russian Communism and National Socialism showed these tendencies. Both had features that attracted broad public support throughout a national expanse and both degenerated into destructive forces because their partisans gained control of their governments.
The danger in Communism and National Socialism was not that they attracted partisan support; it was that the partisans gained control of government. In general, partisanship is healthy when it helps us give voice to our views. It is destructive when it achieves power. All ideologies, whether of the right or the left, differ from Communism and National Socialism only in the extent to which their partisans are able to impose their biases on the public.
Partisanship is a vital part of society, provided it is always a voice and never a power. The danger is not in partisanship, it is in allowing partisans to control government. If we want to improve our political existence, we must devise a political process that incorporates partisanship without partisan control.
The root problem in US politics is us. To improve, we must devise a political process that recognizes our weaknesses and tames them.