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Op−Ed | The hypocrisy of the United States political system

Published: Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Updated: Tuesday, November 6, 2012 07:11



Before you even begin reading this op−ed, you may have already made a dismissive assessment of my intentions and patriotism. Perhaps you thought I’m anti−American, or an arbitrarily critical liberal who hopped on the bandwagon of deriding the U.S. system in favor of some Scandinavian alternative. You’d be wrong on all counts. I highly admire the accomplishments of the country I was born and raised in, and I’m actually a registered Republican. Above all, I’m your average disillusioned university student. One of my favorite pastimes, though, is to call bulls−−t on both individuals and institutions. And with regard to the political system in the U.S., there is a lot to sift through. To be sure, one needs a treatise−length work to comprehensively do justice to this subject. Given how overwhelming the stench is, though, I’m sure most of you are intimately familiar with what I will be talking about, so hopefully I won’t burden you with too long of a read.

The fact that today is Election Day provides the ideal opportunity for the discussion — a reminder, rather — of why we don’t actually live in a democracy. The Electoral College is globally infamous and anything but hidden from public knowledge. So why does it still exist? In four different elections, it has produced a president who did not win a plurality on the popular vote. It indirectly institutionalizes a two−party system, and has thus helped produce the entrenched political behemoths that are the Democratic and Republican parties. It allows for a select few states with a politically split electorate to decide the election. I could go on, but I would likely be reminding you of arguments you have already heard. As a conservative voter in Massachusetts, why should I even bother participating in an election in which casting my vote is a purely ceremonial act? We are not a democracy — we are the Republic of Florida, Pennsylvania and Ohio. If you live in these states, you’re deciding who our president will be.

One could argue that, even if we don’t actually elect the president, we do have the power to elect the legislature. This argument fails as well. In theory, our Senators and Congressmen are constitutionally endowed with the duty to represent the interests of their constituents. In practice, they are misguided careerists who vote with their partisan interests in mind rather than their constituents. Their accomplishments have included sinking the ship of our country into a deepening sea of debt and playing partisan politics in a mutually obstructionist manner. This is anything but the implementation of their constituencies’ view — it is the sign of an incompetent, dysfunctional and unrepresentative form of government. Many governments in the world are electorally representative, but this is not sufficient, nor is it an adequate measure of democracy. Sadly, the legislators in the U.S. are anything but the mirror of the people.

Even if the president is elected undemocratically, as a candidate, he still cannot realistically be exempted from the need to campaign and consolidate his popularity. Mitt Romney and Barack Obama collectively embody everything that is hypocritical about election campaigns. Forget their Super PACs and the elitist and corrupt systems of patronage they so desperately need for funds — they are simply half−honest, at best, politicians who will say anything to get elected. Mitt Romney is notorious for conforming his views to his audiences’.

Barack Obama promised America drastic change and delivered very little of it. Both are liars. This reality is reflected in the media’s recent focus on the paradoxical subjectivity of facts. While Romney epitomizes the politician who unabashedly sells his convictions in tandem with public opinion, Obama represents the president who played on the naivete of the American public and promised to effect change that never really happened. With the exception of healthcare, Obama’s policies haven’t markedly differed from his predecessor’s. His economic policies have increased our national debt by nearly five trillion dollars, and he has failed to comprehensively address the issues of immigration and environmental policy. Only his foreign policy has differed. Instead of President Bush’s preemptive doctrine of neo−imperialism, Obama has exhibited a foreign policy that has generally been reactive, but lacking any cohesive strategy. Significantly, Romney has failed to concretely distinguish how his policies will differ from President Obama’s. The political dialogue during this campaign season has been tragically ideological.

These candidates seem to be woefully unaware of the president’s job description — that of a temporary figurehead in a single branch of government that is only a part of a deeply entrenched state apparatus. So when a president makes a promise that he will do something drastic to improve the lives of Americans, he is inherently lying. He can merely attempt to influence a large number of factors and variables in his favor, and maybe produce a relatively desirable result. Only if the President of the United States was a dictator or a monarch could he genuinely make the promises that Obama and Romney have made this election, the same types of promises that every candidate has made during every U.S. election in recent memory. Of course, even if a candidate for U.S. president was truly honest about the constraints of the position for which he is seeking, he could never rally the popularity needed to win an election. What we have here is a vicious cycle which breeds rampant dishonesty on the political level, and whose inevitable byproduct becomes disillusion on the public level.

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2 comments Log in to Comment

Wed Nov 7 2012 07:54
Excellent article with one exception - your attempt to justify the "inaction" in not voting as a means to effecting change or possibly making a statement. If you were boycotting a product, I would agree. Your action does not reap any just rewards in effecting change. If everyone followed suit with your action, then we would be leaving the vote to who runs our country to fewer people (with personal agendas). There is no benefit or effective change in doing that. You may be correct in your reasons as to how our two party system/electoral system is not a democratic process, but what a person does from there is critical. How can we change this? How can we implement a long term strategy for change? Anyone can complain, anyone can abstain from voting, anyone can dig their heals in the ground and say "no this is wrong." This doesn't take courage. It is the person who actually puts thought into changing this system and implements a plan to effectively change it or at the very least becomes the catalyst for change. Not voting is a cop out and just a weak mans approach to not solving an obvious problem. You are a Tufts undergrad, go back to the drawing board and start thinking strategically, how you and others can possibly effect change as a follow-up....then person can make a difference. That would be worth seeing!
2 minutes ago · Like
Wed Nov 7 2012 00:58
Our two party system provides the illusion of choice but in fact only reinforces the broad elite consensus on the vital issues which define the nature of our relationship with the rest of the world and the distribution of power among our economic classes. Nowhere in this election did you see the Democrats and Republicans debate the necessity of a global U.S. military presence, question the expansion of the surveillance state or raise the issue of serious reform of the tax code and the massive entitlements the government provides to corporations and the rich in forms of various tax loopholes, rebates and other subsidies. The wealthiest classes in America which set the agenda for these campaigns are united on these issues and therefore do not compete with one another on them in the campaign. Instead our campaigns are increasingly becoming more about minor issues which are exaggerated to humorous effect. What Freud called the narcissism of small differences has taken over our political process and Republicans and Democrats will debate late into the night on things like abortion, immigration and gun ownership which if decided either way will not jeopardize the current system of power and just serve to distract everyday people from the real issues where they are getting a raw deal.

Unfortunately, the fact that I can predict with absolute certainty four years from now our next presidential election will be a similar charade of the two "chosen" parties parading their candidate in idiotic conventions financed by the same financial and corporate interests who benefit from billion dollar advertising campaigns designed to lie, deflect and obfuscate real issues should tell you all you need to know about our "free" electoral process. It is anything but, and is in fact a highly orchestrated and predictable affair designed for us to "pay no attention to that man behind the curtain."

To the Democrats on campus I say to you a vote for Obama this year is a not a vote for freedom, justice or equality, it's a vote for 4 more years of Guantanamo Bay, a cowardly and corrupt Justice Department unwilling to press criminal charges for the crimes of America's political and financial elites (think Bush's White House counsel and the torture memos; Wall Street CEOs lying to regulators and Congress) and a Geitner-led Treasury Department committed to placating Wall Street at every turn - even after they lead us into the greatest depression in 80 years. It's a vote for 4 more years of a military budget that's doubled in the last 10 years and will leave our generation holding the bag for a debt that was given hand over fist to select military contractors.

Kudos to the author for having the courage to write an editorial on a campus where most people will defend the Democratic party to unbelievably naive ends, but to him I say non-voting is not the answer. Third parties provide real opportunity for voters to express their dissatisfaction with our two party system and have made real impacts on elite decision making in the past when they have demonstrable support in elections.

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