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.