I am rapidly coming to the conclusion the two-party system in American politics is no longer as functional as it used to be, and we need to develop some alternatives that will more fairly take into account the diversity of our population.
Signs have been available for us to see for a while now, but the most recent election cycle pretty much confirmed the growing dysfunction of both parties.
Some clear warning signs:
Mobility of the population has weakened ties to a single community, even to extended families
Expansion of hyper-individuality as the preferred polity
Diminished confidence in public and private institutions as a result of individualism – individuals not getting everything they personally want from them vs. what common good they provide even if I personally do not directly benefit
Communication methods have radically changed in just the last three decades – from land lines, to adding answering machines and fax machines, to electronic voice mail, to clunky car phones, to smaller cell phones, to smart phones, etc.
Decline of printed newspapers and weekly news magazines due to alternatives via the internet. Rise of niche publications.
Decline of TV news and rise of opinion/ideology “news” TV. Rise of conservative political talk radio.
Legal changes, such as Citizens United and follow-up challenges to controlling election spending, have shifted the power to the wealthy even more than it was before.
Advent of and rapid ubiquitous use of social media have changed how we can filter news and information, tailoring it to our own preferences, biases, and fears.
Increased societal obsession with celebrity.
Rise of social science research-based sales and promotional techniques that play on human tendencies.
Ways in which parties are failing:
Money is connected to certain factions that win seats in legislatures and executive offices more than general party welfare
Attention by office holders and party leaders given to donors and PACs vs. needs of constituents or general population
Party insiders vs. voting constituents
Diversity within parties no longer coalitions of tolerance, but splintering and demonizing all who do not agree, even (especially?) within the party
Aging leadership many of whom like the prestige, but not the work it takes to get things done well (disorganization reigns)
Over reliance on older methods of organizing and party development (e.g. reliance on land-line phone calling)
Failing to effectively develop and use the latest technology and communication methods for party development
In future posts I will try to outline what I think might be options for political organization that are viable in the 21st century.