By Wayne William Cipriano
The paralysis we note in our Federal Government is taken by many as an example of the failure of our system to operate. But, they are wrong. The often-frustrating inability of our government to act because unified action cannot be delivered (except in matters of Congressional pay increases) is a demonstration of how well and how ethically our form of government is working.
As a republic, we select representatives to act in our place to make decisions as to how we should live under the law. We choose those representatives through free and secret ballot elections. Almost invariably the candidates for elective office announce their theory as to how our government should work. And, they ask us, if we agree with their views, to show our support by voting them into office.
The simplicity of this system is its downfall. While a majority of voters, or at least a plurality put one candidate into office over another, each who is not retiring begins their term knowing that another election is coming up, that another majority or another plurality must again be garnered.
They say the most accurate predictor of the future is the past. Likewise, the most reliable way to assure another term in office is to do what you did last time – promise the same stuff even if this term you were prevented from delivering that stuff by “malefactors working against the good of the people.”
Sounds pretty simple, right? The only problem is that whenever an elected official does anything, you make some people happy and other people unhappy. Unhappy people seem to have longer memories than happy people. You make enough people unhappy and after the next election you are looking over the want ads. So, political success may reside in sticking to your promises no matter what, and not doing very much else.
Here, of course, is the downfall of the system. If you change your position, or even worse, if you do something, you can no longer blame the “malefactors” for what happened. And as each representative realizes this, more and more energy is spent on promising what you did last time and avoiding the danger of actually doing anything else. Compromise? Education? Progress? Evolution? Very, very risky.
Even more risky these days when media provides a second-by-second record of our representatives’ behaviors. We not longer take a broad view, an average of the actions of our representatives. Each and every action is available for immediate evaluation by the voters, any one of which may frustrate, anger, alienate a potential voter, a previous supporter. Compromise, educate, progress, evolve toward a “better” government? Take that chance? Or remain fixed, unmoving, and safe?
Our representatives are doing what they said they would do. Not straying from the platform that got them where they are. They cannot represent the views we elected them to press into law unless they get elected. And they cannot get elected or don’t think they can, unless they refuse to change that which they promised. So, they make the same promises and stick to them and by doing so they afflict our government with the paralysis about which we so vociferously complain.
So, you can plainly see, our system is working. Isn’t it?