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Party Politics: The death of democracy

Reccesoldier

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I believe that we have reached the point in this country where the will, good and interests of the nation are a distant and tertiary second to the need, good and interests of the political parties.

I'm not trying to single out the Liberals here, but their Leader has enunciated the policy followed by them all...
The Liberals will judge coming confidence votes in Parliament on their own self-interest and their shot at victory in the ensuing election,
(emphasis mine) http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/LAC.20080329.DION29/TPStory/National

I believe that all the parties act in this way, and that self preservationist policy is destroying the democratic plurality in Canada.  When there is nothing more important than the election, when any policy, ideal or travesty can be forgotten till the timing is right then the lie has been put to the political myth of service in the public good once and for all.

It's not just the system that is broken, which others here have referred to time and again, but the mindset, morals and principals of those involved.
 

DBA

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People disagree on what the will, good and interest of the nation are. Democracy allows a change of government when it heads off into the deep swamp but has never stopped it from getting tangled in the weeds at the side of the road.
 

a_majoor

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Considering that political parties as we know them have been evolving since at least the Restoration in 1660 (and proto political parties long before that) I would hesitate to say that parties per se  are the problem. Rather, it seems to me that parties are simply evolving to capture the prize in the same way top predators evolve to catch more lucrative prey:

The problem is that once the scope of government is vast and sweeping, and the power of the office is enormous; once you get to where you must have vast sums to get the office, and you must win because otherwise you are ruined by your borrowing, and possibly up for prosecution for criminalized policy differences -- then you are where the Roman Republic was, and it is worth everything to win.

Jerry Pournelle
 

Fishbone Jones

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The Liberals will judge coming confidence votes in Parliament on their own self-interest and their shot at victory in the ensuing election, leader Stéphane Dion said yesterday.

"We will determine the timing of the election when we will have the best odds of winning," he said in an interview that will run on the French-language TVA network tomorrow.

Dion has just given the other parties the ammo they need to sewer his milquetoast band of parasites once and for all. Even if they work on the same rule, they are not stupid enough to publicly proclaim it.

He has proclaimed to the world that it's not about what's good for the country, but what's good for me and mine.

I can think of a dozen anti-liberal ads and debate points they could use with this quote.

Dion already looks like a deer in the headlights. Properly played, this could tie him to the hood of the pickup to be paraded through town.

I love this guy.

It's even doubly satisfying knowing that the 'petite thug de Shawinigan' engineered his victrory over so many other, immensley qualified, candidates for leadership. Perhaps this will put his skewed legacy to bed along with Dion's.




 

Reccesoldier

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DBA said:
People disagree on what the will, good and interest of the nation are. Democracy allows a change of government when it heads off into the deep swamp but has never stopped it from getting tangled in the weeds at the side of the road.

Do we really?  When the bi-election was held last month didn't Dion appoint a liberal candidate in Sask? 

Yes, yes she didn't win, but that really isn't the point. 

How many Liberal voters, i.e. those who believe in the progressive politics of the liberal left, voted for Dion's stool pigeon regardless of if they thought their preferred Liberal candidate would have done a better job for them and their riding.  How many were so angry with the situation that they voted for a candidate from another party or didn't vote at all?

We all know that democracy is the best solution, what I am saying is that our democracy is disappearing into the swamp of party politics, and that although the processes remain unchanged, and we still "choose" our leaders and the ideology that we believe in what we get in the end is neither the Leaders we want nor the policy we vote for.  Those things are decided by the party, for the party and in the interests of the party.

Sound familiar?

 

McG

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GAP said:
Dion voted against the extension to the Afghan mission last session and is critical of Liberal interim leader Bill Graham for voting with the government. "I think our party made a big mistake. Our role is not to trust the government because they are giving you a briefing. You are not a minister any more. Our role is to check the government. We are in the Opposition. Wake up guys!" (National Post, June 30, 2006)
Reccesoldier,
You will find a lot of sound bites which illustrate failings in the party system such as Dion's position that the Official Opposition is to blindly oppose everything from the government regardless of merit.
 

a_majoor

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Voters do "get it", and many politicians engineer their own defeats (and the ancient Greeks were well aware of that; maybe we should all sign up for classical studies)

http://www.victorhanson.com/articles/thornton040108.html

[
Spitzer’s Comic Fall
To understand the disgraced governor, brush up your Aristophanes.
by Bruce S. Thornton
City Journal

Commentators are already calling the rise and fall of New York governor Eliot Spitzer “tragic.” The tragic arc, as the old Greeks articulated it, goes something like this: talent and drive lead to success, but success breeds arrogance and blindness to one’s human limits. Then comes the fall from power, engineered by the gods to teach mortals once again that even the mightiest and most brilliant of us are in the end defined by our common flaws. But the fall has something grand about it: in Sophocles, for example, Oedipus’s angry pursuit of knowledge about his horrific crimes is admirable, too, for it ultimately saves his city from a devastating plague. His excesses also come to some good by illustrating Aeschylus’s dictum that “suffering teaches” — teaches that for all of our abilities and achievements, we are still mortals subject to time, chance, and our own chaotic passions.

Like most scandals that bring down modern American politicians, however, Spitzer’s lacks the grandeur of tragedy. True, his talent and ambition, like Oedipus’s, led him to significant public achievements and fame. As the “sheriff of Wall Street,” he relentlessly pursued alleged financial evildoers, earning along the way a reputation for toughness and results that swept him into the governorship. And also like Oedipus, he overreached because of hubristic arrogance and self-righteousness — “Listen, I’m a fucking steamroller and I’ll roll over you or anybody else,” he once warned Republican Assemblyman James Tedisco. Even before his current troubles, he had been wounded by allegations that his staff ordered state police to track Republican State Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno’s travel records, in an effort to damage him politically.

Yet Spitzer’s downfall — sordid trysts with high-priced prostitutes, complete with grubby financial hijinks to cover up his deeds — is ultimately the stuff of low comedy and satire. For insight into the departing governor’s troubles, then, we’d be better off looking to the Greek comic poet Aristophanes, who uses sexual crimes and excesses to dramatize his characters’ inability to subordinate the body to the mind and do what is in the public interest. Like Aristotle, Aristophanes saw politics as “public virtue.” And the paramount virtue is self-control: the ability to resist one’s appetites for a higher good. The politician who gives in to appetite — especially sex — is unfit to rule, for his failure to control himself shows that he is a slave to his passions. Once such people obtain political power, like the Sausage-Seller in The Knights or Bdelykleon in The Wasps, they use it to indulge themselves at the expense of the community. How can we trust such people with political power and responsibility, Aristophanes asks, when they will sacrifice even their own honor and reputation for the sake of more immediate pleasures?

Do Americans really care any more about sexual indiscretions among our public officials? Sometimes we seem to have severed the link between political power and virtue. Many now see virtue as belonging solely to the private realm, and we’ve tended to reduce political power to questions of technique and policy—as if knowing the name of the prime minister of Kazakhstan qualifies one for political leadership. It’s easy to imagine Spitzer’s ending up as neither a tragic nor a comic figure, but rather a therapeutic one: hawking his tell-all bestseller on Oprah after a suitably groveling public apology, while the audience experiences neither pity nor fear, nor even scornful laughter, just the tears of cheap sentiment.

©2008 Bruce S. Thornton
 

a_majoor

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A potential solution:

http://jaycurrie.info-syn.com/a-thought/

A Thought

April 6, 2008 |

Watching people galvanize around the free speech issue brought up by the CHRC’s trampling of free speech in Canada I have been struck by the consensus which many bloggers have displayed. While we have no time for neo-Nazi action, we have a great deal of time for Canadian citizens right to speak. And we have no time at all for the slimeball tactics of the CHRC’s counsel, investigators or Tribunal.

The people responding to this - while they have been characterized as Concervatives - are, in fact, conservatives; more accurately classical liberals.

Now, I wonder if we might find agreement on other issues which the CPC is too scared to address.

anti-Kyoto
mass immigration
fiscal responsibility
pro-Israel
pro-Canadian Forces
anti-additional funding for bilingualism
anti-regulation
pro-small government

I suspect there are some metrics I’ve left out. The point being that we tend to be people willing to challenge the validity of the so called Canadian consensus.

And then I wondered how we might best influence the various political parties in the direction we would like to see the Canadian conversation actually go.

One thought I had would be to rate MPs - not parties - on their relative commitment to a set of goals. We would define the goals and then build a database of MP ratings.

It would take a bit of work to come up with the ratings and the metrics used to calculate the ratings. However, I suspect it would be entirely doable. Basically we would score - riding by riding - the candidates and members based on what they have actually said.

Call it “The League of Real Canadian Voters” and endorse candidates in every riding in Canada. Given the metrics I think are important a LRCV endorsement would likely be the kiss of death in TO and Vancouver. But, in the rest of the country it might be worth several hundred votes.

So, what do you think? Good idea, pernicious nonsense and the CPC will see us through? Do comment.

The comments are interesting as well
 

a_majoor

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Although written from an American viewpoint, it has some lessons for us:

http://www.jerrypournelle.com/view/2008/Q2/view515.html#Saturday

Has McCain lost his mind?

The arrogance of the Country Club Republicans apparently knows no bounds. Now he wants to dictate to the local party people. Of course McCain doesn't believe in parties. McCain-Feingold was supposed to eliminate parties by making fund raising more personal for candidates, and making it more difficult for parties to collect money. That has profound effect, and the whole concept needs discussion: the Framers didn't much like parties either, and there wasn't any such thing as a political party for the first couple of generations of this Republic. Instead there were loose federations of people with some common interests.

That failed early. There wasn't enough cohesion among the Federalists to give Adams a second term, nor to bring in the Federalist favorite Hamilton. The election went to the House, where Hamilton had no chance, and it came to a choice between Jefferson, definitely not a Federalist, and Burr, an adventurer with a vaguely Imperial view; to the extent that we know Burr's policies they were closer to Hamilton's than Jefferson's, but Hamilton didn't trust Burr and threw his support to Jefferson. Jefferson was duly elected, and Burr shot Hamilton dead in a duel.

And with all that, McCain at least does not stand for raising our taxes through the roof; while Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barrack Hussein Obama seem to be in a contest to see who can demand the highest tax increases and largest budget. If the Democrats win this one White House and all, we will all pay for it big time.

Of course we paid for it big time with the Republicans in office as soon as Newt Gingrich self destructed. They didn't raise taxes, but they might as well have: they spent like drunken sailors, expanded ear marks, and acted in general like Imperial Rulers of the sheep, entitled to what they could take and spend; ending with a bridge to nowhere. There was nothing so ridiculous  that the Country Club Republicans would not finance it. This madness continued after we went into Iraq. The war guaranteed enormous deficits. The trade policies guaranteed trade deficits. The wild spending guaranteed more deficits. Those guarantees made inflation certain. Inflation is itself a tax increase; and the enormous deficits make some tax increases almost inevitable.

The top leadership of both parties has been overtaken by the Iron Law, and there seems little to be done about it.

And meanwhile the Democrats seem to be drifting toward the concept of prosecution of former office holders by criminalizing policy differences. That's a certain formula for civil war; perhaps not immediate, but inevitable. The absolute minimum requirement for democratic government is that the loser be willing to lose the election: that losing an election is not the loss of everything that matters. As soon as that assurance is gone, playing by the rules makes no sense at all. (Pinochet learned that lesson. Fortunately for Chile, he was old and was allowed to die in peace; the inevitable -- liberals can always find a good reason not to keep their word -- persecutions after he turned over power on the assurance that he would be allowed to retire in peace were not so severe that his adherents didn't take to their weapons.)

We live in interesting times. Be afraid.

It makes for very interesting times when McCain is the best hope we have of preserving something like a republic rather than a socialist state.

==============

If that isn't enough to worry about, we have the climate taxes that enrich Gore and ruin the rest of us. And mandated use of ethanol combined with forbidding us to make the ethanol from sugar -- demonstrating that the real purpose of the mandate is to make ADM richer, not to do anything useful about Global Warming.
 

Nemo888

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The party system certainly undermines participatory democracy and ensures corporate and special interest influence. I think it was a huge mistake. I liked the Reform, but look how party politics destroyed most of what they stood for.
 

a_majoor

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I will reiterate the problem is not "parties" or "party politics". When there have been identifiable political parites since 1660 (and indeed we would probably recognise some of the platform positions of the Whigs or Tories of that era) without these difficulties then you have to ask why there were few problems for 300 years, then lots of problems starting in @ the 1960's.

The reason I believe is the ideologies that drive the expansion of State power over the citizens. Call it the "Great Society" (LBJ) or the "Just Society" (PET, not even original then...) or whatever the flavor of the week is, the "Social Welfare State" offers more and more inducements to politicians and their hangers on looking for a meal ticket, and enough incentives to voters to believe they really can live at the expense of others to make it worth everything to win.

The ultimate solution: sharply limit the power of the State and disperse the powers over the broad mass of citizenry. The American experiment were even the local dog catchers had to be elected is about as close as we have ever come to that ideal; whenever the "centre" takes those powers upon themselves the rest of us loose.
 
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