Why is it so difficult to get large scale projects (like national debt reduction and major infrastructure projects) even considered in the United States political system? This is a question I started asking myself years ago when I discovered that the American electoral system has a 2 year cycle for Congress (aka Parliament).
It is apparent that it takes more than two years of work to get a candidate into position and raise the money that is required to run a serious campaign. This means that the Republican and Democratic central party support for a candidate is crucial; if the party threatens to pull support for a candidate (or currently elected official) they are all but doomed. And that means the candidates seldom stray from the party lines. And that means nearly every issue gets turned into a binary option; black or white; yes vs no and good vs evil. And that means very nature of politics, ‘the art of the possible‘, becomes unavoidably stalled. There is no middle ground and no serious negotiation in modern US federal politics. Each party sees the other party’s efforts as something to damned at all costs.
In the 1800’s political party support was hampered by a lack of communication. It was nearly impossible for a party managed on the East Coast to rebut a candidate’s position if he was running on the West coast. Today, that rebuttal and rebuke can be, and often is, literally instantaneous. If a candidate steps away from the party line, the party whip and others immediately jump on them using Twitter, YouTube, Facebook…
It was clear to me that the ONLY way to break these increasingly dysfunctional outcomes is to break the system. A two year election cycle is just too short in this modern world. The best of us will succumb to the need for self preservation and politicians are no different. Very few ‘average’ people, CEO’s, or politicians will choose to walk away from their jobs because of an issue, even one they are passionate about. You, I and they will nearly always justify bowing to pressure with the logic that we may have lost on this issue at hand but the larger issues and the next issues will be handled better if we are still in power. This is simply human nature and our systems, political and corporate, need to take this into account.
So, what can we do to about short-termism and the all-powerful need for self preservation in the American political system. It is clear that two party system in the U.S. is not going away in the next 25 years so the only left is to reduce the party’s strangle hold on ‘their’ officials by extending the terms. Options to be considered and argued include:
- a 4, 5 or 6 year term for Congress (aka Parliament) and possibly 8 or 10 or 12 years for the Senate
- setting a maximum number of re-election attempts (say to 2 or 3)
- a SINGLE extended term of up to 8 years
Lengthening and possibly limiting the terms of elected officials is something I have been arguing for for years but most people I discuss this with think it just can’t be done.
I had seen noted Economist Dambisa Moyo and heard of her recent book Edge of Chaos: Why Democracy Is Failing to Deliver Economic Growth, but for some reason had not appreciated the core content of the book. Spend 4 minutes and watch this video as she explains two of her ideas to fix the American political systems and why she thinks those changes ARE possible: