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Are political categories dissolving? Could they?

| 31 Comments

Last weekend Carolina FreedomNet took place in Greensboro, NC, and was sponsored by The John Locke Foundation. During one panel, two particular questions asked in rapid succession were especially intriguing.

The first was from the head of the Locke Foundation. "Why are there so many national politics blogs?" he wondered.

The second question, from another member of the audience, was, "why is there such a persistence of the left-right dichotomy in the blogosphere?

The tentative answers of the panel were understandable: bloggers in general prefer national politics because it provides a larger audience and the left-right dichotomy persists because media discourse, particularly the left-leaning tendencies of the mainstream press, reinforces it.

But perhaps there is more at work than the ideological influence of the press . . .

Perhaps instead, the left-right dichotomy persists because of the overwhelming dominance of our two-party system, which itself defines issues and platforms in this fashion. This might explain the lack of more local political blogs as well, because local issues, while partisan, often break along much different lines than national issues, and frequently draw upon traditions that are older or more rooted than those of the national parties.

The answer might be that the left-right dichotomy will continue so long as the two major parties retain their dominance.

How long might that be? It's hard to tell. But perhaps one or both of the parties is not far from either a transformation into something else, or a dissolution into constituent parts.

Ryan Sager's recent book The Elephant In The Room describes the fissures between evangelicals and libertarians within the Republican Party. Another new foreign policy work, Ethical Realism, attempts to create a cross-the-aisle foreign policy consensus.

These thinkers either examine existing fissures or try to mold something new from what is already there. In other words, even they are not immune to the left-right spectrum so commonly in use. There are signs though that other categories are emerging and defining themselves in different ways. Virginia Postrel's 1999 work The Future And Its Enemies created new categories of politics that have retained lasting relevance: dynamists are those who are not afraid of change, and see a world of "constant creation, discovery, and competition," whereas stasists believe in a "regulated, engineered world." Postrel then divided stasists into two subparts, which often reinforce each other: reactionaries, who long for an idealized past, and technocrats, who have met no innovation undeserving of their control.

But that's just one example. PajamasMedia even as we speak is conducting a contest with an unusual goal: the naming of a new political category. They explain:
When Pajamas Media was just forming, a fair number of bloggers were uncomfortable with the conventional left-right, liberal-conservative dichotomized pigeonholes of the mainstream media.

We wondered how others felt, so in the fall of 2005 we looked for research on this area. Not being able to find any, we commissioned in October 2005, a poll with Princeton Research. Question 21 of that poll (hence the X21) asked if the respondents felt that the labels liberals”or conservatives applied to them. Not entirely to our surprise, an awful lot of people said no. A full 43% of those responding felt that the liberal nor conservative labels did not really apply to them, a percentage vastly greater than those who identified with either polarity.

But we also found these people aren't actually centrists in the conventional sense of that word. They have passionate feelings from all sides of the spectrum, not just the middle ground.
I submit that if any one issue is likely to sunder either of the two national parties, it is probably the war. Way back in the fall of 2003, Mark Helprin, once a speechwriter for Bob Dole, penned an indictment against both parties' understanding of national security in National Review [not available on the web, but see an overview of Helprin's work at my blog]:
America has approached the war on terrorism as if from two dreamworlds. The liberal, in which an absurd understanding of cause and effect, the habit of capitulation to foreign influence, a mild and perpetual anti-Americanism, reflex allergies to military spending, and a theological aversion to self-defense all lead to policies that are hard to differentiate from surrender. And the conservative, in which everything must be all right as long as a self-declared conservative is in the White House—no matter how badly the war is run; no matter that a Republican administration in electoral fear leans left and breaks its promise to restore the military; and no matter that because the Secretary of Defense decided that he need not be able to fight two wars at once, an adequate reserve does not exist to deal with, for example, North Korea. And in between these dreamworlds of paralysis and incompetence lies the seam, in French military terminology la soudure, through which al-Qaeda, uninterested in our parochialisms, will make its next attack.
"Paralysis" and "incompetence" are rather less flattering ways of defining our current dichotomy. But might they leach out into the public discourse? Consider WindsofChange's own Grim, who last week published a sense of mounting frustration:
I have lost all confidence in the Federal institutions governing our country, with the sole exception of the military. The institutions, which have served us well for so long, are breaking or are broken along key fault lines.
Far from being ignored, Grim's concerns were turned into a series by Cassandra of Villainous Company, another influential blogger. See Part I and Part II, already available. Back in June, a commenter on my blog offered this anecdote:
I recently went down to buy some hay for the Horses at the local agri dealer which by the way is near the Volunteer fire station and the site of course for local elections. The consensus there is We don't know what is going on! with Bush, democrats, The war.
All say the democrats don't field a person respected or believed enough to be voted for, all say Bush has screwed the pooch on this war.
All state Kerry is a jackass and Gore not trusted.
All state Islam is the enemy and many say Islam is the work of Satan.
The Immigrant problem is a hot button. less immigration is the idea.
One old WW 2 vet who fought with the 506 PIR 101 AA Div said, "This is the damnedest way He ever seen to fight a war." Half the government and the population is rootin' for the other side!
I think We will eventually win this war (by open warfare on a scale not seen before)though not in my lifetime and I am 53 but before we win we are going to get our collective asses kicked and a whole lot of folks are going to die.
Somebody up there in D. C. needs to get their shiite in one bag and get their asses in gear.
otherwise we might as well accept Sharia now and get it over with.
A message to the politicians in charge, "quit politicin' and fight the real enemy."

Is there something to all of this? Comment away!

UPDATE: At the risk of pushing my own work, it occurs to me that those interested in this topic may want to see two of my pieces for TCSDaily, Unfrozen Caveman Voter, and America's Schizophrenic View of Warfare.

31 Comments

The problem you describe is largely a function of the dominence of postmodernism. Everybody feels entitled to their own opinions, and facts. Therefore, uncomfortable facts do nothing to move one's worldview. The result is that everybody inhabits their own cocoon, and, incrememtally, the center no longer holds.

Are political categories dissolving? Could they?

As a recently registered independent, formerly a registered Democrat for nineteen years (since my eighteenth birthday), who is voting Republican clean down the slate this November (not because of any devotion to the party itself, but because I despair of the direction this country will take if the Democrats succeed in regaining one or both houses of Congress: I truly feel), I honestly hope so.

Not that my vote is going to make a hell of a difference, as I live in Southern California, one of the bluest of the blue states, but somewhere, I hope the tally of former Democrats re-registering as independents (my wife and several friends have done the same this elections) may give the party pause in its strategy of allowing policy to be dictated by the likes of the Kos and MoveOn crowd.

Crisis? What crisis?

Depends who you ask, for I find that it boils down to two attitudes: the ?everything?s OK crowd? or just ?get over it? versus ?if you?re not enraged, you?re not paying attention? side. In practice, most people will have a combination of these feelings or ideas. Example: Bill O?Reilly who, like him or not, does open up some sore spots in our society (cultural de-evolution) while totally being blind to others (differences in wealth). In affect, Bill and just about every other pundit is a hypocrite for they don?t want to change what benefits them but are very willing for change that affects others. This is just basic human/monkey nature.

So, Grim?s conclusion that the government is going to heck causes me to think of a famous lime by George Carlin: ?Garbage in, garbage out!? The root of a crappy government is caused due to a crappy electorate. The reason? Everybody is a freaking hypocrite, some more than others. Example: a recent poll found that the vast majority of voters are not happy with our current congress. Yet, this same poll group were content (over 50%) with their own local politician.

I think the issues run deeper than just what party you?re with or how did you vote last Tuesday. It deals with how we are evolving as a society. Or, more accurately, how far we are devolving (and we are in the latter trend for it can be objectively proven). It happens, look at France today, the ultimate in a self-centered society. How come there is no equivalent of Voltaire, or even Carnot, in their recent past? Look at Detroit, or New Orleans, or even California. A close parallel was with the end of antiquity and the downward spiral of self-destruction for the Roman Empire. This cycle largely brought about due a combination of roving hoodlums, changing religious landscape, squabbling and self-serving generals, and, the ever popular goal of having wealth without having to work for it (e.g. slaves). This last goal, very trendy today, destroyed what middle class the Roman Empire had left. It?s happening with us too now.

All in all, I?d say humanity hasn?t changed too much, we just have fancier shoes.

The 'left'/'right' dichotomy breaks down for many reasons, but the main one is because the majority of Americans don't hold ideological but rather practical views of both how to solve the problem and more basically what the problem is in the first place.

The approach of both parties defies American common sense, leading to a situation where most voters are voting against (what they fear about) one party, and not for either party. Hardly anyone voted for GWB in the last election, but a record number of people turned out to vote against John Kerry (a man so calculated to offend middle American sensibilities it almost seemed as if a conspiracy was behind his nomination and I don't believe in conspiracies).

The consensus view is that relatively straightfoward, albiet hard, answers exist to the present challenges. The American people accept that implementing these answers will be fraught with difficulty and sacrifice, but accept that because it is so clear in their minds that - for example - 'turning a few countries into parking lots' will definitively solve the problem and let them return to worrying about football, thier monthly mortage, and the kids soccer practice. The American people are increasingly frustrated that no one is doing what it is obvious to them to do. 'To hell with how many of the enemy die, so long as no one dares pull another 9/11 stunt (or no one is left alive to try) is the refrain of the 'American Street'', and if you don't believe me you spend too much time blogging and not enough time talking to ordinary folks. The American people are willing to trust more complex 'nuanced' plans so long as they see results. For example, pretty much none of Bush's supporters were happy with his 'small footprint' plan in Afghanistan, to be frank they wanted nukes, but since it succeeded so dramaticly (at least by appearances) this gave Bush alot of credit. 'Ok, I see you are on top of things, and not killing alot of Afghani children unnecessarily makes me happy.' Bush has basically blown that credit with a 'nuanced' approach to Iraq that hasn't shown alot of easy to see progress (even though in reality it has always been my opinion that Iraq succeeded at least as well as Afghanistan, and you can google my opinions going back for several years to verify that).

I've focused on the war, but this is true with regards to almost everything facing this country.

Add to that that most intellectuals aren't comfortable with punditry because in one area or the other both parties are so clearly (at least in thier minds) wrong, and the fact that neither party has any kind of ideological purity at present and you end up with a disenfranchised bitter electorate that doesn't feel it is really represented by the Federal government on just about any issue.

That's a very uncomfortable situation. I honestly believe the Republic is in danger of collapsing, and when that happens I can gaurantee that America will rediscover its love affair with the rifle. For get about GWB's sagging job ratings, have you seen what approval level Congress gets? But its even worse than that. It's not just that half of America thinks GWB is doing a bad job, but rather 30% of America believes that he rigged two elections, is running a facist regime, and engineered the 9/11 events to give him the political clout to overthrow American democracy. If I believed that we really had a coup by evil murderers who were threatening my rights and sovereign franchise, I'd have already organized a militia cell. Better to die with my boots on than in chains. The self described Left is a bunch of twits, but sooner or latter they are going to take their own beliefs seriously and heaven help us then. America is ripe for a period of political turmoil to once and for all iron out who won the culture war, who we are, who we want to be, and where we go from here.

I think we could easily break into a 3 or 4 party system at least temporarily as the divisions within the parties (democratic socialists vs. democratic populists, GOP conservatives vs. GOP libertarians), and the regional divisions between 'red' and 'blue' become wider. The simplistic bipolar world view just doesn't describe American political reality.

We could splinter even wider than that if we start shooting at each other.

Qutb said that the West was schizophrenic, and that this would be our great vulnerability. I think he borrowed the concept from the postmodernists, though. I was prepared to discount it, until I saw the reaction to Afghanistan and then Iraq. Now people are willing to underwrite a policy of paying off extortionists on the grounds that things were better when we did that under Clinton. And it's so easy to see that as silly, that one isn't challenged to think through the necessary critical path for the alternative approach.

I've felt, for a long time, that we need a new version of liberalism in order to effectively compete against a new version of totalitarianism. But it's more than just a conceptual thing, because we also need new institutions: a different kind of military, a more cosmopolitan orientation, and a new public intelligence system.

I have a longer comment "pending" because it had three links, but regarding the name of a new party how about the Liberals? I mean, granted most Americans will misunderstand it, but that's a good excuse to discuss the notion of classical vs new deal liberalism, and the notion that the US is THE liberal political culture. Which brings us to Liberalism 3.x... (Sorry no links. They're getting clobbered by the anti-spam software.)

No, the two-party system is engrained within the framework of the Constitution and it ain't going away. As long as there are two parties, there are going to be uncomfortable divisions.

What I think is happening right now is that we're going into an election cycle which is being played as a referendum on the governing party. The Democrats are not offering positive reasons to vote Democratic, but negative reasons associated with Republicans. This might persuade some voters to vote D and some voters to stay home, but some voters will be discouraged by the lack of positive choices.

Not that I think this is a bad short term strategy for the Democrats. Long term? Does anyone remember the Whig Party?

PD Shaw,
the two-party system is engrained within the framework of the Constitution and it ain't going away.
Can you explain? There's nothing in the constitution that about parties, and many of the framers frowned on the concept of parties.

I can sorta agree if what you mean is that the 2-party system is an stable emergent property of the polity enshrined by the Constitution.

The thing is, there could be other stable political arrangements under the Constitution. And if the system takes a big enough jolt, we could find ourselves in another local minimum pretty quick.

The Constitution is silent, but it sets the rules: (bicameral legislature, strong president, plurality voting). This is a fairly conservative arrangement. First of all to get laws passed, you have to get a bill through two houses and an independent president. This makes near-institutionalized caucuses the only efficient way to govern. Second, plurality voting means that there is little benefit to coming in second (or third, or fourth), so it makes more sense (partiuclarly at the Presidential level) for the smaller coalitions to join.

If there is ever a "jolt" in the electorate, they are going to demand action, something smaller parties cannot promise. More likely, a party will die.

I could be wrong, but the fact that Founders poo-poohed political parties and then promptly formed the first two-party system, makes me think otherwise.

"Everybody is a freaking hypocrite, some more than others. Example: a recent poll found that the vast majority of voters are not happy with our current congress. Yet, this same poll group were content (over 50%) with their own local politician."

I would say that wasn't likely a consequence of hypocrisy, but rather of diversity. I mean here "diversity" in the true sense of the word, not the PC sense. America's a big place, and our people come from everywhere. They want different things.

At the Congressional level, it shouldn't be surprising to find that this diversity leads to an assembly that is pleasing to no one as a whole. On the other hand, since they directly elect their own representative according to their values, it makes perfect sense that any given community would probably be pretty happy with their representative.

That's a different problem from any of the ones I've considered in the piece Chester cites. Indeed, I'm not really sure it is a problem at all. That part would appear to be the system working as designed -- giving everyone a voice in the final decision.

P D,
All good points. I thought that's what you originally meant.

The thing is, all the factions exist now, it's just that they have to pick one of the other party to join with. All you'd need for multiple parties is just naming the factions and formalizing their organization.

It would probably still tend toward two caucuses to govern nationally, but there's no reason to believe that these would have to remain parties.

They could be thought of as competing governing coalitions with individual parties joining or leaving based on their own interests.

I think the main reasons we're stuck with two parties is due to the difficulties of organizing national coalitions before technology gave us instantaneous communications and efficient country wide travel. It's continuing on momentum since then.

The thing is, all the factions exist now, it's just that they have to pick one of the other party to join with. All you'd need for multiple parties is just naming the factions and formalizing their organization.

And we could also take a dull saw and saw off our heads. Federalist #10 (Madison).

It's not all top-down and driven by electoral mechanics. We have real differences of opinion.

Radical political differences involve the strong desire to kill or to guard against killing large numbers of human beings.

There are two sets of such issues in play: the war, and pro-life/pro-choice issues, with the big one in numerical terms being abortion. One side says war, and woodsman spare that fetus, the other says no war and open season on human parasites. So each side has a "guard" list which is also the other side's "kill" list.

The same people who say there's too much partisanship and make a point of wanting more civility and fairness will persist endlessly in bitter, losing fights rather than join in consensus, if it's a radical political difference and singing in harmony tacitly means "OK, go ahead and kill them if you want." What we really want, and this is me too, is victory, no matter how long and hard the road, no matter the odds, and no matter how bitter the fight.

I think that while widespread radical political differences persist, intense partisanship will continue.

The size and pervasive influence of the state, and the immense size of the pot of spoils one can win or be excluded from, only contributes to the intensity of the political fight.

If the choice is between paralysis and incompetence I'll take incompetence every time.

Making mistakes gives an opportunity for learning.

The American system is designed to drive politics to the center. It is working pretty well.

If I was going to change something, I'd go back to the days when Senators were chosen by the State Legislatures.

Well, exactly. That was the point of the first recommendation -- to repeal the 17th.

#7 from PD Shaw,

Positive Choices?

Your positive choice is my abomination.

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

Our real problem is human nature. By age 20 most people's prejudices are permanently fixed.

You can't reason people out of something they were never reasoned into.

Reason is a scarce commodity. It is why engineers and scientists get paid better than janitors.

One can only hope that competing unreasons will cancel out and that reason will tip the balance.

#14

"Making mistakes gives an opportunity for learning."

Only if one is willing to acknowledge those mistakes.

Hmm, I'm fine with the two party system. Only though, if it is working. If one party is able to raise candidates and get office based simply on bald opposition to the other party, then the system is haywire.

I'm with Paine on this one. My mind might entertain multiparty ideas, but I feel that I can be a Jacksonian Liberal and still vote Republican. I don't have to vote for the 'Jacksonian Liberal' party to feel that I am being represented.

Let us detach our political identities from our party affiliation. That's a good start. Make your political identity be where you stand on issues, instead of on this 'spectrum' which just looks good on polls.

Consider a 'term' for each 'position' you hold, and then find the most general or important positions and amalgamate them into your identity.

I'm a Jacksonian Liberal, because I believe that liberty is the core of freedom, and the core of liberty in America is the American folk culture, despite its failings.

'Jacksonian' embodies, or should, five characteristics I consider important. 1. Self-reliance 2. Individuality 3. Equality 4. Risk-taking 5. Courage.

This informs where I stand on issues, but in no way forces me to join a 'minority' party. Do NOT make the mistake the Christian Churches did, dividing their position in the BODY GENERAL for a particular OPINION that they held. This path leads only to weakness. And as a Jacksonian Liberal, I can tell you nothing ends liberty like weakness.

2 cents depositied.

Grim was dead on in his essay. Repealing the 17th and restoring the Senate to its role as tribune of the States was central to what he was saying imho.

In a larger sense, the American people as a whole are disgusted with the political class, which has ignored their wishes and has not fought the war the way they would have fought it. But American politics is fought in the center, not in Kosville or on FreeRepublic.

We need to remember that.

#18 from Andy L,

Just heard Bush on the radio today say that tactics were adjusted continually in response to current conditions.

BTW the admission of error does not have to be public for changes to be made. Why give the other side ammunition?

I still think on the infrastructure side more attention must be paid to the Electrical Supply.

Grim

Are you serious? You want to go backward and repeal the 17th Amendment. It is bad enough that both parties can gerrymander districts to find enough votes to secure an ideological base. But now you wish to further insitutionalize the process by having senators appointed by the state legislature. that ruins your own definition of diversity("I mean here "diversity" in the true sense of the word, not the PC sense. America's a big place, and our people come from everywhere. They want different things.")(1). This idea has to include the states.

The dissolution of the primary parties has been something I have wanted for a long time. Both reek w/ hyprocisy that is hidden by the way sausage of legislation is made. It is the process that Americans do not wish to look it because when it benefits them(not as individuals but as interest groups) and disadvantages others it is worthwhile(cutouts-not the right word- like the bridge to nowhere in Alaska, tarriffs on goods produced outside the US, set aside in amendments to other bills). It is responsible for much of the cyncism and despair we see now. It allows the false dichotomy of left-right to prevail in the discussion and decision making processes by racheting the argument down to the lowest possible denominator. Picking Senators from state legislatures reinforces this idea.

My prefernece would be to change the way the election cycle is run. Campaign donations have become the free speech of elections. In order to get "your" speech out there you must promote it in the media therefore you need campaign contributions. While in the past this often meant "captive" newspapers it now requires the constant bombardment of the 24hr news cycle. I suggest to change this the law me amended to allow unlimited contributions by the "individual" but not corportions, interest groups, 529 et al w/ the caveat all must be reported immediately the day given and all spending even for future events be accounted for immediately. One can argue that the election is bought but to my way of thinking that is not the case for if you believe it is bought if the record says who paid you can argue about their purpose in a straight forward manner.

(1) is a footnote to acknowledge Grim's post #10

I'm entirely serious about repealing the 17th. The states are a primay unit of achieving space for that kind of diversity I mean. I'll explain.

It shouldn't be surprising that Congress is disliked by most people, I argued above, because it is a conglomeration of representatives from many different regions -- most of whom will want different things than what you want, America being America. If we stopped there -- having a diverse Congress that everyone hates -- we'd have diversity, but no happiness.

The states allow us to have both diversity and happiness. They allow us to all be Americans, and yet have different laws -- that is, different resolutions to complex political questions. Thus, Americans can be happy whether they are for gun control (i.e., they can live in Illinois or Maryland), or totally opposed to it (Vermont and Alaska), or somewhere in between (Georgia or Indiana). Other social questions can likewise be resolved in this diverse way, such that there are fifty different sets of resolutions from which to choose.

If you are but willing to move and take the work that you can find in your new location, you can pick the one that makes you and your family happiest. If work is more important to you than these kinds of social questions, that's fine too. The point is that the states' freedom to make these kinds of different laws and resolutions increases real freedom. We are substantially freer to live the kind of life we want, because the states can make different resolutions.

Several factors relate to undermine that approach. One is the essentially unlimited nature of the 14th's jurisprudence; another is the fact that Congress is currently unified on the most expansive possible reading of Federal power. This is because there is no one there to represent the interest of the states -- which is what the Senate was designed to do.

To the degree that the states are disempowered and forced to accept 'one size fits all' solutions, Americans are less free. They are also likely to be unhappier -- just as we are unhappy with Congress, even though we like our personal representatives. It is important to protect the ability of our diverse communities to come to solutions that are satisfying to them.

Repealing the 17th isn't a 'step backwards,' as if there were some linear scale. It is more like a rebalancing of the load on a ship. When we ratified the 17th we shifted the load, by changing the distribution of power between the two basic units of the government (i.e., the Federal government and the states).

It appears to me that our shifting of the load has caused us to list in an undesirable direction. The way to fix that problem is to rebalance the load.

I posted my comment on the 17th Amendment over at Grim's post that references it.

I don't think repealing the 17th would do anything unless a majority of the country adopted Grim's strongly-held views on federalism. If they did adopt such views, repealing the 17th wouldn't be necessary.

Over here

Amen, Grim.

Though he is right, Gerrymandering must be dealt with in a serious way if we expect repealing the 17th to have any significant impact. Or, at least, that would be my judgement.

Grim:

James Buchanan thought rather intensely about the problem of reforming the legislature in The Calculus of Consent, but toward the end decided that it simply wasn't politically feasible. He therefore devised a different means of achieving something like the same goal of stabilizing the political churning for control of resources. The concept is something he called the Generality Principle, which may have originally been a term coined by F.A. Hayek. The idea is to establish a flat tax combined with a demogrant. Everyone pays a flat percentage of their income in taxes, and everyone receives an equal portion of whatever is left after taking care of common defense and civil order (military and police).

The tax rate is up for negotiation, as is the amount of the demogrant. The rate can be anything from some basic level of subsistence for military and police, to 100%. The only restriction is that everyone pays the same rate, no exceptions, and everyone receives an equal amount of the remainder. Therefore, the system can be redistributive, if that's what people choose.

His argument is that such a system fundamentally changes the context of ecoonmic and political life so that parties and factions can no longer argue that they have uniquely just claims on resources. All such biased claims are illegitimate. The result is a system in which everyone has a stake, but that preserves as much individual initiative and responsibility as people feel is wise. It's not perfect, but it may be good enough.

And since the context has changed institutions will be compelled to adjust to it. Hence, we don't need a new and infeasible "calculus" of consent. It's built into the system by the principle of generality.

The left-right dichotomy continues because people get ideas handed to them in part by the media, and the media prefer a simplistic left-right model.

To clarify, people on the left and right usually honestly believe their positons. The problem is that a one-dimensional left-right model leaves out lots of folks. Consider a two dimensional model and you see what I mean. Think of economic/regulatory issues as one axis, with statists/socialists on one end and free-market folks on the other. At right angles, a social/cultural axis with traditionalists on one end and anything-goes folks (gay marrige, polygamy, prostitution, abortion, etc) on the other. You then get a four cornered chart, in which the corners could be called conservative, liberal, libertarian, and populist. Try drawing it out. Then see where you fit, where various politicians fit, where your favorite bloggers fit, etc.

The left (including the mainstream media) think everyone who disagrees with them on anything is a 'right winger', a category that includes real conservatives (social tradition & economic freedom), populists (social tradition & economic regulation to help the 'little guy'), and libertarians (freedom & more freedom). And then they call people fascists, totally blowing the concept that actual fascists were socialists and cultural anti-traditionalists (i.e. leftists).

As per Dr. Ken, here's a site with a survey quiz that places people into a four corner model. Political Compass

And then there are the folks like myself who see the polarization as marginalizing politics and moving away from the basis of liberty: personal responsibility and rights to uphold them.

This move to right/left was once able accommodate personal freedom and liberty and generally keep out of things of no business to the government. This 21st century is offering challenges that an actual Republic could handle, but this Nation festooned with the barnacles of the 20th century can't see the threat nor address it properly. Personal responsibility and adherance to Nation are two things that are the basis of the freedom of the US, but have been badly overlooked by trying to have government address it. A robust and involved government may have served some purpose for temporary social ills, but those things have now become fixtures on the political landscape to no good purpose.

The idea that the House can set its own size is really more than what the founders gave it to manage itself. By doing that the House is allowed to dilute the views of individuals by being a 'manageable' institution. The point of the House was that it was unmanageable and should be the raucous hubbub of the People of the Nation giving political vent to their ideas on problems and problems and ideas. By sinecuring the House to a set size, it is guaranteed to become calcified in its course. That is what the Senate is FOR, not the House. The Senate was made so that it would be the more reasoned deliberative body that would have to actually address the House on matters of legislation and explain why certain things were good for the Nation. That, today, is so badly muted and so contrary to the way things are run that, by proportion, the Senate has a turnover that is greater than that of the House for representation.

Amendment XVII address the Senate and gives qualifications for those elected by the States. As such it is not of great concern due to the length of term served. And while there are a number of Senators that have served for many years, it is worrying that the House also has individuals that have served for equally long periods with no turnover. This in a Nation that is described as having one of the most mobile populations on the planet. Yet it takes truly huge demographic swings in a district to actually get a new representative.

My most simple proposal is to eliminate House staff and set the representation level at the maximum allowable: 1 representative per 30,000 people. Doing that will actually decrease the entire number of people able to serve the House once its HUGE STAFF is included. At that ratio even small towns would be looking at at least one if not two representatives and actually being able to identify and possibly even see your own representative, personally, and not get flacked by a staffer improves greatly. Suddenly the entire complexion of government changes as the House can then have direct and local oversight of Federal projects and bodies. With that number just around 10,000 not only does each Agency get oversight, but it moves pretty close to the departmental level, too. And, as 'many eyes make good code' in open source programming, so do many eyes redline the tax code to get it to something understandable.

But the hue and cry of it being 'unmanageable' will be brought up! The reply: look at social networking capabilities and distributed networks of interaction for the entire House and decentralize it from Washington. Make it virtual with online discussions and voting over secure military networks or a special network given over to Congress only. The daily voting screen of bills to vote on would be the quick and easy way to get legislation passed... and allow for individuals to schedule time to network and research what is really needed for each Bill.

The Senate faced with a distributed, flexible and many-eyed House ready to tear into bills to expose waste, fraud and abuse would suddenly find itself at a loss as pork-packers. And the House, itself, would also find itself at the mercy of any single member looking to expose such. Self-motivated individuals would look at serving in the House as a job not a political stepping stone. For a few years every lawyer would be swept up off the streets until they learned that service in the House is its own reward, and then looked for something better to do. Actual Citizens who are interested in Government could run and with just a bit of backing get that necessary slim majority in their community to serve that community.

A nasty transition? Yes.

Unworkable? Not in the least. The House is nearly there, anyways, with voting now taking place outside the actual Congressional halls by electronic means.

Need to address all of Congress? Find a stadium and rent it for an evening. A small sporting arena would serve... and the military actually has some that would be able to serve for that.

The problem is not that there are two parties.

The problem is that there are not enough politicians who are civic minded to keep them honest. And the current two parties would most likely start to retreat to more traditional roles as arenas to discuss ideas to help the Nation, rather than to help themselves and politicians and ideologues. Get the House back to 19th century proportionality and handle it with 21st century electronic means and this Nation will see the end of polarization as that will get nowhere in legislation.

The largest group of voters is now Independent, so this '50/50' Nation is more like 30/30/30/10 with that last part the disaffected that have been prennial for the Republic. The race now is by the first two 30's to see how many they can convince to stay away from the polls so that they can 'win' a majority of what is left. Change representation and suddenly local races are of local interest and people rejoin the Republic to vote. Because, at 30,000, every single vote counts in every election for the House.

The Senate as originally designed was supposed to represent the States vs the Federal government.

With the 17th the Senate came to represent Federal power with no check from the competing power center of the State Legislatures.

The 17th eliminated a check on Federal power.

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