Deconstructing Our Impossible Political System

Imagine you are someone who cares greatly about a political issue. Campaign finance reform, internet privacy, tax reform, reforming agricultural subsidies… it could be anything. (And if you don’t care about anything political, once you’ve read this article you will understand why you care so little about it).

How are you going to make a concrete difference? How can you make sure your idea gets a fair hearing? How can you do more than just bash your head against the wall?

Well, if you’re already knowledgeable about the current political system, you know that this is an exercise in futility, and futility is what trains people in “learned helplessness”, what we normally call “apathy” when it comes to politics. People didn’t start out being apathetic about politics and power (just think of how incredibly motivated little kids are when it comes to advocating for their interests), they learned it from experience. Non-voters, and most voters as well, have realized the truth already, which is that their participation is mostly an exercise in futility.

If you don’t know what it would take to make a difference under the current system (the system without significant reform, such as Incorruptible Democracy, this is what it would take:
A) You probably need either a lot of money, or to join up with a special interest which has a lot of money, which you then use to legally bribe and support the politicians who are on your side, or which can be won over to your side. Some of them will milk you for all you’ve got, before they will fully support the idea which you believe they ought to have been supporting for free. Getting a fair hearing is very expensive, and may require an informal commitment to support the politician even after he has retired, by giving him a cushy job, etc.
B) Or, you are going to have to (sort of rudely) blast politicians with a ton of nasty messaging, letters, and threats (of the legal sort). (Note: you are still working for a special interest, as you do this. Hopefully you are good at working with others!). If you are a normal person, you will hate this, and so will the politician. But, it can also be effective.
C) You will probably need to engage in political advertising, to get as much of the public on your side as you will need to beat the politicians who are on the other side (and who are almost certainly supported by powerful special interests who are already making big bucks off of the status quo). You will do this while knowing that most politicians are in safe districts their party carved up via gerrymandering to be extra-easy to win in every election cycle, and so the politicians fear almost nothing.
D) Regarding advertising to the public, and whipping up your supporters along the way in order to gain the power of their passion: manipulation and subtle lying will probably be required. If you had the kind of strong conscience which made it possible for you to care about your fellow human being in the first place, you will also need to suspend your conscience for most of the process during which you are trying to do good deeds for your fellow man. The ideal person to have engage in politics is probably a benevolent sociopath, which is nearly an oxymoron.
E) You can only ever get a fair hearing for your idea or issue, if the party which supports your issue is in power. If it isn’t, you’re out of luck till the next election. And if what you support isn’t supported by either major party, you are probably permanently out of luck (it will take years, or more likely decades, just to convince a major party to support the issue).
F) If it’s a national issue, rather than win a mere majority of votes, at present you will need to win 60 out of 100 votes in the Senate, which is almost impossible for any issue, even some issues which are supported by over 80% of the public.
G) Oh yeah, you also need the President to be of the same party as the one which controls Congress (his veto is almost never overridden). And at the state level, you need the Governor to be of the same party as the one which controls the state legislature.
H) All this time, there will also be special interests which are opposed to your idea. It won’t be enough for an idea to benefit a large majority of the public; it will still be strongly opposed by those who hate it. Also, any issue which benefits most of the public, and which has still not passed, has not passed because the minority which is opposed to it is extremely well-funded and well-organized. There are no easy ideas left to pass, they all got turned into law decades and centuries ago.
I) At every step along the way, you will be contending with a public and politicians which by nature tend to have a strong aversion to change, because at least they’ve gotten used to the standard way of doing things, even if it’s lousy. Change can be hard for an individual; it can be even harder for a community, because that’s far more people who need to change, and they all have to somehow make a change in the same direction.
J) All this time, you will not only be opposed by the people who hate your idea, you will be opposed by a large faction “on your side” which thinks that your idea either doesn’t go far enough, or goes too far. Even if a majority of politicians and the public would support your idea if it was the only option, most of the time you won’t be able to get anything passed, because there will be supporters who will defect in favor of trying to pass a slightly different bill (sometimes they will be able to pull it off, and most of the time they won’t be able to pull it off until a lot of time has passed).
K) Even once your pet issue has become law, you will probably have to be constantly vigilant and hard-working for at least a decade, in order to make sure the opposition doesn’t manage to repeal the law. This is hard to achieve, because political power can be quite cyclical; the political opposition are quite likely to regain power soon, and they probably campaigned on repealing what you just passed.
L) Nobody wants to believe this of their idea, but even if you get everything you ever wanted, it may eventually become clear that it was a bad idea. Nobody’s right 100% of the time, you know? So, you’ve probably got to be irrationally confident to be willing to go through the whole process in the first place, which means you probably need to be committed to being willfully ignorant of opposing facts (that would weaken your resolve), or you need to be almost superhumanly capable of motivating yourself in the face of all odds (which could mean you are crazy in a noble way). It’s really hard to admit that you are a human being who makes mistakes, *and* to single-mindedly work your ass off for years for what you believe in.

Sounds exhausting and fairly hopeless, doesn’t it? I mean, what sane person wouldn’t be apathetic in the face of that many long-term obstacles and confusion?

The point is, there’s an easier way. There is a way to sidestep virtually all of that crap I just listed, and skip straight to getting a fair hearing for your favorite ideas, with easy passage of the bill if well-informed voters end up liking it.

That easier way- the reform which can make all manner of change possible- is Incorruptible Democracy.

Your voice has power- I’m applying Engagement Publishing to this post.

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