3 steps to fix the political system the Parties have broken

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Image: Flikr (Keturah Stickman)

RANCHO SANTA FE, Ca., March 3, 2014 – Our political system is dysfunctional if not completely broken. It has become so corrosive that many citizens have abandoned any hope of changing it for the better. Others are inclined to commit their blind allegiance to a particular Party; convinced that it occupies the moral and intellectual high-ground while the other Party is comprised of only slightly-evolved Neanderthals. To paraphrase Eldridge Cleaver: Neither behavior represents part of the solution, but rather, both are part of the problem.

It is particularly important that we begin to address the issue today. 2014 is a mid-term election year. If we don’t begin to pay attention now, 2016 will be upon us before we know it, and the stakes will be even higher then.

Luckily, the solution is completely within our control. However, we must first understand what has created this political disease before we reveal how to cure it.

SYMPTOM #1: The 2014 campaign season will be launched with primary elections that the public will largely ignore.


Many citizens have been conditioned to believe that primary elections aren’t “real” elections and that they only need to vote in general elections. Now, think about the consequences of that belief.

If it describes you, you will have essentially entrusted your vote to those who are more zealous about politics. Then, realize that “more zealous” often translates into “more extreme.”

While the words “more extreme” may somewhat reflect the concerns you have about our current political environment, they are music to the ears of the Parties. If the Parties are only required to pander to their “more extreme” elements, it will actually be easier for them to position arguments, enflame emotions, and attract money and votes for their candidates during the primaries.

Keep in mind: The result of a primary directly limits the choices you have in the general election. You may be upset with the direction our Country is heading, but the Parties will only offer candidates who will perpetuate the status quo.

Have you ever heard the phrase “garbage in; garbage out”? That’s exactly why primaries are important.

If you only have the opportunity to choose between “the lesser of two evils,” you are really being presented with a Hobson’s choice from a Party perspective. If you lean Left, you have to vote for the Democrat in the general election because the Republican simply must be worse. Conversely, if you’re a Conservative, you have to vote for the Republican because the Democrat cannot possibly represent a better alternative. After all, that’s what the Parties have conditioned you to believe.

Notice there was no mention of an independent or third party candidate who might actually represent the best interests of the People rather than a Party. That’s because those types of candidates rarely make it through a primary. If those who call themselves “Independents” ever chose to “get off the sidelines” and cast their votes en masse in the primaries, we might begin to see the makings of a political revolution; one in which you would have a true choice between candidates in the general election rather than the controlled choice you have now.

SYMPTOM #2: The mid-term general election will be treated by many as only slightly more important than its primaries.

The revered television series All In The Family hammered home the message in a classic episode on October 30, 1971, when Archie Bunker said, “I save my vote for the biggies” (meaning he only voted in Presidential elections). Later, he found himself unable to vote because his registration had lapsed.

Given the embarrassingly low percentage of Americans who traditionally exercise their right to vote during mid-term cycles, both Parties must be replete with their own versions of Archie Bunker.

This particular symptom parallels the problem described with respect to primaries only with a greater impact. It means tens of millions of Americans are forsaking one of the most critical rights we possess: the right to freely participate in the final choice of political representation; a right that billions of other people around the world would do anything to possess.

Apparently, the conservative and progressive Archie Bunkers among us do not find mid-terms to be worth their time, or they have been led to believe that it is okay to assign their responsibility to the “majority.”

It is possible they missed the part of the Declaration of Independence that comes immediately after the listing of some of our unalienable rights; the one that states, “That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”

Given the decline of our education system, perhaps the dual concept that addresses the purpose of our Government and the source from which it derives its power is too difficult to grasp. Maybe the first three words of the Constitution can provide a degree of clarification.

That document begins with the words “We the People” … not “We the Democrats” or “We the Republicans.” The Constitution is about us, and it focuses and limits the authority of the Government to serve us. It is not about maintaining and expanding its own power or the power of the Parties.

When you don’t vote, you virtually assure that the Parties will remain in power … and nothing will change.

SYMPTOM #3: “If you don’t vote for a Party candidate, you’ll be wasting your vote.”

How many times have you heard someone say, “If you don’t vote for a Party candidate, you’ll be wasting your vote”? Worse yet: How many times have you told someone that?

The more you’ve heard it (or said it), the more embedded it becomes as a belief. It’s called behavioral conditioning: Introducing a thought and reinforcing it until it becomes a belief that can alter your behavior.

The Parties have become masters at exploiting negative emotions like “fear.” They position the opposing candidate as nearly satanic. Then, they suggest that he or she must be stopped. Next, they try to dissuade you from to considering any alternative other than theirs because “you’ll be wasting your vote” … and you comply.

If it sounds sinister in a political sense, that’s because it is.

The two major Parties have worked diligently to create a political duopoly that inures to their benefit rather than to the benefit of the People. They have constructed an impressive array of hurdles to preclude competition.

The first is applied at the State and local levels. It deals with erecting barriers to ballot access that are significantly higher for independent and third party candidates than they are for Party candidates.

If that hurdle is cleared, the Parties throw money at the problem. They control a major portion of traditional media through ad buys and access, which is designed to suppress the visibility of any alternative candidate.

If such a candidate continues to gain traction, the Parties have to rely on their ace in the hole: The behavioral condition they’ve developed over decades that suggests that an independent or third party candidate “can’t win” and that you would be “wasting your vote” if you were to cast it for such a candidate.

Please note that there is no logic behind that assertion. If such a candidate got the majority of the votes, he or she most certainly would win. The statement is simply reiterated to shape your beliefs …and it is your beliefs that drive your behavior.

So, here is the question you should be asking yourself.

Which is the greater waste: To vote your conscience for the candidate whom you believe will do the best job for the People … or to effectively surrender your vote to a Party that has trained you to believe you have no other choice?

Think about that.

We are not compelled to favor sound bites over solutions or promises over performance. We are not required to elect those who comply with the will of their Party as opposed to those who would exercise independent judgment. We’ve just been conditioned to behave that way.

However, the fault does not reside with the Parties. It resides with us.

We have allowed them to convince us that, in the Land of Liberty, we don’t have the right to exercise free will. We have allowed them to instill the belief that we must choose between “the lesser of two evils.”

THE CURE

In reality, there are only three things that are required to “cure the disease.”

First:  Each of us needs to commit to exercise our right to vote rather than delegating that responsibility to others.

Second:  Each of us needs to recognize that our right to vote carries with it a civic responsibility: The responsibility to become informed.

Third:  We need to find the courage to cast such an informed vote.

2014 is another election year. Please make a commitment to vote. Then, honor your responsibility to become informed. Finally, when you enter the voting booth on November 4th, demonstrate the courage to vote for the candidates whom you believe represent the best interests of the People … rather than just the best interests of a Party.

If we all followed these three simple steps, we might be pleasantly surprised on November 5th and once again begin to see real political progress in our great Nation. The choice is yours. Don’t waste it.

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A Civil Assessment has been designed to serve as an Op-Ed forum for YOU. You are invited to offer your opinion and to discuss your position in the Comment Section. Please be sure that your “assessments” remain “civil” so that they may earn the respect of others.

*****

T.J. provides nonpartisan political commentary every other Tuesday on The Daily Ledger, one of One America News Network’s featured shows, and he will be hosting the program on March 6th.  Please check local cable listings for the channel in your area or watch online at 8:00 and 11:00 PM Eastern / 5:00 and 8:00 PM Pacific.

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TJ OHara
T.J. O'Hara is an internationally recognized author, speaker and strategic consultant in the private and public sectors. In 2012, he emerged as the leading independent candidate for the Office of President of the United States. Along the way, he earned the first Presidential endorsement of the Whig Party since the 1850s, his website was archived by the Library of Congress for its historic significance, and he won the first on-line “virtual” Presidential election (conducted by We Want You) by a commanding 72.1% and 72.7% over Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, respectively. His column explores our Nation’s most pressing issues, challenges conventional thinking, and provides an open forum for civil discussion. Learn more about TJ at his website and connect with him on Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, YouTube and Twitter (@tjohara2012). To order his books, go to Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords or Sony Reader.
  • Tim Kern

    “First: Each of us needs to commit to exercise our right to vote rather than delegating that responsibility to others.”
    TJ, I assume that “each of us” means “each of us voters who thinks, understands, and weighs the candidates and issues” rather than just “make sure everybody votes.” In that case, you need “Fourth: discourage those on the take and the just plain stupid people from voting.”

    • Thank you for your comment, Mr. Kern.

      I believe I mentioned that “Each of us needs to recognize that our right to vote carries with it a civic responsibility: The responsibility to become informed.” That was included to address the concern you raise.

  • Andrew Evans

    Personally, the more I look at the electoral system of
    the states and the U.S. as a whole. Disclaimer: I am no expert. So many
    Americans are have their right to vote restricted to just the general election.
    As I mentioned last week, opening the primary of every political party to
    every voter must happen.

    As a national leader in the Modern Whig Party, I understand a party’s desire to protect their
    interests. BUT the only interest that matters is that of the American people. Political
    parties exist to influence government and to elect candidates to participate in
    government. While Political parties are not part of the government structure of
    the U.S., they are affiliated with it because of their reason for existence.

    Again, let me state. The only interests that matter are that of the American people. Candidates running form political parties or as independents are seeking to serve in public office. The public should be able to determine and vote at every stage of the election process in any party. Why?
    The parties should exist to serve the people. Period. This would help reduce “the
    lesser of two evils” syndrome and hopefully empower and reengage a significant
    proportion of the American people in their civic duty.

    Unless quality public servants who are answerable to the votes and support of the American people, instead of a select few because of party registration are elected we will end up with a poor quality government. As an American citizen, that is not acceptable to me and should not
    be acceptable to any American.

    • Thank you for your comment, Mr. Evans.

      Having had the honor of the endorsement of your Party during the last Presidential election, I know how seriously the Whigs focus on the best interests of the People. I also know how stringent your vetting process was to make sure that all of the considered candidates aligned properly with the Whig philosophy, which honors independent thinking, requires a believe in a meritocracy, and demands demonstrated integrity.

      True to that philosophy, your Party never asked me to officially become a member in return for its support nor did it ever try to influence my position on any issue. If the major Parties followed that same course, many of our political issues would be resolved. Their problem is the inevitable quid pro quo they demand for the money and support they pump into their candidates’ campaigns. As a result, they inherently influence their candidates to take positions that are in the best interests of the Party rather than necessarily the best interests of People.

      The major Parties have also erected incredibly high barriers with respect to ballot access, etc. as you mention. Until the People demand that the playing field be leveled, it will be difficult for any alternative candidate to compete.

      As I suggested in the article, the trump card is still held by the People. If they take their responsibility to become informed voters seriously and then cast such an informed vote, we are likely to experience a greater level of positive political change than anyone can otherwise imagine.

      Thank you again for your comment and for carrying the banner for one of histories most underrated Parties.

      • Tim Kern

        Why would any party run a candidate who wasn’t aligned with it, when such a candidate would certainly be available? Why would a party have a platform at all?
        Where is the party that truly believes in the limited government spelled out in the Constitution? [When was the last time an elected official in DC said to a bloc, “You can’t have that; it’s not in our Constitutional authority to do that.”]
        Where is the party that says simply that all laws apply equally to all people? [Lois Lerner can do what she wants, regarding testimony; Eric Holder can tell state AGs what laws he wants them to enforce; BHO can write law from the Oval Office, and amend and negate what laws he wants.]
        Where is the party that recognizes only individual rights and not “group” or “class” rights? [What is the cry about a “war on women” if it is not really a “war on men?”]
        Where is the party that admits “group protections” are really just group privileges? [Why is someone killed in a “hate crime” entitled to better justice than some other poor slob who was just killed?]
        Where is the party that says government workers (including military) should be paid fairly during their service, but not for life? [Pensions (a management escape from responsibility) are an admission that the worker was underpaid; are a tool of lifetime control; and because of different longevity, pensions are completely unfair, both in concept and in practice. And expensive beyond reason, with no responsibility redounding back to the bad management that granted them.]
        Until this country consciously returns to the rule of law and the understanding that there are no “groups” (only individuals); and until this country understands that “borrowing” implies a plan and method to repay; and until tyrants are flushed away with the rest of the sewage, this country will continue to eat itself from within.
        Sorry, it doesn’t matter who gets elected, unless these principles are part of the deal. The flavor of the poison is irrelevant; its components are all that matter.

        • Thank you for your comment, Mr. Kern. I hope everyone reads it because you raise questions that should be raised. Unfortunately, there are very few forums in which such issues are ever discussed. Luckily, this recurring column (“A Civil Assessment”) is one of the few.

          While I applaud the questions you raise, allow me to reflect on just a few for those who wish to use this forum to engage in a discussion of your points (which I strongly encourage).

          There probably is no such thing as a candidate who is aligned with a party platform. Most candidates have never read their Party’s platform because, if they had, they would be embarrassed to pretend that they support it. For those who would like a glimpse into the absurdity of the DNC’s and RNC’s actual platforms, I would encourage reading the satirical dissection of those documents that I wrote in “The Left isn’t Right” and “The Right is Wrong” (available at http://www.amazon.com/T-J-OHara/e/B004ASPJUO/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_pop_1).

          Generally speaking, candidates align with the the Parties with which they most closely identify more for the money and infrastructure the Party has to offer rather than any altruistic commitment to its principles. The core principle the candidate most often shares with hie or her Party is the intense desire to “win.”

          That brings us to another issue that you raise.

          Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution does a relatively thorough job of defining the limitations of our Federal Government to which you allude. However, as you also suggest, few if any of our politicians seem to be familiar with the Constitution in general much less that particular section.

          As I have written in other articles as well as in “The National Platform of Common Sense” (also available at Amazon and elsewhere), wouldn’t it be interesting if we were to administer a test to our elected officials and to any future candidates with respect to their understanding of the Constitution given that it plays such a significant role in their Oaths of Office (see last week’s article: “Will we survive the real Cold War”)? If our leaders are willing to take an Oath that they either don’t understand or are willing to ignore, perhaps we have an explanation of why they seem to be failing so miserably on our behalf.

          Just a little more “food for thought” to help kick off the discussion around your points.

          I hope others will join the conversation and share their views of the excellent points you raise. I’ll try to “spread the word” through Twitter, etc. to direct your questions to their attention.

          Thank you again for your comment.

  • Erick Carpenter

    TJ that assessment is accurate, but i feel that until the money is withdrawn from the candidates, and from the parties, we will continually be bombarded with those that on the surface have our best interests at heart, and will play on the emotional strings of the people (who are uninformed enough to buy off on it)

    And the candidates will get elected, protecting their donors interests, and their own interests by spending over 60% of their time getting re-elected to office, by raising more funds for the party.

    Our system, unfortunately, is broken beyond repair, I think. And until it comes time where the economy finally collapses or some other incredibly bad incident takes place, it will continue on.. The general population of the US is fed by television, which is the strangest view of reality that I have ever witnessed, and no longer do. We quit watching television years ago, but what permeates the media is atrocious….

    However, I can hold out the hopes that people like you might be able to wrest power away from those currently in place… Good luck…

    Erick