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5 Major Problems With the American Political System

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“America does not need another political campaign based on denial and avoidance of some of our real problems. It needs a crusade to reform and renew our country, its institutions and political system”

Richard Lamm

Abraham Lincoln described the modern democratic system as ‘government of the people, by the people, for the people’ and that it ‘shall not perish from Earth’. Unfortunately, the disconnect between people and their elected representatives today is one of the biggest problems with the American Political system.  The 2016 elections put the entire process under further scrutiny that continues till this day.

Political pundits and experts have pointed out various issues that exist in the modern political system. Some of these issues may be generalized to talk about other countries but there are a number of factors that make such assumptions inaccurate. This is why it is more effective to talk about countries separately. Here we discuss some of the problems with the American Political system and what impact they will have in the future.

Our Current Political System and How it is Broken 

America is one of the countries which have a rich political history. This eventfulness continues to this day. The current President, Donald Trump is currently embroiled in an impeachment inquiry that could see him being removed from office. His actions have intensified a debate about the flaws with the modern political system, something that was already under question in knowledgeable circles.

According to stats from 2018, Congress had an abysmal 17% approval rating. The trust that people have in the very representatives that they elect has been dwindling due to a variety of reasons. The American legislature also has a 95% reelection rate. These findings show most Americans hold the same view; that there is something wrong with our political system and that somehow, it appears to be broken.

List of Problems with the American Political System 

In order to understand how the system is broken, it is crucial to analyze the problems that exist in it. Democracy has always been a form of government in the United States but over time the very form of creating legislations, which were created to empower people, have become a source of discord with them. The current political outlook has brought this issue to light even more prominently.

To the people in America, the politics doesn’t make any sense. For one reason or another, millions of people across the country simply fail to understand where the status quo lies. There is always a gridlock in Washington and also in Congress. No matter who controls the White House, the Congress always remains in a stagnant state thanks to fluctuating numbers between Democrats and Republicans.

Moreover, as if the internal situation wasn’t troubling enough, the 2019 presidential campaign brought to light how foreign countries like Russia and major corporations like Facebook can help override popular opinion in favor of a specific candidate. Whether these allegations are true or not is yet to be revealed but the fact that they exist is a grim reminder that something is not right.

Some other problems with the American Political system include:

1. Money Brings Unprecedented Power in the System

Running an electoral campaign has become a complex job with the passage of time. Although it means that aspiring lawmakers have to interact one-on-one with the people in their constituencies, this is not possible at times. Congressional districts in America each contain over 700,000 people. There is no choice then but to rely on digital mediums to get the message across.

However, this is not the only reason why representatives have to enlist the services from third parties for financial assistance. The entire campaign has necessary costs. Taking donations doesn’t imply ‘corruption’ on the candidates as most people believe, but it does bring a conflict of interest at times. Donald Trump, for instance, has been accused of misusing funds from his private foundation for his election campaign in 2016. Although nothing has been proven, it still brings a cloud of doubt over the influence and role of money in the system.

Unfortunately, there are other avenues where money tilts the balance of power. Social media, for example, is an effective medium for engaging voters where representatives can’t reach physically. These mediums are meant to encourage unbiased discussions but then they also run paid advertisements which obviously forward the objectives of one party. This is just one way in which popular opinion is influenced through the use of money.

2. The Rules in Place Limit any Genuine Competition

Another one of the major problems with the American Political system is that representatives are split between the two main parties allowing less room for them to have their own policies. 75% of representatives are elected to office without having to communicate outside their own party. A candidate doesn’t have to be impartial to win but the government has to be bi-partisan to function.

Then, there are the parties themselves. The parties make voters feel like they are debating and fighting over issues like national economic and social problems but in reality, the focus is on blaming others for their mistakes, impractical ideas that appeal to extremists and negativity etc. Instead of having to pick from the best, voters are made to pick from the lesser of two evils.  

3. It is Hard to Pinpoint Stakeholders who Matter in an Election

A study conducted at Princeton University revealed that over the last twenty years, the desire of the average citizen had nothing to do with the laws that congress created. This dissuades many voters from participating in elections. Results of a recent survey revealed that forty percent voters don’t vote in presidential elections. In primary elections these numbers drop to just 5-20%.

Since they don’t participate in elections, non-voters don’t matter to candidates. Then there is the issue of ‘Gerrymandering’. It establishes an advantage for one party by manipulating district boundaries of electoral colleges in different states. As a result, only 24 out of 435 districts were considered competitive in 2016. If you were a voter in the other 411 districts, the outcome was already fixed and your vote didn’t make a difference. Similarly, unaffiliated voters excluded from primaries are also left out.

4. A Huge Problem Lies in how Lawmakers Perceive Politics

It is increasingly being seen that politicians no longer consider Congress to be the most effective place to indulge in lawmaking activities that benefit the people they represent. Executive branch agencies and courts are now substituting legislatures as the more appropriate venues to handle decisions of controversial or even traditional decisions.

This has risen as another one of the latest problems with the American Political system. American courts have been particularly active since President Trump took the office, having to shoot down several bits of laws and legislations that the Commander-in-Chief had passed in his tenure. The point to note here is that courts and branch agencies make decisions by replacing reason and technocratic expertise with the messed up realities of politics. In the process, voter demands are left in the dust.

5.Lack of Knowledge in Voters and Biased Reporting

Most voters get their knowledge about candidates from the local news channels. Whether it is from social media pages or traditional mediums, news reporting is the main source of knowledge for most of us. Sadly, news media is not as reliable as we suppose it to be. Channels report on topics that audiences want and not on what is true. This is one of the reasons why Michael Bloomberg’s announcement to participate in the 2020 election is being seen with extreme skepticism.

During the 2016 elections, channels were dominated by coverage of President Trump. This was only because of the fact that Trump draws ratings be it positive or negative, everyone was watching to see what his next move was going to be. This Trump craze became so extreme that on September 14th, CNN, MSNBC and Fox News all interrupted their primetime 8:00 transmission to show Trump leading a rally. This is one small example of why the media is not always reliable and also plays a role in swaying public opinion.

What Does This Mean for the Future of America? 

The problems with the American Political system has been growing over the past few years. Some of these issues have become so deeply embedded in the system that it is increasingly becoming difficult to weed them out. These problems have deep-reaching impacts on the political and economic future of the country.

The presidency of Donald Trump has shed light on a number of issues like the role of social media in politics and how influential members of the society and even foreign countries have the power to interfere with the local happenings. If this process were to continue, it would create a number of inefficiencies that divide the country and cause economic as well as social disruptions. One example can be seen in the recent rise of hate crimes across the country.

Conclusion

The American Political system requires a few tweaks here and there. These changes are needed on a regular basis because otherwise, the consequences could be damaging for the generations to come.

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Written by Spencer K.

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