American Politics – Power Now?

In past blogs, I’ve discussed the insidious and potentially deadly long-terns effects of the “now” mentality, particularly on American business, and how the emphasis on immediate profits, immediate dividends, or immediate increases in stock prices, if not all three, have had a devastating effect not only on the economy, but all across the society of the United States.  There is another area of American society where the “now” culture has had an even more negative and more immediate effect – and that’s on American politics and government.

Years and years ago, one of my political mentors made the observation that, in running a campaign, you had to give the voters a good reason to vote for a candidate.  Back then, that reason was tacitly assumed to be, except in certain parts of the south, positive.  Today, if one surveys political ads, campaign promises, and the like, that reason is overwhelmingly negative.  Vote for [Your Candidate] because he or she will oppose more federal government, more spending, more gun controls.  Or conversely, vote for [Your Candidate] because he or she will oppose cutting programs necessary for children, the poor, the disadvantaged, the farmer, the environment, etc. 

The synergy between the “now” culture and the ever more predominant tendency of American voters to vote negative preferences is an overlooked and very strong contribution to the deadlock in American politics. People want what they want, and they want it now… and they don’t want to pay for it now, despite the fact that anything that government does has to be paid for in some fashion, either by taxes, deficits, inflation, or decreases in existing programs in order to maintain other existing programs.

 In addition, as a number of U.S. Representatives and Senators have discovered over the past few elections, voters no longer reward members of Congress for positive achievements.  They primarily [pun intended] vote to punish incumbents for anything they dislike.  So a member of Congress, such as former Senator Bob Bennett of Utah, can vote for 95% or more of what the Republicans in Utah want and make two or three votes they don’t like, and be denied renomination. At a time when federal programs are vastly underfunded, the combination of voter desires not to lose any federal benefits/programs, not to pay in taxes what is necessary to support those programs, and to punish any member of Congress who attempts to resolve those problems in a politically feasible way, such as working out a compromise, results in continual deadlock.

Then, add to that the fact that politicians want to be re-elected, that over 90% of all Congressional districts are essentially dominated by one political party, and that thirty-one of the states have both Senators from the same political party, and that means that the overwhelming majority of members of Congress cannot vote against the dictates of their local party activists on almost any major issue without risking not being renominated or re-elected. 

Yet everyone decries Congress, when Congress is in fact more representative of American culture than ever before.  We, as a society, want, right now, more than we’re willing to pay for.  Likewise, our representatives don’t want to pay for trying to fix things because they want to keep their jobs, right now, regardless of the future consequences.  But it’s so much easier to blame that guy or gal in Washington than the face in the mirror.

2 thoughts on “American Politics – Power Now?”

  1. Kanonfodder says:

    I would say that if you had taken the long view back in the early 1900s, that you could see how it would play out. You could describe the mile markers along the way, just couldn’t place the dates beside those mile markers.

    Once the Senate become another representative of the people, instead of a representative of the State, we began in earnest, our path to destruction. Throw in the fact that we aren’t a representative republic…how can one person represent 750,000 people? Perhaps only New Hampshire has some semblance of how to do this, with each representative representing ~3,300 people. However since we keep pushing government up to the next higher tier, it becomes a one-size fits all approach that serves no one, and benefits insiders that helped craft the bill.

    Then we get to the whole NIMBY aspect of most people in society, and you have the recipe for a financial meltdown. As a human, it is difficult to not want to tinker with something, or want to make exceptions to a policy, or protect a program because of X. But until such a mindset becomes the prevailing one, that culture and country is on an entropic path. You can kick the can down the road for a remarkably long time, but you will hit the end.

    I personally equate the current situation in the US to a cross between the Garden of Eden, mixed with Moses leading the Jews to the promised land. We were there, and had a mostly sane government, culture, and institutions, but we lost our way, and we are about to begin our proverbial forty years in the wilderness. I don’t know if we make it through, or what it looks like on the other side. It won’t be pretty either, you have to throw in a lot of ore into the refinery to get a small amount of pure metal out. I think, as a society, we are going to spend a lot of time in the furnace and under the hammers. I keep on flashing back to Atlas Shrugged, albeit updated for today, and wondering if that is how we go. On a side note though, seems that most of the world is having their own versions of SNAFU building to a head.

    Have you ever read Generations, or The Fourth Turning? I haven’t read the books, but have read several essays from people on zerohedge.com. It is a very interesting concept, in the whole generational memory dying out, so every 4th generation you tend to repeat/experience a while not cataclysmic usually, is a future generational defining event.

    Which book/series of books are you most proud of for exemplifying how a society should function…or contrasting how a terribly flawed society functions, while believing it is a normal society.

    Looking forward to Rex Regis.

  2. Wine Guy says:

    Entropy, political or otherwise, is the norm. Why should we think that the U.S. is exempt from the same problems that saw the end of the Romans, Greeks, and (more recently) Japanese states?

    The real difference is that now it is happening to us.

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