Neighbors, our political system is broken. It is rotten from the top down. Republicans and Democrats are not going to fix it. Nobody in Washington is going to fix it. This experiment we have been conducting, where we out-sourced the job of protecting our freedom and looking out for our public interests to these two private political clubs headquartered in a distant capitol, has been and presently is a complete failure.
Despite an elaborate facade of input from local county committees, both parties are run more like top-down hierarchies than networks. Because of that, even the local people in these clubs can’t force those higher up the chain to stop doing the things you are against, even if they claim to be against these things themselves. Instead, the local people too often merely serve the role of excuse-maker. They don’t hold those higher up accountable, because they can’t, they can only make excuses for the outrageous actions that the party “leaders” in Washington and Little Rock perpetrate.
Maybe we were hoping that people we don’t know at the top of one of these D.C. hierarchies would look out for us, but the fact is they haven’t looked out for us. Realistically, there is no reason to expect that they will ever do so. They don’t know us and they don’t need us. They know lobbyists, and their funding comes from global corporations and special interests. They don’t even have to convince you they are any good to get your vote, they just paint the other side as even worse and then relentlessly pound your fear button.
To be fair, we at Neighbors don’t blame all of the public policy problems our nation faces on the two dominant political parties. A virtuous population is essential for self-government and we recognize that there has been a dangerous erosion of moral capital in America. We accept that this is a major part of the problem, but that part of the problem can only be solved by a moral awakening in individual persons, not reforms to a political system.
The other half of the problem are systemic ones, and it is these we hope to solve through communities of groups like Neighbors of Arkansas, hopefully establishing a pattern for people in other states to follow. Our candidate selection system is very badly designed if it’s goal is to represent the will of the voters back home, and/or to check and balance the various branches and levels of government. It is very well designed if it’s goal is to centralize political power so that all public policy decisions for a nation of 320 million souls are made by a corrupt ruling class in a single city.
Specifically, here are the problematic features of our current candidate selection system which undermine our system of government as originally envisioned by the Founders….
1) Candidates for state and federal officers are members of the same political clubs, undermining the original intent of the Founders that the state and federal governments would serve as a check and a balance on one another. Instead, they collude together to centralize power on behalf of those who run their respective hierarchies.
2) Members of the legislative branch of government are part of the same political club as the Governor or President who heads the Executive Branch, undermining the intent of the Founders that the branches of government serve as a check and a balance on one another. The Legislature in particular is meant to be the “People’s Branch” and representative of the people, not the head of whatever political club they are a member of.
3) The “first past the post” method of determining the winner for all state and federal offices artificially restricts people’s choices to two parties. Citizens are afraid that if they vote their conscience it will “split the vote” resulting in the election of their least preferred choice. But this method of determining the winner is not in the interest of the people. It is only in the interests of the two parties who don’t have to provide a product that people want- they only have to be less repulsive to voters than the one alternative. The parties do not use this method to select their own candidates, or elect their own officers- they have run offs. In addition, we have run-off elections for city and county offices already. Why not for state legislative races (at the least) as well?
4) The present system maximizes the influence and leverage of special interests against the influence of the folks back home. Under the present system, since all candidate choice comes through one of two political hierarchies, lobbyists need not convince each legislator as an individual of the merits of a bill, they need only get the party or party leaders behind it and the rest tend to fall into line. Not only that but….
5) Some special interests, such as big banking, have bought their way into influence in both major parties, meaning that the people who think the banks have been given too much don’t have a party to vote for on this issue. It is even worse at the federal level, where both parties push for global solutions to all issues, and only quibble about whose friends get the most money first.
6) The party system means that even the good legislators who are in the system face pressure to cover for bad ideas which have the favor of the party. When another legislator in their party is not telling the truth, they can’t call them out on it without facing blow-back from the group. The system retards meaningful dialogue between legislators and their constituents when the legislator is pressured to stay “on message” and tow the party line rather than simply tell the folks back home what they are really thinking.
7) The present system strongly incentivizes ugly mud-slinging and non-issues focused campaigns. Since there is only one other realistic choice, each side knows that if they can scare people out of voting for the other person, voters have no where else to go other than to vote for them. If there were a third, fourth, or fifth choice, the mudslinger would be hurt almost as much as the person they fling mud at.
These are fundamental, systemic flaws to our political system which strongly serve to centralize power. And of course power tends to corrupt. None of these serious and endemic flaws can be fixed working within the two-party system, because all of these outcomes are by-products of a two party system.
The only way these problems can be addressed is if people quit putting 100% of their political eggs in a two-party basket model that has consistently failed. We at neighbors want to be a network of community groups who recruit good people to run for state and local offices as Independents. If candidates we recruit are elected, they will not owe their election to a party label managed in Washington. They will not owe their election to some distant political machine, but to members of their own community, as well as their own personal reputations.
Once this approach catches on, we believe the state will move quickly to institute run-off elections for legislative offices, allowing people to vote their conscience instead of their fears. We believe that this more organic, more localized, more decentralized approach to electing the legislative branch will make it the People’s Branch that the Founders intended. We invite you to join us either as an individual, or as a grassroots group.