Ameican Political System Essay, Research Paper
Does the American Political system meet the needs of the American People?
“My brother Bob doesn’t want to be in government — he promised Dad he’d go straight” John Fitzgerald Kennedy. It s not whether or not the system can meet the needs of America, rather, why it does not the politicians. The American political system cannot meet the needs of the American people because the right people are not elected to office. The right people are not elected to office because they are usually new to politics, which means they start at the bottom as underdogs. As underdogs they need to run against wealthy politicians who build their campaigns on gold foundations, or ones who use dirty politics and mudslinging to divert attention from issues. They also need to fight the two party system that prevents alternative ideas from being expressed.
One of the most difficult obstacles to overcome for new politicians is gathering the financing necessary to run a successful campaign. Finding backers for new politicians is an extremely difficult task. They have little or no political past for their financial supporters to back, and without strong ties to their party, they are not necessarily going to receive campaign funds from one of the two primary parties. However, for long time politicians, who are usually the wrong representatives because of corruption that develops over time, raising money is an easy task. Because of this corruption, these politicians can easily lean on people they have developed strong ties with for money. Whether it is to a big business that has interest in a new hazardous waste policy not passing, that knows it can rely on this particular legislator, or a wealthy individual who doesn t want the new tax increase on the wealthy that also knows from previous experience, he can rely on this legislator. With all of these options for campaign donations, these campaigns can afford to be equipped with all of the bells and whistles to create an image for themselves, which they basically have bought. These conditions make it difficult for the new and upcoming politicians to get anywhere with their career. In New Jersey, political novice Jon Corzine, a Democrat, proved that money counts. The former chief executive of the Goldman Sachs investment firm spent a Senate campaign record of $60 million, mostly his own money, to fill a vacant Democratic seat. It doesn t make much sense for someone to run a campaign at the cost of millions of his or her own money to get a job that pays $100,000 per year. On September 22, 2000, the White House released a list of overnight guests in attempt to counter allegations that Hillary Clinton had been rewarding people making contributions to her Senate campaign. The list contained over 361 names, which Clinton had claimed were helping her to decide whether or not to run for office. After investigating the names, it was found that 100 had donated money to Clinton s campaign (Associated Press; September 22, 2000). The worst part about this list is that it only highlights guests of the White House after July 1st, 1999. It does not include guests during the previous 7 years of President Clinton s term in office, during which it is speculated there have been hundreds of other guests overnight at the White House. People such as Corzine and Hillary Clinton have their own agendas, agendas that are not the same as what the American people want. Why else would a person spend 60 million dollars of their own money to become elected to a position that pays a meager $100,000? They are buying their way into our government; they are buying themselves the opportunity to make the country run more as they see it. People that spend so much of their money to get elected aren t doing it so that they can change the system for the better; they re doing it so they can change it to meet their needs. By doing this, they are preventing those new politicians who would be better suited for the job and better suited to serve the American people as a whole, from being elected.
Another problem that new politicians and good politicians alike are faced with is dirty politics. Campaigns based on mudslinging and finger pointing are becoming more and more popular. When someone with a good track record in local or state government, and an image as a person who really is there for the people, is running for an office, incumbents seek to destroy this person at all costs. When they realize that they can t win fairly, they resort to dirty tactics. Whether it be to dig up all of the person s life for the smallest blemish, or to slam them with negative television advertisements, there can be some way, other than battling over the issues, to prevent this person from taking the incumbents job. And it s not always the incumbent leader who has to resort to these tactics. When the office, or seat is open, often one candidate will show himself or herself as being willing to stoop to these levels in order to prevent the other candidate from being elected. Take for instance, the epitome of dirty politics. With less than one week less before the Presidential election, news of a GOP candidate George W. Bush s DUI conviction of more than 20 years prior is leaked into the press. Within one week of hitting headlines, it was found that the Democratic Party was directly associated to the DUI information being leaked into the media. Another instance of dirty politics was when Gore had cartons of cigarettes handed out to Tennessee homeless in effort to have them fill out absentee ballots. This is a blatant attempt to buy Tennessee s homeless voters. Then there is the culmination of Gore s dirty campaign. Days before the election, after realizing he may win the Electoral College but not the popular vote, Gore was quoted in the USA Today. Gore told reporters it doesn t matter who wins the popular vote, the Constitution says whoever wins the Electoral College should be the President. Now, after Gore has won the popular vote, but may not win the Electoral College vote, Al Gore has begun to file lawsuits to try to find a backdoor to the White House, contradicting himself since things didn t go his way. One of these possible backdoors is the Palm Beach County scandal, which was revealed to have been created by the Gore campaign. According to the Associated Press, Faced with a cliff-hanger election, the Democratic Party directed a telemarketing firm on election night to begin calling thousands of voters in Palm Beach County, Florida to raise questions about a disputed ballot and urge them to contact local election officials. The problem in Palm Beach County was a supposed confusion over whether they had punched the hole for the candidate they wished to vote for. Democrats said that people mistakenly voted for Pat Buchanan, when they meant to vote for Al Gore. The ballot, known as the butterfly ballot, is used in many other counties across America, including 15% of Illinois Counties, where they have yet to complain of any problems (Chicago Tribune; November 10, 2000). It is not possible for the right leaders for our country to be elected when inherently bad politicians divert attention from issues and bring up negatives of their opponents past. There is so much power behind these disparaging remarks that often the people are inclined to vote for the candidate who doesn t look so bad. Because the dirty candidate doesn t look bad since the their opponent didn t stoop to such levels as to begin to throw dirt their way, or run negative ads on television, they are the candidate who looks more well suited to serve the people. What this means, is that playing unfair is what you need to win. Voting for the candidate who is better at dirty politics is hazardous to the American people. The candidates we need for our country to represent our wants are the ones who don t lower themselves to unfair play, and thus are less likely to be elected.
The two-party political system is by far, the most difficult hurdle to overcome for Independent candidates. Elections consist almost solely of Democratic or Republican Candidates, and gaining support as an Independent is near impossible. Very few people today, when asked which party they support, will answer anything other than Republican or Democrat. Many times these candidates would do a superb job representing the people from their district, or state. Sometimes these people come from parties such as the Agricultural Reform party. For a state such as Iowa, which is mostly farms, they would represent the needs and wants of Farmers in Congress. A person from that party in Iowa would be the right person for the job, but as a non-primary party, there is little exposure for them, and they have little odds of being elected. This alone, proves a tremendous obstacle for an Independent candidate to surpass. Throughout the 20th century, there have never been more than half a dozen independents in either house of Congress. As a country, we have never had an Independent President, and Judges extremely rarely come from parties other than the two primary ones. The most successful Independent in American History was Ross Perot, who gained almost 8% of America s support at the voting booths. But Perot s being a multi-billionaire was the main factor accounting for his support, something that most Independents run their campaigns without. The latest example of a high profile non-primary party running in a Presidential election is Ralph Nader. Hoping to receive up to 8% of votes, Nader would have earned Federal financing for the Green Party for the 2004 election. This would have been a great step towards party realignment had Nader been able to get 5% of votes. Unfortunately Nader only received 3%, so next election the Green Party will have to start again from step one, without federal financing that Republicans and Democrats receive. This just goes to illustrate the difficulty that non-primary parties face in elections. These candidates may be the best suited for office, but it is very unlikely that their voice will ever be heard since they face such a challenge in becoming elected to office. Since it is unlikely that they may be elected to office, it is unlikely that farmers will ever be better represented by a legislator from the Agricultural Reform party, or that Environmentalists will ever have a legislator supporting their wants in Congress. With the current two party structure, the wants and needs of individual Americans are simply not prioritized.
In Conclusion, the failure of the American political system to the American people is that the people who should be elected to better represent us, the people, and our wants and needs are not elected. These right politicians are not elected many times because they are mere political fledglings that lack the resources to acquire a good budget from which to finance their campaign. They are also not elected because often their opponents stoop to the low levels of dirty politics to divert attention away from issues. Then there are the politicians who represent the Independent party. Many times these politicians are the right ones for the job simply because they represent a particular interest from the community. They typically fail in elections because their very strong opponents in the Democratic and Republican parties usually dominate politics as a whole. In general because the right people cannot be elected to office, the needs and wants of the American people are not represented in our government. The American people lack representation by those who strive to please the people, and the system fails to serve the wants and needs of the American people.