During the 2016 presidential election campaign, candidate Donald Trump repeatedly chanted that he was going to “drain the swamp,” that had infested Washington. Contrary to his word, as is so often the case, President Trump has successfully managed the growth of that swamp into a cesspit of corruption, backstabbing and political manoeuvring all which benefits nobody least of all the American citizen.
This isn’t a recent development and though it is easy and often true to blame president trump for most of the failings of the US in recent years the rot in Washington goes back further than him. The question now must be not who is to blame but is the system salvageable? Can Washington and the federal government be made to work for the average US citizen again for if it can’t what is the point of the United States?
Public Servant vs Political Career
One of the most common threats that can be used in politics today is the threat of being primaried. This has been a regular threat used to keep congressional members from diverging from the party line but it raises the question if the party line is different to the views of your electorate and you instead follow the party for fear of being primaried then are you now putting your political career above the will of the voters?
All politicians are first and foremost public servants as a result the second they start to talk about their political career rather than their voters is the moment they start putting themselves first. Too often these days are votes carried through on strict party lines with the only defections coming from those whose time in office is coming to an end of those who don’t have the threat of re-election hanging over them. In the recent impeachment case against President Trump in the Senate news coverage seemed to focus for potential defections from Senators who were not up for re-election this year or who had already announced their retirement come the end of their time in office. I think this is a flawed concept. Regardless what you think about the recent impeachment bill or any that is bought to the floor we shouldn’t be asking ourselves who is up for re-election… ok let’s discard them now who is in a safe seat… ok they may vote against. We should instead be asking what is right and what is wrong and what do their constituents and by enlarge the country want and take the voting line from there.
This love of career over duty is the rot at the core of Washington. While there are plenty of other issues in Washington if this can’t be fixed then there is no hope for the system.
So what are we going to do about it?
It is funny to speculate about changes to the system of government as they would first have to be put to the government before they have a chance to succeed but for the sake of argument let’s say that changes could be enacted what would they be? I must stress from now on these are my opinions for changes to the system and they come from a personal dislike for these systems and a review of other governments and how they work especially in regards to these issues.
the Senate Majority Leader
As of November 2019 the House of Representatives lead by the Democratic Party has passed nearly 400 bills ranging from election reform to equal pay and minimum wage rises with some bills even gaining bipartisan support. So why have these bills not been seen in public yet? That is because the Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has refused to allow these bills to the floor of the senate. This is wrong. How is it that in what is billed as the greatest democracy in the world a single man has to power to stop legislative progress that is being decided by a majority of a democratically elected body. Currently in law only bills that are passed with more than 60% support in the House are legally required to see the flaw in the Senate but I believe this power only stands for obstruction and should be removed. If one doesn’t agree with a bill then they have the right to vote it down in the senate but at the very least they should be given that opportunity and currently the Senate Majority Leader has the power of life and death over legislation that they wish to see passed. With such a power invested in a single person how can modern democracy function?
Campaign Finance Rules
Strangely one of the bills being held up by the senate majority leader addresses the topic of my next grievance, though not to the same level. One of the biggest levels of corruption in Washington comes from the large corporations who use political donations to ensure policy is always tilted in their favour. This is a common tactic used not just in the USA but within Washington these corporate donations have a negative effect daily on the average US citizen especially the Gun Lobby funded by the National Rifles Association and the large Pharmaceutical industries who ensure the higher prices of drugs.
Now how can these corporations be countered? Again this goes back to the question of primaries as whenever legislation comes up to either curtail or amend the powers of these lobbies they can simply threaten to fund an opponent in the next political campaign of anybody who stands against them. So in my opinion the way to counter this is to limit the amount that can be spent on a political campaign. Some limits do already exist with campaigns required to give details of all contributions to the federal election commission. However in 2016 each of the 435 house of representative members and the 34 senators who were voted in in the election spent on average $2.34 million on their campaign. This came to a total cost of $1.1 Billion. Also at the same time the amount announced to the Federal election commission for all campaigns combined topped $1.5 Billion so what happened to that extra $400 million?
In France each member of the senate and house is limited to spending 100,000 euros or $108,000 on their campaigns and in the UK they go even further with each member of parliament limited to just £30,000 per campaign or $39,000 dollars. Whatsmore in both of these cases ellections take place every five years as opposed to every two years in the USA. Now I am not saying that in the USA such a strict figure should be imposed but at the same time it would be a far better use of money to limit campaigns to say $100,000 as opposed to the $2.35 million they currently are and at the same time to limit fundraising to grass roots supporters so that the people have a greater say in who they elect. This is something that the Democrats have tried to do in their recent presidential campaigns and while not entirely successful with the rules being changed to allow some potential front runners to take part in political debates it does show that such a thing is possible in the USA.