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Thread: Partisan Gap in American Politics

  1. #1
    Cyburbian TexanOkie's avatar
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    Partisan Gap in American Politics

    Pew Research Center: Partisan Gap in Obama Job Approval Widest in Modern Era

    The extreme partisanship that started with Republican reaction to Bill Clinton's personal conduct in office, and then strengthened by Democratic infuriation throughout George W. Bush's term, seems to only be getting worse.

    I think the partisanship is a cultural problem, not a political one. But even if it is, there are partisan ways each side seems to view culture. Liberal ideology, historically, likes to use politics to instill cultural change. Conservative ideology likes to influence the culture to instill political change. Is there any end to this downward spiral, besides one-party or one-ideology domination?

    From George Washington's Farewell Address (September 17, 1796):
    ...I have already intimated to you the danger of parties in the state, with particular reference to the founding of them on geographical discriminations. Let me now take a more comprehensive view, and warn you in the most solemn manner against the baneful effects of the spirit of party, generally.

    This spirit, unfortunately, is inseparable from our nature, having its root in the strongest passions of the human mind. It exists under different shapes in all governments, more or less stifled, controlled, or repressed; but, in those of the popular form, it is seen in its greatest rankness, and is truly their worst enemy.

    The alternate domination of one faction over another, sharpened by the spirit of revenge, natural to party dissension, which in different ages and countries has perpetrated the most horrid enormities, is itself a frightful despotism. But this leads at length to a more formal and permanent despotism. The disorders and miseries, which result, gradually incline the minds of men to seek security and repose in the absolute power of an individual; and sooner or later the chief of some prevailing faction, more able or more fortunate than his competitors, turns this disposition to the purposes of his own elevation, on the ruins of Public Liberty.

    Without looking forward to an extremity of this kind, (which nevertheless ought not to be entirely out of sight,) the common and continual mischiefs of the spirit of party are sufficient to make it the interest and duty of a wise people to discourage and restrain it.

    It serves always to distract the Public Councils, and enfeeble the Public Administration. It agitates the Community with ill-founded jealousies and false alarms; kindles the animosity of one part against another, foments occasionally riot and insurrection. It opens the door to foreign influence and corruption, which find a facilitated access to the government itself through the channels of party passions. Thus the policy and the will of one country are subjected to the policy and will of another.

    There is an opinion, that parties in free countries are useful checks upon the administration of the Government, and serve to keep alive the spirit of Liberty. This within certain limits is probably true; and in Governments of a Monarchical cast, Patriotism may look with indulgence, if not with favor, upon the spirit of party. But in those of the popular character, in Governments purely elective, it is a spirit not to be encouraged. From their natural tendency, it is certain there will always be enough of that spirit for every salutary purpose. And, there being constant danger of excess, the effort ought to be, by force of public opinion, to mitigate and assuage it. A fire not to be quenched, it demands a uniform vigilance to prevent its bursting into a flame, lest, instead of warming, it should consume...

    (Mods: I'm not sure if this post merits a separate thread or not. Feel free to switch if you deem appropriate)
    Last edited by TexanOkie; 06 Apr 2009 at 10:52 AM.

  2. #2
    Cyburbian CJC's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by TexanOkie View post
    I think the partisanship is a cultural problem, not a political one. But even if it is, there are partisan ways each side seems to view culture. Liberal ideology, historically, likes to use politics to instill cultural change. Conservative ideology likes to influence the culture to instill political change. Is there any end to this downward spiral, besides one-party or one-ideology domination?
    I think the only things that will do it are:

    1. Long period of economic suffering (which we're possibly in the early stages of)
    2. Long period of war on a similar scale to the Civil War, WWI, or WWII (in terms of citizen involvement, not necessarily citizen loss)

    Until one of these two things happens, the gulf will continue widening. I'm not trying to be dramatic here, it just seems unlikely that anything other than those two will actually bring people together again under one worldview.
    Two wrongs don't necessarily make a right, but three lefts do.

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    Chairman of the bored Maister's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by TexanOkie View post
    Is there any end to this downward spiral, besides one-party or one-ideology domination?
    It would pretty much require a crisis on the scale of the State being imperiled - invasion by a foreign state, collapse of the world economic system, etc.
    People will miss that it once meant something to be Southern or Midwestern. It doesn't mean much now, except for the climate. The question, “Where are you from?” doesn't lead to anything odd or interesting. They live somewhere near a Gap store, and what else do you need to know? - Garrison Keillor

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    Cyburbian otterpop's avatar
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    I believe that the partisanship is largely a product of 24 hour news channels and talk radio. These pundits are hawking their wares (politcal viewpoints) and discord is what sells advertising and books. No talking head or pundit is going to keep bringing in and keeping loyal viewers by preaching cooperation and intelligent discussion of the issues. They have to keep screeching to all that will listen that those of different views are ruining this country and destroying our way of life. They know they have to use a lot of evocative lapels (socialist, communist, fascist, ecoterrroist, feminazi, tax and spend, don't tax and spend, etc.) to stir up their faithful.

    The news channels have to fill 24 hours of news with about an hour of actual news. Americans really are not going to tune in for a lot of international news or in depth coverage. They want to hear about gossip, innuendo, fibs, hyperbole and posturing.

    Conservatives tend to dominate talk radio and news channels. I do not think it is because they are any more partisan than liberals. I think it is because there is more of a conservative audience out there who will tune in on a regular basis. In my opinion, I think liberals are just less likely to be a regular audience that advertisers can depends on. Oberman and Maddow have an audience that rivals Bill O'Reilly, but I think that is because all of the liberals who are interested are tuning in to those shows. Conservatives have a much larger pool of talk hosts to draw from.

    There is just so much money to be made in partisan talk that it is hard for these folks to want to preach anything but partisanship.

    I think and it is my hope that people may eventually change their taste in political coverage. Move more toward more in depth coverage and move away from partisan feeding frenzies. Or maybe people will stop tuning in and the advertisers will press the news shows and talk radio shows to change. I don't see that happening in the foreseeable future.

    I really doubt some national or international crisis will do it. 9-11 was a big event but after a year or so people moved on to other things. Our country is so fragmented culturally that I doubt even a huge disaster would have the power to bring us all together.
    "I am very good at reading women, but I get into trouble for using the Braille method."

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    Cyburbian CJC's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by otterpop View post
    I really doubt some national or international crisis will do it. 9-11 was a big event but after a year or so people moved on to other things. Our country is so fragmented culturally that I doubt even a huge disaster would have the power to bring us all together.
    It would have to be an international event that had personal effects on just about everyone. What was the average person asked to do in the aftermath of 9/11? Go out and shop. I'm not trying to skewer the Bush administration or anything, but for the VAST majority of Americans, 9/11 was not really a big event - it was very sad and provoked anger and a shout for action (and had some psychological effects that probably increased partisanship in the long term), but didn't really necessitate the need for personal sacrifice. It will take something that causes actual prolonged sacrifice or hardship from most people, IMO.
    Two wrongs don't necessarily make a right, but three lefts do.

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    Cyburbian Brocktoon's avatar
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    Hyper partisanship is nothing new but part of a cycle. The 1800's was hyper partisan debate over slaverly in the territories and new states lead to the death of the Whig party. Reconstruction was hyper partisan as well. Just read the Federalist and Anti Federalist papers. Both were trying to use partisanship of the time to sway the populace and but forth their version of how to interpret the Constitution.

    I will respectfully disagree and suggest that the current brand of partisanship is primarily political rather cultural. I feel part of the problem is that both parties have made so many of the districts "safe" that you get far more wing nuts and far fewer centrist. Look at the use of the filibuster. It is now a commonly used tactic by the manority party where in the past it was only used for the most serious objections to bills, now 60 votes are needed to pass almost any piece of legislation.

    Until the 1980's each party had a liberal and conservative side of the party. Both parties have expected their rank and file to toe the line or not get their desired committee assignements or even worse have a primaryt challenge. Arlen Spector is planning his re-election bid and has made a noticable move right to fend off a primary challenge.
    "You merely adopted the dark. I was born in it,..." -Bane

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    Cyburbian imaplanner's avatar
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    I believe the current atmosphere of extreme partisanship is entirely the fault of conservatives. Liberals have recently been just as overtly partisan- but I think that it is a response to the conservative mantra that "Liberalism will destroy America". When you continuously repeat (whether you believe it or not) that the other side is going to completely destroy the country and send us all to hell, you are creating an extreme partisan atmosphere. In my mind- this started with the republicans in the early 90's - most specifically with Rush and all of his followers.

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    Chairman of the bored Maister's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by imaplanner View post
    I believe the current atmosphere of extreme partisanship is entirely the fault of conservatives.
    I think one could make a good argument that the atmoshpere was entirely initiated by conservatives, but to say that the current poltical climate is entirely their fault is patently untrue.
    People will miss that it once meant something to be Southern or Midwestern. It doesn't mean much now, except for the climate. The question, “Where are you from?” doesn't lead to anything odd or interesting. They live somewhere near a Gap store, and what else do you need to know? - Garrison Keillor

  9. #9
    Quote Originally posted by CJC View post
    ~snip~
    What was the average person asked to do in the aftermath of 9/11? Go out and shop.
    ~snip~
    I've posted before about the disappointment I feel that GWB didn't take the opportunity presented by Sept'r 11, 2001 and use it to motivate the country to eliminate its dependence on foreign oil. Had he led, I truly believe Americans would have followed.

    Would it have been an end to partisanship? No, but we'd be in a better place than we are today.

    Off-topic:
    The Republican boycott of Judge David Hamilton's appointment to a seat on the Seventh Circuit -- after his glowing introduction by Senator Richard Lugar (R), Indiana -- is utterly shameful partisanship. Phooey!

  10. #10
    Cyburbian TexanOkie's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Brocktoon View post
    Hyper partisanship is nothing new but part of a cycle. The 1800's was hyper partisan debate over slaverly in the territories and new states lead to the death of the Whig party. Reconstruction was hyper partisan as well. Just read the Federalist and Anti Federalist papers. Both were trying to use partisanship of the time to sway the populace and but forth their version of how to interpret the Constitution.

    I will respectfully disagree and suggest that the current brand of partisanship is primarily political rather cultural. I feel part of the problem is that both parties have made so many of the districts "safe" that you get far more wing nuts and far fewer centrist. Look at the use of the filibuster. It is now a commonly used tactic by the manority party where in the past it was only used for the most serious objections to bills, now 60 votes are needed to pass almost any piece of legislation.

    Until the 1980's each party had a liberal and conservative side of the party. Both parties have expected their rank and file to toe the line or not get their desired committee assignements or even worse have a primaryt challenge. Arlen Spector is planning his re-election bid and has made a noticable move right to fend off a primary challenge.
    Interesting analysis. Perhaps political activity plays a larger role than I realized. But which came first, the chicken or the egg? Has the sucio-cultural movements over the last 50 years brought forth that much change to the political process (as our representatives have now have no chance but to be immersed in those movements in some fashion) or has the political process characterized the culture in such a stark fashion? Sure, Congressmen had fights and duels back in the 1800's (sometimes even in their respective chamber floors), but there was still some element of respect or honor they gave one another that seems to have fallen by the wayside.

    Either way, organizing such political processes partisanly, outside of actually defining a process, legally, is what George Washington spent a good chunk of his Farewell Address lecturing about. The question still remains: how do we get back to the idea of government officials being "statesmen" rather than just "R's" or "D's"?

    Off-topic:
    The Federalist/Anti-Federalist debate took place in the late 1780's and did not argue different interpretations of the Constitution. They were concentrated arguments on whether or not the states should ratify the then-new proposed Constitution. It was beyond interpretive issues. It was more a philosophical and ideological debate as to the nature of the federal government, and many of their disagreements are the foundation of our current party organization (at least ideologically), and even some judicial interpretations. I think they've been quoted over 200 times in Supreme Court decisions as a mirror into the intent the framers had when crafting the language of the Constitution.

    Also, ideology is not a bad thing. It's also not at odds with pragmatism, unlike. Everything, including what actions to take to be pragmatic, is grounded in some ideology, especially in politics. Ideology is not the enemy here, and ideological debate should be fostered in our republic.

  11. #11
    Cyburbian btrage's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by TexanOkie View post
    Sure, Congressmen had fights and duels back in the 1800's (sometimes even in their respective chamber floors), but there was still some element of respect or honor they gave one another that seems to have fallen by the wayside.
    I think that this sentiment is tied to nostalgia and the thought that it was better "back in the good ole' days". They were just as partisan back in the 1800s. There was just no modern media to add fuel to the fire and broadcast it to the masses.

    The problem is twofold; the rise of the Internet (and it's larger impact on the media in general) and an uneducated public.

    The Internet is here to stay. The question is what we do about the uneducated public.
    "I'm very important. I have many leather-bound books and my apartment smells of rich mahogany"

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    Cyburbian Linda_D's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by TexanOkie View post
    Interesting analysis. Perhaps political activity plays a larger role than I realized. But which came first, the chicken or the egg? Has the sucio-cultural movements over the last 50 years brought forth that much change to the political process (as our representatives have now have no chance but to be immersed in those movements in some fashion) or has the political process characterized the culture in such a stark fashion? Sure, Congressmen had fights and duels back in the 1800's (sometimes even in their respective chamber floors), but there was still some element of respect or honor they gave one another that seems to have fallen by the wayside.

    Either way, organizing such political processes partisanly, outside of actually defining a process, legally, is what George Washington spent a good chunk of his Farewell Address lecturing about. The question still remains: how do we get back to the idea of government officials being "statesmen" rather than just "R's" or "D's"?

    Off-topic:
    The Federalist/Anti-Federalist debate took place in the late 1780's and did not argue different interpretations of the Constitution. They were concentrated arguments on whether or not the states should ratify the then-new proposed Constitution. It was beyond interpretive issues. It was more a philosophical and ideological debate as to the nature of the federal government, and many of their disagreements are the foundation of our current party organization (at least ideologically), and even some judicial interpretations. I think they've been quoted over 200 times in Supreme Court decisions as a mirror into the intent the framers had when crafting the language of the Constitution.

    Also, ideology is not a bad thing. It's also not at odds with pragmatism, unlike. Everything, including what actions to take to be pragmatic, is grounded in some ideology, especially in politics. Ideology is not the enemy here, and ideological debate should be fostered in our republic.
    Obviously, your definition of "respect" or "honor" differs from mine. The 19th century political atmosphere was vicious with editors savaging opposition candidates. Thomas Jefferson was roasted by his opponents because of he kept a slave mistress and fathered children on her. Andrew Jackson's wife was called a whore because she was a divorcee. Abraham Lincoln was repeatedly likened to an ape in political cartoons. During the anti-slavery/sectional debates, one Southern Congressman beat a Northern Congressman with his cane -- in the Congressional chamber, which seems more like an attack rather than a fight.

  13. #13
    Cyburbian michaelskis's avatar
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    I am of the mind frame that the gap is because of fundamental differences in cultural beliefs. Especially given a person will now vote for a candidate just because of a particular letter behind their name, without knowing what that candidate stands for. Most of that is because of what previous party platforms have stood for and the social understanding that the other party has the opposite views.

    In this last election, it was extremely disheartening to hear people voting for a candidate without actually knowing anything about them beyond the R or D behind their name. To make matters worse, both sides have extreme corruption, are controlled and directed by special interest groups, and less than a handful are willing to do what is right for the county.

    I don’t think that one side started it over the other. If you look back over history, the political gap has changed over time. People had their opinions regarding the candidates, however for the most part, people kept their political opinions to themselves unless they were running for office. Debates where on the radio and then onto the TV and now popular culture embraces political arguments. It is everywhere from movies, to TV shows, to music. It is just people expressing their opinion.

    As for change, this is one of the things that Obama pushed for in his campaign. He was the candidate that everyone could rally around. This however has not happened. One thing that it did do however is divide people even more, sometimes within the same party. As an example, I am a conservative, but not a republican. I know people who would see them selves as a liberal but not a democrat. I think that people are now starting to realize that none of the candidates truly fit a party profile and often vote for the person who will do the least amount of damage.

    I think that there is more and more grassroots movements to change political thinking that are sprouting up around the county. People are getting sick of seeing all elected officials at the federal level continue with business as usual, even when the President Obama stated that things will change. Congress (on both sides) never got the message. One thing that Obama could do that would be a great help is to actually veto every bill that comes across his desk that has even one earmark in it. Regardless of whose bill it is. I, and I think many others, would gain a new appreciation for him, and it would go a long way to reunite this country.
    The most foolish thing one can do this fall is to vote for Clinton or Trump. Wake up, get out of the matrix, and send a message to the political establishment that you won't play their game.

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    Cyburbian cellophane's avatar
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    society and politics is not a simple left / right continuum. there are social aspects and economic aspects and they may or may not correlate to 'left' and 'right' as most pundits try to typify things. politicalcompass.org has a good breakdown of how that all works out. once people realize that social politics and economic politics arent necessarily related it opens the though process up for some constructive problem solving beyond just screaming about liberal and conservative. incidentally - the difference between liberal and conservative in america is only a matter of a few degrees in the grand scheme of things.

    playing to gross stereotypes: liberals are out doing things. they are involved with their neighborhoods, they are out hiking or biking or enjoying the things their communities offer. conservatives are beating their bibles and attempting to browbeat anyone that isnt driving an suv and following the latest diet or religious trends. this means instead of being out doing things they are at home watching fox for the latest horror stories about how society is falling apart and how those socialist liberals are to blame.

    the lack of strong alternative options to democrat or republican would help a lot too. the differences between the two parties are pretty small and they really only reach a very small percentage of the population. because of the way the entire electoral process is now it is almost impossible for a candidate to make a valid attempt to run for major office without the support of a major party. debates are controlled by the RNC and DNC and third party candidates are simply not invited. you want change - start with the electoral process. set hard limits on how much can be spent and open up everything to alternative parties instead of choking down on the actual democratic process.

  15. #15
    moderator in moderation Suburb Repairman's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by TexanOkie View post

    Either way, organizing such political processes partisanly, outside of actually defining a process, legally, is what George Washington spent a good chunk of his Farewell Address lecturing about. The question still remains: how do we get back to the idea of government officials being "statesmen" rather than just "R's" or "D's"?
    Simple. When people start educating themselves about candidates (rather than party lines), and stop electing the lowest common denominator to office. Texas couldn't produce somebody better than Shrub? San Francisco couldn't come up with someone better than Pelosi? Palin? Byrd?

    We, the People, are the ones electing the folks based on the letter after their name. You are talking about changing an entire political culture that began entrenching itself since the days of Adams & Jefferson.

    The first step to this is taking a step into the 1970s and early 1980s, when, like Brocktoon mentioned, we still had a conservative element of the democratic party and a liberal/progressive element of the GOP. You want to identify a trigger-man for our current situation with partisanship, I place the target squarely on Dr. James Dobson and his Focus on the Family/Moral Majority efforts, which basically declared that a Christian could not vote Democrat. This destroyed the conservative wing of the Democratic Party and forced progressive Republicans to switch sides or risk being subverted during the next primary.

    "Oh, that is all well and good, but, voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country."

    - Herman Göring at the Nuremburg trials (thoughts on democracy)

  16. #16
    Cyburbian TexanOkie's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by btrage View post
    I think that this sentiment is tied to nostalgia and the thought that it was better "back in the good ole' days". They were just as partisan back in the 1800s. There was just no modern media to add fuel to the fire and broadcast it to the masses.

    The problem is twofold; the rise of the Internet (and it's larger impact on the media in general) and an uneducated public.

    The Internet is here to stay. The question is what we do about the uneducated public.
    I don't it's all that different in that regard, except for the 24-hour news cycle upping the pace. "In the good ole' days" there was, after all all the things that Linda D mentions in her post:

    Quote Originally posted by Linda_D View post
    Obviously, your definition of "respect" or "honor" differs from mine. The 19th century political atmosphere was vicious with editors savaging opposition candidates. Thomas Jefferson was roasted by his opponents because of he kept a slave mistress and fathered children on her. Andrew Jackson's wife was called a whore because she was a divorcee. Abraham Lincoln was repeatedly likened to an ape in political cartoons. During the anti-slavery/sectional debates, one Southern Congressman beat a Northern Congressman with his cane -- in the Congressional chamber, which seems more like an attack rather than a fight.
    The key here is that public perception and respect for statesman came from the general culture, not the pundits or from within each state body.

    Also, I'm not trying to place blame. I'm trying to figure out a solution. Tracing its roots may help that, sure, but it should not be the primary emphasis. That only leads to a victim mentality that may help certain groups feel better about themselves while doing nothing to initiate forward momentum towards solving a problem.

    Quote Originally posted by Suburb Repairman View post
    Simple. When people start educating themselves about candidates (rather than party lines), and stop electing the lowest common denominator to office. Texas couldn't produce somebody better than Shrub? San Francisco couldn't come up with someone better than Pelosi? Palin? Byrd?

    We, the People, are the ones electing the folks based on the letter after their name. You are talking about changing an entire political culture that began entrenching itself since the days of Adams & Jefferson.

    The first step to this is taking a step into the 1970s and early 1980s, when, like Brocktoon mentioned, we still had a conservative element of the democratic party and a liberal/progressive element of the GOP. You want to identify a trigger-man for our current situation with partisanship, I place the target squarely on Dr. James Dobson and his Focus on the Family/Moral Majority efforts, which basically declared that a Christian could not vote Democrat. This destroyed the conservative wing of the Democratic Party and forced progressive Republicans to switch sides or risk being subverted during the next primary.
    Like I said (paraphrased differently) above, I'm not looking for a trigger man. American politics has always, at least in homage, been a matter of ideas and ideals and not on specific persons. So, to amend your solution of voting for a person or researching a person, people should vote for an idea or ideal they believe in. When it becomes voting for or putting trust in a person (heck, even an inanimate entity), it violates the historic and philosophical social compact between government and the individual that American liberalism (in a classic sense) has constructed through the course of our history.

  17. #17
    Cyburbian Brocktoon's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by TexanOkie View post
    Also, I'm not trying to place blame. I'm trying to figure out a solution. Tracing its roots may help that, sure, but it should not be the primary emphasis. That only leads to a victim mentality that may help certain groups feel better about themselves while doing nothing to initiate forward momentum towards solving a problem.
    .
    My solution is to create as many competitive districts in the House as possible. Since the House often serves as the minor leagues for the Senate it will most likely create a deeper and more balanced pool of talent in which to choose. Granted that will only change part of it. Second is to limit the power of the party so blind loyalty to the D and R is less important than loyalty to the people that elected you. Eliminate the RCC and DNCC (or what ever acronym they use now) and allow only the candidate to raise money and 90% of dollars raised to support a candidate has to originate in the district (or at least the state). No Club for Growth or Move On.org swaying elections to the far edges of the spectrum or the party power brokers anointing a chosen candidate.

    There was once a statesman respect for others but the duels and canings on the floor are proof that it has been less not more civil in earlier times.
    "You merely adopted the dark. I was born in it,..." -Bane

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    Cyburbian The One's avatar
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    Ha!

    Phase I: TERM LIMITS PEOPLE!!! I've outlined a plan in great detail before and am now too lazy to create a link to that plan
    There should be no such thing as a career in politics
    “The way of acquiescence leads to moral and spiritual suicide. The way of violence leads to bitterness in the survivors and brutality in the destroyers. But, the way of non-violence leads to redemption and the creation of the beloved community.”
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