As a Political Science minor, politics is one of my biggest passions, primarily as a result of my overwhelming obsession with economic policy that I was overcome by when I learned about capitalism and supply chains in a high school history class. However, following my own interactions with the current United States political system, it is quite clear that the current system is inefficient, ineffective, and quite literally failing. From wealth and income inequality to our failed foreign policy endeavors, the current United States political system, and quite possibly the global political system is failing the very constituents it claims to serve. And while democracy is never efficient, our modern interpretation of democracy is quite removed from the idealist democratic values espoused by the fathers of democracy, capitalism, and civil society.
"Politics is the art of making your selfish desires seem like the national interest."
From politicians running for local office to lifelong bureaucrats in the federal government, one thing is abundantly clear: politicians are only in it for their own selfish ambitions. This has created a deep distrust of politicians among the general public. According to the Pew Research Center, “Only about one-quarter of Americans say they can trust the government in Washington to do what is right 'just about always' (two percent) or 'most of the time' (22 percent)” (1). Politicians are selfish and although you might think your favorite politician has the best intentions, oftentimes the populist politicians, such as Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump, stick to popular policies because it is easier for them to get elected. Although we may think that populist political figures are representing Americans, their intentions are fueled by power-hungry ambitions and long-lasting aspirations to continue to increase their political power.
In modern American democracy, there are three main forces at play: the government, corporations, and voters. These three forces are constantly fighting against each other for influence and based on the policies in place, the power dynamic may shift one way or another. Politics in the modern sense has strayed far away from the basics of democracy that the founding fathers of democracy taught. One of the biggest reasons that we have strayed away from this idealistic version of democracy is as a result of mankind’s utterly selfish, relentless, and barbaric tribalism.
Since the early days of our humanity, mankind developed deep-rooted tribalism that helped our early ancestors survive. Once you can identify who is in your own group, you can then act accordingly to those outside of your group. This sense of tribalism has been exacerbated by Republicans and Democratic leadership convincing the American public that the other party is the enemy. When in reality, our enemy is selfish politicians who are only looking out for their own interests and are not acting in good faith. The American people deserve better than inefficient, ineffective, and selfish leadership. And while I may be suggesting an idealistic political situation, it is truly possible to create a political system where leaders are held accountable on a regular basis by their constituents. While I don’t know to create that reality, pointing out the flaws in our own democracy can help us target these issues and dismantle the imperfections within the system.
The American political system isn’t perfect, neither is the political system of any government, developed or otherwise. As we continue to be informed voters, we must put aside our tribalistic nature and vote in line with the values that best align with your own interests. Putting political parties aside, you may be surprised how much most Americans agree on basic political principles, and while we certainly will not agree on everything, we should not be quick to dismiss people as a result of political affiliation. While politics can get messy, just remember that the huge majority of people just want to live their lives uninterrupted, go to work, and raise a family. Our political system has a long way to go before it truly serves all Americans equally, but we can bring it in the right direction, one vote at a time.