Karela Fry

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Why US politics is like India’s

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During the sessions of parliament, we see every day on TV how fractured the houses are, and that, as a result, completely common sense measures are not taken. Many believe that this is because of the huge numbers of different political parties; sometimes it seems that a party with 5 parliamentarians can form an effective pressure group. Some have come to accept the contention put forward by Anna Hazare and his fellow travellers that this is the source of corruption in the government.

Some people look admiringly at the US legislature with its seemingly stable two-party system. The complete paralysis of the legislature in the US then bothers them. Now an article in BBC seems to solve this riddle:

After Vietnam and Watergate, there was a reform spirit that wanted to open and democratise the process of selecting party candidates for office, as well as get special-interest money out of politics.

The first part worked too well. Party candidates all came to be picked through open primary elections. In the process, the parties lost the ability to select loyal candidates in smoke-filled back rooms – they lost a source of power and persuasion.

The campaign finance reforms, however, backfired entirely. The post-Richard Nixon idea was to stop party bosses from doling out money from local moguls, unions and corporations. Instead, the reforms deformed and opened the spigots for money to flow directly to candidates from all the old sources, bypassing the party machines. The quantities of money have grown to gargantuan proportions.

By the 1980s, politicians were essentially free agents. They didn’t need the parties to get nominated or to fund campaigns. Pollsters, advertising wizards and fundraisers replaced the party bosses. And the party leaders in Congress lost their leverage.

Contrary to appearances the US is no longer a two-party system. It is not even a multi-party system. It would seem to be a legislature of what we would call independents. That does explain the shutdown.

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Written by Arhopala Bazaloides

October 9, 2013 at 8:42 am

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