The United States Government has shut down. The budget deadline has come and gone, and with no agreement between the House and the Senate, we ourselves, the People of the United States of America are to blame. We live in Democratic Republic, meaning we choose our leaders. The word democracy derives from two Greek words: dêmos, meaning the people, and kratos meaning the power or rule. Typically, about 11% of the voting eligible population participates in Primary Elections or Caucuses every four years during the Presidential Elections. Far fewer participate in other Primary Elections and Caucuses to determine who will represent the states in Congress. The Primaries and Caucuses are just as important, if not more important, to democracy, because they determine who will appear on the General Election Ballot.
The United States Congress is at an all-time low in the polls, and it is known by many political scientists such as Norman Ornstein, Thomas Mann, and Morris Fiorina that Congress is in fact broken. This is because politicians do not represent the will of the people, but the will of the few. Fiorina reveals that Congress is deeply divided along partisan lines, whereas the general U.S. population is more closely divided on most major issues. This means that the general U.S. population has a greater moderate population, and that extremists are in the minority. However, in Congress moderates are the minority, and extremists are the majority. This Congressional polarity creates dysfunction resulting in the inability to pass a budget. Both parties refuse to budge on the grounds of partisan principles, and the U.S. population has to pay the price tag. In 1995-1996 the U.S. paid $1.5 billion because a divided Congress could not agree on a budget. It would not surprise me if this year’s budget collapse will cost us more.
The reason the U.S. cannot vote for representatives which more closely represent U.S. political ideology lies in the primary turnout. A minority of individuals will actually choose to participate in a Caucus or a Primary Election. Those who show up to the polls tend to be zealots, enthusiasts, or those with money who are interested in putting in the most extreme candidate. By the General Election the majority of voters will only be stuck with two options, Tweedle Dee, or Tweedle Dum.
If the U.S. general population is concerned about fixing Congress and passing a budget on time, than it must vote for moderate candidates who are willing to compromise. Less than 11% vote in non-presidential primaries and caucuses, whereas 48% vote in General Elections. Until the percentage of primary voters more closely resembles the percentage of General Election voters, our Congress will remain in a state of dysfunction. In an ideal primary, the two strongest candidates that best represent the U.S. population will win. If the strong, qualified representative candidates win in the Primaries and Caucuses, then the result of the General Election would matter less, because the primaries and caucuses would have both yielded qualified and capable candidates. When the rule of the many withholds its vote, the rule of the few is empowered, and the power of the few almost always resides at the periphery.
-Brian D. King, Mesa, AZ.