The policy decisions made by the various parts of our government have a huge impact on our lives and our finances. In order to make good decisions the decisions have to be based on facts, data, and science-based logic. Unfortunately, our government runs increasingly based on ideology. And we, the citizens are paying the price. When you consider the various parts of our government, we saved the worst for last.
According to Gallup, the approval rating for Congress has been hovering around 20% for over 10 years now. This same time frame corresponds to the point where extreme ideological beliefs became more prevalent and where the word gridlock became the best descriptor for how Congress operates. And worst of all, many of our representatives there seem to have little interest in implementing the will of the majority of Americans any more.
The best example of this is the infamous 2010 Citizens United decision by the Supreme Court. A University of Maryland poll taken in 2018 found that 85 percent of Democrats and 66 percent of Republicans back a Constitutional Amendment outlawing Citizens United. The American public was as much against the ruling in 2010. Even with this kind of public sentiment, the present two-party Congress will never be capable of doing anything about Citizens United.
With Congress split fairly evenly down the middle, the shift of a few seats in either direction will usually result in a total shift in policy going from one extreme to the other. The real danger occurs when the president belongs to the same party as the majority. This is especially true today given what happened on January 6, 2021.
The only thing that keeps our government stable is that power shifts back and forth between the two major parties every few years. But this is no way to run a country and the American people know it, as reflected by Congress’s approval rating. But we are still luckier than the people in left-wing extremist China or right-wing extremist Russia where one side seized power and won’t give it up, because that is what extremists do.
This demonstrates what a very fragile thing democracy can be, especially in our country where we only have two political parties fighting it out. We saw what happened on January 6 when one side suddenly decided it no longer wants to play by the rules. Unfortunately, the strange political rules that we have, such as the Electoral College, is one of the main reasons that we have the situation that we do.
Moderates have become fewer and fewer in Congress because very few moderates ever make it through the primary election process. The Republicans and Democrats who vote in the primaries have little interest in moderates. This then results in a November election where we end up with the choice between a far-right candidate and a far-left candidate. And that’s why we have the Congress that we have.
Following successful court battles, both Maine and now Alaska are starting to use ranked-choice voting to elect representatives. This will dramatically improve the chances for moderate candidates to get elected. But we are running out of time as a growing share of those in Congress seem to have little interest in keeping our 240-year-old democracy going. After all, democracy is a moderate form of government and the Founding Fathers were moderates.
There is only one way to correct the situation that we are faced with, and that is through the formation of a third major centrist political party to represent the third of Americans in the middle, the people who do things that make sense. Unless you want to live in an American version of Russia or China, moderates had better become as active in politics as those who are more ideologically extreme.