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Presidentialism Not Serving American Politics Well

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Here we are heralding the entrance of a new year with myriad problems confronting us; some problems appearing as daily spoken realities – those principally dealing with the economy, war and terrorism; others, subliminally present, silenced by national choice – such as bigotry, an ever-expanding income-wealth inequality and the prospect of a world without US economic and military hegemony. The subliminal topics appearing as taboo, where neither government nor most of us dare go or openly discuss. We are ushering 2016 as yet another presidential election year where once again our once reliable presidential system is demonstrating its incapacity to reach political consensus in a diverse nation where the preponderance of voters is no longer centrist “across the board” as in generations past.

Results from Spain’s December 20 general election brought both reality and questions which had been accosting me from my early days of inquiry about politics to my current cynicism which defines the idea of democracy, and self-governance, as just a placebo prescribed by those elites who alternatively rule over us in this United States.

I go back to my teen years when I first questioned which system of government, within the context of democracy, would probably be best: Parliamentarism or Presidentialism. And I recall choosing one over the other depending on my political feelings at that time. Now, after years of swinging back and forth, I am about to reach the conclusion, this time permanently, without the residue of reservations that I had in the past, that at least in this 21st Century America, Presidentialism is not serving us well; and that, braiding it with our insufferable two-party, money-lubricated, political machine has placed us among the worst governed major nations on earth – something which our false pride and concomitant ignorance refuse to acknowledge time and again. Pride and ignorance which have nurtured cancerous instincts in conflict with world peace and brotherhood through militarism, bigotry, jingoism, and a shameful enjoyment of our “empire-feel”; perhaps a great outcome for the ruling elites of the nation but a sorry aftermath for a commoner citizenry which has been profoundly deceived.

A most interesting new approach to American politics has resulted for me from Spain’s recent elections, something which can only happen, or be invited to happen, under Parliamentarism. Instead of the customary two major political forces that usually vie for absolute power, the People’s Party or Partido Popular (PP) – most often tagged as center-right in the right-left political spectrum, and the Socialist Workers’ Party or Partido Socialista Obrero Español (PSOE) – center-left deceivingly misnamed by appropriating the terms workers and socialist, there were two other major political parties of new vintage sculpted from recent popular movements sprouting from both the left and a “modified center”: We Can (Podemos) and Citizens-Party (Ciudadanos).

Pride and ignorance which have nurtured cancerous instincts in conflict with world peace and brotherhood through militarism, bigotry, jingoism, and a shameful enjoyment of our “empire-feel”; perhaps a great outcome for the ruling elites of the nation but a sorry aftermath for a commoner citizenry which has been profoundly deceived.
In the past, much in the fashion of Republicans and Democrats in the US, PSOE and PP alternated holding the reins of power – notwithstanding the required coalitions in two nationalistic (separatist) regions: the autonomous communities of Catalonia and the Basque Country. In a political patronage-prone culture such as Spain, this system of spoils under the two-party yoke has always kept the level of economic corruption high; but as austerity measures were imposed to cope with the most recent world recession, citizen-democracy became invigorated, thus the advent of two new political formations, Podemos and Ciudadanos, for the most part carved from the membership in the two “now-is-my-turn” ruling parties.

Now, after the vote of the 73 percent turnout has been counted, there are not just two but four political forces vying for power, where coalition-consensus will win the day for a new government to emerge: PP with 29 percent of the popular vote and 123 (35%) seats in the Cortes; PSOE, tallying 22 percent and 90 (26%) seats; Podemos gathering 21 and 69 (20%) seats; Ciudadanos with 14 percent and 40(11%) seats; and multiple other parties together garnering the other 14 percent of the popular vote and the remaining 28 seats in the 350-members Cortes. Under a parliamentary system where no winner takes it all, Spain will have to reach political compromise and stability in a democratic consensus government. Something expected to happen, accommodating the sound of all major voices.

These four political forces in Spain bring to mind that our presidential system of winner-take-all will be trying to squeeze in perhaps more than half dozen socio-political forces in the United States, all without coalition or compromise, under the umbrellas held by our “faithful and reliable” Tweedledee and Tweedledum political parties.

Evangelicals, Tea-partiers, Progressives, Libertarians, Ghettofied Blacks, Unionized Labor, and other groups will be tapped and lured by the career politicians in the two parties to receive their financial support and vote, in most instances without political voice… only the prospect that their vote will bring about a government that will provide “the lesser of two evils,” a proposition that the American electorate has, erroneously, accepted as a political act of faith.

Our system of Presidentialism may have served us well in the past but its rigidity in the political process denies the multiple voices that need to be heard in a democracy, nor offers the required tools for political compromise. Sadly… here we are, stepping into 2016 with the possible political prospect of having to elect as chief executive of this nation either a lady with questionable trust-credentials or a boisterous charlatan.

May the Almighty have mercy on us in 2016!

© 2015 Ben Tanosborn


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