When it comes to the failings of our current political system, I can sum up the problem in three words:
Americans love conflict.
Really, that’s what it all boils down to. Maybe the world in general loves conflict, but I can only speak from an American perspective… and I know Americans are drawn to a good fight.
An adversarial system only works when the focus is on solving problems. Our political system focuses on the players and the fight. We don’t have an adversarial system. Politics in America is a sporting event.
Our focus is on the battle. Our focus is on the winners and losers. The actual problems are secondary.
And it’s our fault that this has happened. Hell, we made it happen.
We’re drawn to the conflict. We love the fight. The politicians know it and the news networks know it.
Just look at the programming on every news network in America. It’s always based on conflict, not resolution. When they have a panel of people discussing an issue, they never have a group of men and women discussing rational solutions to a problem. Instead, they have a group of entrenched fundamentalists who fight with each other. They use political gladiators.
Fox News isn’t popular because it’s conservative. Fox News is popular because it manufactures conflict. MSNBC doesn’t have viewers because its liberal. It has viewers who tune in for the “spirited debate”, which translates to “The fight’s on!” CNN recently brought back Crossfire, because people like to watch combatants duke it out. It’s good TV.
Compromise is boring. Reasonable solutions are boring. Figuring out how to get along… is boring!
But a good fight… now, that’s worth paying attention to! Every election is about winners and losers. We pick our horses and we watch the election results hoping our horses win.
We like the battle. We like the glory of victory!
And because of that, there’s no real incentive for our politicians to work together and come up with solutions. They know what their constituents don’t really want compromise. They want victory.
And the “news”… why would they put on reasonable people who are willing to compromise when they know full well that doing so will cost them viewers?
Politics shouldn’t be about winners and losers. It shouldn’t be about the fight. It shouldn’t be a sporting event.
Politics should be about solving problems, and that is something that simply does not happen in our current political environment.
And it’s our fault that it has come to this. They’re only doing what they know we want.
As long as winning is more important that fixing our problems, we will never see genuine progress.