The voters that matter to politicians are the partisan activists that play a dominant role in the major party primaries. Ideological purity and negativity work for this narrow base. A type of “pseudo competition” has evolved in recent decades that avoids accountability for practical results. The following excerpt from The New York Times The Daily interview with former Missouri senator, Claire McCaskill in December 2018 (a red-state democrat), demonstrates how pseudo competition rigs the U.S. political system against compromise.
“[Politicians] are Scared to Death of Compromise”
McCaskill: Whoever you are, you can pick a network, stew in your own juices, and be in your own echo chamber. The public conversation has broken down. The two sides yelling at each other and yelling about things that are not going to get done – it only increases cynicism.
If we don’t pull people into the middle, shave off the edges and find something we can agree on, we can never make any progress, especially on the tough stuff. That is where compromise is going to have to happen, but everyone is scared to death of compromise.
It feels like these two extremes are what makes up everyday politics. Most people are just watching that on television and turning away in disgust. The noise in the system is being generated by the ends, not by the middle.
Nobody calls my office to say, “I’m asking you to compromise.” No one writes a letter, “Can’t you find a middle?” But they still expect us to get things done. But those are mutually exclusive propositions. “Getting things done” means you cannot be extreme or pure.
But compromise doesn’t get media coverage as much as conflict. No one knows compromise when it happens. Because it didn’t scare them. It didn’t make them angry. Part of the shift is a new business model in journalism. Beyoncé’s breasts are always going to out-click, “My gosh, Congress got something done on the price of hearing aids.”
The U.S. Needs a New Set of Rules
McCaskill also said in the interview that she believes there is a there is this vast political middle. Even though politicians aren’t hearing from them. So how do we tap into the political middle and minimize pseudo competition from our politics?
At Change the Rules, we believe that political governance based on genuine accountability will require a new set of rules around competition, participation and money. This is not a pipe dream. It is already happening. Want to more about the initiatives already under way across the country? Visit www.changetherules.org.