THE BLOG

American Government - You Get What You Deserve

18/03/2013 10:41 GMT | Updated 18/05/2013 10:12 BST

Republicans met this week just outside Washington DC at the Conservative Political Action 'CPAC' Conference. Many commentators say this was just a continuation of a Republican internal soul-searching effort to find their way out of the wilderness and back to a path towards victory.

Some factions of the Republican Party continue to push for an even more conservative agenda while the younger generation, for the most part, are pushing the party to abandon divisive issues like opposing gay marriage and contraception.

At the same time, Organizing For America 'OFA' - the Democratic PAC seems to be continuing the campaign to raise millions of dollars in an effort to overwhelm it's Republican rivals and aggressively push the passage of the president's legislative agenda without compromise. While other Democrats who worked hard to get the president re-elected hoped that he would be the great conciliator and deal maker in his second term.

These two organizing and fund raising efforts are symptomatic of the same problem. Legislating through compromise has become a 'dirty phrase'. The fine art of deal-making seems to have all but disappeared and a well designed system of checks and balances -the envy of the world - seems to have gone astray.

What went wrong?

Despite the denials of responsibility from both parties, a variety of forces including money, the Citizens United Supreme Court Decision, the Gerrymandering of both safe Republican and Democratic Congressional Districts have resulted in the public's general distrust of Washington.

Have we brought the Great American Experiment to its breaking point?

The system itself was originally created by the founding fathers to force compromise and achieve a balance of the best ideas. In fact, some of the best legislation that has moved the US forward was just that - a result of true compromise and raw politics - political horse trading, if you will. Just look at Abraham Lincoln's effort to abolish slavery or Lyndon Johnson's work to pass the Civil Rights Act in 1964 and Voting Rights Act in 1965.

In fact, for most of the recent past Americans chose some form of divided government - with the president of one party and at least one or both Houses of Congress under control of the other. The few times this was not the case the American people moved back to this model once the excesses of one party control were revealed. Absolute power seems to corrupt absolutely without regard to party - the temptation is simply to powerful to resist.

Today we face even greater challenges. And yet we find that our system of divided government no longer seems able to function and achieve those grand comprises. I remember hearing John Kennedy say basically that in a democracy, referring to America, the people are the boss and they get the government they elect and deserve. These words certainly ring true today.

A failure of the citizenry to be engaged and understand the affects of a myriad of seemingly small changes to the system and their inability to look beyond their own backyard and see the challenges they all face together, may have resulted in a system that discourages the election of what we used to call statesmen.

As we continue to lose the few remaining statesmen and women in Congress who are brave enough to defy the Super PACs and interest groups and do what is right and the people's business, we may find our government unable to meet the supreme challenges we face today.

Instead of concentrating so much on maintaining control, both parties would be wise to engage in a little introspection and consider how they can answer the greater challenges of our time with meaningful compromise bringing the best and brightest ideas together.

Whichever party gets this formula right just might have the American people's support behind them.

Jon-Christopher Bua's blogposts for Sky appear here.