Political Parties — Things Don’t Change, We Change
With the November elections over, the cycle continues. For the foreseeable future in Maine and nationally the Republicans will be in the majority. They’ll wear out their welcome and the Democrats will return. The Democrats will lose favor and the Republicans will get another shot. It will go on and on — to think otherwise is naive.
Under the guises of conservative and liberal ideologies, it is money and power that drives the political process. Voters are merely pawns played against each other on a chess board that stretches from California to Maine. Sound bites — welfare, deficit, immigration, and healthcare. School ground name calling — it’s the liberals, it’s the teabaggers. All used to inflame collective passions of party members.
The 24 hour media’s bombardment of shootings, natural disasters, terrorists, pandemics is leveraged to generate a constant state of fear. It is the other parties fault, but elect us and we’ll keep you safe. As former National Rifle Association (NRA) chief Ray Arnet once said, “You keep any special interest group alive by nurturing the crisis atmosphere.”
In her essay “On the Abolition of Political Parties” written more than seventy-five years ago, Simone Weil asks the question. “Do political parties contain enough good to compensate for their evils and make their preservation desirable?”
Ms. Weil states that decisions by a political party should be based on truth, justice, and the public interest. She challenges the possibility of such criteria being followed because of as she describes a political party’s characteristics.
1. A machine to generate collective passions.
2. An organization designed to exert collective pressure upon the minds of all its individuals.
3. Ultimate goal is its own growth without limits.
We see daily what Ms. Weil observed seven decades ago — “partisan spirit makes people blind, makes them deaf to justice, pushes decent men cruelly to persecute innocent targets.”
Collective pressure as described in her essay “occurs through propaganda which is used to condition and persuade, not inform.” In Ms. Weil’s day it was pamphlets, periodicals, and newspapers. Today we have TV, radio, and social media. “Nothing is more comfortable than not having to think” states Ms. Weil – “instead of thinking, people are for or against.” Imagine her reaction to our present day world of sound bites and generalities. Further “all parties must use propaganda because the others do in order to survive.” And today all parties must solicit campaign funds, because the others do to survive.
Political parties will not change, we must change. Is it time to replace the Republican and Democratic parties with an alternative that supports “truth, justice, and the public interest”?
Cross-post at Daily Kos
“On the Abolition of Political Parties”, Simone Weil (1909 – 1943)