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12/23/02

FIXING THE POLITICAL PARTIES

By Sheldon Drobny


Political Trading Card
By InfiniteJest.org

Last week was not a banner week for either political party.  In case anyone missed it, Trent Lott resigned as Senate Majority Leader and Al Gore dropped out of the 2004 Presidential race.  The Republicans, as usual, were quicker and more dramatic in achieving their goal.  In their usual efficient way, the Republicans got to the bottom line more quickly. 

It must be pretty clear to the American people by now that both parties are opposed to the greater public good.  Yet both Parties wonder why less that 25% of Americans bother to vote.  Of course, Republicans win more elections when fewer people vote, so they may feel that it is in their best interest to keep potential voters away from the polls.  Especially after the events of this last week, it is obvious that the parties have failed WE THE PEOPLE.  So let us determine how we can fix the political parties so that they can really represent us.

The two parties seem somewhat schizophrenic.  Each has elements of its membership that are not helpful to the cause, and that the party tries to keep invisible to the more sensible elements.  The Republicans again outdo the Democrats in hiding their bad apples.  They have managed to embrace both the extreme religious right and the old Dixiecrats.  The Democrats have their own problem with the so-called Blue Dog Democrats.

Are there ways for the parties to handle these disparate elements?  Remember, “He that troubleth his own house shall inherit the wind.”

Professional football can teach us something about disparity.  The NFL has regional divisions—North, South, East and West.  In a series of playoff games, the two best teams play for the championship.  We might change the names of the two parties to reflect their regional strengths.  The Republicans could be the Central-South party and the Democrats could be the Northern-Coastal party.  These would be more descriptive than the current names, and WE THE PEOPLE could root for them by identification with our regional area.  This kind of regional loyalty has been very effective for the NFL.  People are amazingly loyal to their local team, no matter how bad the team may be.  The fans are very critical of their teams and demand immediate improvement when they fail, something we do not demand of our political parties.

So maybe there really is a way to get people involved in the political process.  On second thought, although the name change would be effective for regional identification, it would set us back to a sort of pre-Civil War mentality.  So I thought of another idea.

Why don't we change the names of the parties to reflect their political philosophies?  The British have the Conservative and Labor Parties.  Perhaps we should rename the Republicans the Conservative Party and the Democrats the Liberal Party.  This change should make it pretty clear what the parties stand for. But this may not be a good idea for two reasons.  First, each party is sort of a mixture of both philosophies.  And second, there is some value to branding.  The names “Republican” and “Democrat” do have some branding value.  So I think I would keep the names as they are.

Do we need a third party?  No, that is out of the question.  We might say that in order to have a third party, we must first have two parties.  But trying to start a whole new league, let alone a new party, is almost impossible and could take years.  So let us keep the two parties and do what sports teams do when members of their teams are disgruntled or no longer reflect the team's goals.  You may have guessed it.

Let's have trades and free agency for the parties.  That would really be the answer.

Republican and Democratic politicians rarely change parties, although I suspect many of them would like to, following the example of Jim Jeffords.  The prevailing attitude of the parties inhibits this kind of change in the same way that the reserve clause inhibited baseball players from changing teams.  So WE THE PEOPLE should demand a change.

We should demand that the parties hire general managers to evaluate their players and consider trades that will help their party.  For example, the Democrats could trade Zell Miller for John McCain and give up two draft choices.  Surely this trade would help both parties, which is what trading is all about.  And after six years each member should have the absolute right of free agency and be able to be recruited by the other party, without fear of being perceived as disloyal.  That is the only real way the parties can be held responsible and have a consistent philosophy.  Of course, if the general manager does a bad job, a board of lay members could replace him. 

Free agency could really work.  It would get the bad apples out of each party and create a consistent team effort.  So I humbly submit this recommendation to both political parties, to encourage voters to really care.

The 75% of Americans who do not vote have given the parties a real message.  Unless they change, they are going to destroy themselves in the long run.  And, of course, they should take my great advice.

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Sheldon Drobny is co-founder of Air America Radio, providing talk radio for the majority of Americans.

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