America’s Politics Not Fit for Purpose

The American political system does not solve problems, or even resolve disputes, at a national level.

This feels like a big-picture understanding of failed-state reality, above the day to day or even year to year blowups.

A good political system ought to solve broad problems of society, and create better and fairer conditions over time. But for a political system to qualify as functional at all, it ought to resolve some disputes. Even if one credits a political system of endless unresolved disputes with being at least preferable, compared with those fights playing out through violence, this does not seem stable beyond a short term. If arguments just fester, while infrastructure decays, explosions seem inevitable.

As America draws near a decade since the optimistic forecast “that the fever may break” soon, I believe we may say that our political system is just not fit for purpose at a national level. I know I say this kind of thing, a lot, but this fundamental futility seems important.

I have been reaching in the dark toward this conclusion for a while, I think. After the 2018 elections, I considered an emerging nihilism in the oscillation between red and blue which seems to defy any meaningful purpose:

Custodianship will not resolve major issues that seem to defy any lasting resolution, and I’m not honestly certain that anything will. What’s a fair rate of taxation? When is abortion okay? Who has a right to healthcare, on what basis? Independent of whether any majority consensus exists on questions like these, that majority seems entirely incapable of imposing itself on a politics in which they are contested with apocalyptic intensity, anyway, year after year after year.

A couple of months ago I took a longer-term look back at the evidence of a dysfunctional, ungovernable country, with a timeline of steady breakdown of dispute-resolution processes.

I suspected vaguely, more than four years ago, that more and more would be asked of the legal system, and that too seems to fit this picture. The legal system cannot supply anything like all of society’s needs for resolving disputes, holding wrongdoers to account, and certainly not reconciling irreconcilable factions. (Even without taking into account partisan corruption of it.) But it’s a system which, for all of its famous slowness, is currently delivering more answers and accountability than a political system which on a national level provides essentially none.

All these things are trees and the forest is a political system which does not resolve disputes, and probably even encourages them, or at the least does nothing to deter their growth.

We are, of course, well past the point where America’s political system does not even maintain broad agreement on reality, let alone prioritizing problems or solving them. “Q Anon” cultists are in Congress. Republicans’ Big Lie can do the rounds of Sunday Shows like it’s an entirely reasonable matter of opinion. Etc.

I’m not sure most people can even grasp this as a big concept, and it’s difficult for me. The temptation is to leave it to one side, and route one’s thoughts to some more discrete issue (or just shrug and mutter agreement that “yes everything’s a mess” without adapting in any way).

It is tough. What can one do about something like this? I don’t know. But it seems like there must be better options than simply pushing harder upon a rope, or other forms of denial.

Telling people “get involved in the political process” seems like it needs very careful consideration, in the face of this much evidence that said political process is fundamentally nonfunctional, excepting roles like “profitable industry” or “a machine to generate perpetual grievance” which are not what most change-seekers are looking for.

While I don’t believe that “go off the grid” is the answer, either, it’s not surprising if some people have a sense that the grid upkeep system is simply a sham which doesn’t work at all.

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