People in the U.S. have always had a healthy distrust of the government. The U.S. Constitution explicitly included a system of checks and balances in order that the hubris and ambitions of one man or a small group of men (and eventually women) could not take control of the entire government or the U.S. agenda. The system was designed in order that no one branch of the government would dominate the other two branches. The system was designed as a representative government whereby the people would elect representatives who would do their bidding and fight for their interests in government. That all worked very well while there were poll taxes and literacy tests necessary to cast votes because only educated people with extra money needed to be represented since they were the voting population. In the days when the U.S. democratic experiment was in its infancy the population was much more homogeneous and their needs were much simpler so it was easier to represent them.
As the population grew more diverse and their needs became more complicated, there were internal and external conflicts that aligned Americans interests enough to keep them all working together towards common goals. The conflicts that kept the U.S. population united with their politicians included: the American Revolution; numerous “Indian” wars (against various native American tribes throughout the U.S); the War of 1812; more Indian wars; Mexican-American War; more Indian wars; American Civil War; more Indian wars; wars for primacy and influence on strategic islands; World War I; Korean War; Bay of Pigs; Vietnam War; invasion of Grenada; invasion of Panama; Gulf War; Afghanistan War; Iraq War; War on Terror; and a surprising amount of other military interventions worldwide with various and sundry allies and enemies.
As long as politicians could keep people’s focus on external enemies, the populous was largely willing to overlook the nepotism, lifetime tenure, lies and corruption of their elected officials. Of course politicians’ most egregious acts did not go unnoticed or unpunished because first and foremost the U.S. is a country where the rule of law and the mechanisms for enforcing the rule of law are robust. However, whenever possible, if the eyes of the population began to turn toward the collective and legally un-punishable (but nevertheless immoral or unconscionable) acts of representatives and representative bodies and the agents thereof, politicians would work together with the media to re-direct the collective anger and resentment to enemies both foreign and domestic (including Abolition; immigration; war on poverty; war on drugs; inner city crime and economic and environmental concerns).
The two-party system that developed in the U.S. and then was perpetuated, worked well for career politicians to the detriment of those that they were charged to represent. Politicians lied and flip-flopped so much on issues that people were surprised when politicians told the truth and held true to their campaign promises. Since the norm was lying, rarely did the politicians on the “other side of the isle” call out the most egregious and obvious lies of their peers because they would thereby highlight their own lies and half-truths and forgotten, unfulfilled promises. Of course, during elections (which were held perpetually) all bets were off, the gloves came off and the finger pointing and blaming of the other party’s members began in earnest. “They” were blamed for everything. “They” did not fulfill any of their promises. “They” lied to themselves and to the American people. “They” were the problem and only “we” can be trusted to work in the interest of the American people in order that their lives will be perfect and prosperous.
Again, once the elections were over, the status quo returned, and all the politicians did as little as they could, without drawing too much attention to themselves or their party. When the politicians actually did something it was a watered down version of what they had promised, or if the party had enough of a majority (or held both the Congress and the presidency), then is would be legislation that benefitted only the most wealthy and influential and was shoved down the throats of the taxpayers that would end up footing the bill.
There are four reasons that politicians worked in the un-yielding interest of the elite and to the eternal detriment of the 99% of the population that they represented. First, most politicians were from the elite class. Therefore, elite problems were tangible and politicians had been privy to many conversations about how to address the concerns of the elite. And, until they entered the political fray, most elite politicians did not know of the problems of the 99% and/or did not really know how to address them because they had not thought of them before. Second, since elite politicians when to elite schools and had elite friends and were member of other elite organizations, elites had access to politicians that the 99% did not have. Third, because election campaigns were privately funded and elites were in a better position to donate more money to political campaigns than the 99%, the elites got the ears of politicians more often and held their attention for longer. Fourth, since there were no term limits for Congress, their fundraising efforts were perpetual. This meant that if they wanted the same elites’ money that was donated to their last campaign, they needed to “give” the elites something for their money. Thus all representatives became representatives for the corporations and individuals that contributed to their campaigns. Politicians didn’t care what happened to the people who did not contribute because their votes could be bought with more campaign promises (despite their past performance) and (thanks to their donors) media smear campaigns against their opponents.
The only way to cure this diseased sham of a democracy was to get real people in Congress who were part of the 99% and who could therefore be truly representative of the majority of the people that they represented. The only way to get the poor bastards foot in the door was to end private financing of campaigns and to impose term limits on the House and the Senate. The only way to break the perpetual cycles of money for promises and promises for money was to get the money out of the system and enact legislation in order that the same people could not perpetuate a broken system. Obviously, this was not in the best interests of the career politicians so they never did it. They always ran for office on promises of campaign finance reform but never reformed it once they were elected. Why would they?