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back to article Google's Brin: Elected officials should quit political parties

As Americans head to the polls in the 2012 national election, Google cofounder Sergey Brin has called on the winners of political races to renounce their parties and govern as independents. "I must confess, I am dreading today's elections," Brin wrote in a post to his Google+ page. "Not because of who might win or lose . . . But …

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Anonymous Coward

Campaign finance reform

I'm sure Sergey knows how American politics works. If google was willing to pay, there'd be plenty of people lining up to act as "independents"!

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Well, we agree on something

""I must confess, I am dreading today's elections," Brin wrote in a post to his Google+ page. "Not because of who might win or lose . . . But because no matter what the outcome, our government will still be a giant bonfire of partisanship."" Well Mr. Brin we agree on something. To bad your company does not stand by it's motto either. You remember the do no evil bit.

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Holmes

First he should fix the censorship on his increasingly evil google

Amusing fantasy suggestion. Perhaps the politicians should have lobotomies, too?

I actually think that there are solutions to the sicknesses in American politics, but I have seen NO evidence that the increasingly EVIL google is making any positive contribution. Actually, since corporate lobbying for greater profits is quite possibly the worst part of the disease, and since the google is now reported to be the leading and biggest spending lobbyist among high tech companies, the google has become a big part of the problem and NO part of the solution.

In short, most businesspeople are fine and upstanding and just play by the rules. However the reals are encoded in laws written by the politicians who can be bribed most cheaply, and the dominant payers of those bribes are the LEAST ethical and greediest businessmen. (One of the sexist aspects is that all of the leading abusers of the system are businessmen, not businesswomen, though I admit that Meg Whitman got close at one point.)

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Blame modern journalists

Politics is simply a career for most people. They want to stay in that career for as long as possible. They do that by getting re-elected. The get re-elected by "people". Their only method to communicate with "people" in the quantities needed to get elected if via the popular press/tv media. Journalists (in all countries) tend to over simplify for the sake of getting a message across to "average" users, which tends to bias towards sensational / populist topics. Most media outlets themselves (US in particular, hello Fox news) are not exactly renowned for being independent of political bias.

Many "important" issues tend to be over simplified in the press to a point where there effectively become partisan because they are designed to polarize option (you sell more tabloids / get more web hits that way). Politicians pander to the press bias because that's what get's them air time and column inches, and the whole thing becomes somewhat circular.

In most established democracies people don't for for a person or a set of policies anyway - look at the US election riding on what a handful of swing states think. Most people vote for what they have always voted for because they've been conditioned to vote that way. I know many university grads in the UK who vote for party X because their parents have always voted for X, rather than any rational choice based on analysis of policies. If that's what you are electing your government on they what do you expect other than a long slide into mediocrity.

Mandatory coverage of policies from each major political parties, and cross-party editorial analysis in all major press outlets would be good. At least then "joe public" would have some clue what they are voting for rather than a number of so heavily spun headlines they become useless.

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@Pete H: Your post reads like a French War plan

Brilliant title that actually nails the problem and then off the rails into irrelevancy almost before the first sentence is complete. The problem is the press and how corrupt it has become. Not for money, but for ideological purposes. Stalin set out to subvert the West by infiltrating our media with operatives and by and large he succeeded. And while those people are now by and large dead, their acolytes have taken over. The US press is self-admittedly more than 90% Democrat, and they shilled for Liar in Chief for the last 5 years. They've covered up the Benghazi scandal, covered up his racist priest, and papered over his annihilation of the middle class. Fox News isn't right-wing, it's what use to pass for middle of the road. They do their best to tell the story straight and let viewers decide what the implications are. That so many leftists deride it as extreme right-wing only shows how whacked out they really are.

And most people DO vote for a set of policies and on the basis of what a particular candidate says. What they forget is that once inside the Beltway, those personal policies get subsumed into group think. So an allegedly pro-life Democrat advances the death industry because its a sacred cow of the ruling elites of his party.

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Re: @Pete H: Your post reads like a French War plan

> And most people DO vote for a set of policies and on the basis of what a particular candidate says

No, they vote for what the press said their candidate said, which often isn't quite the same thing, or at least often not as balanced a view point.

I also missed one point which is that the partisian news corps effectively turn politics into a self-selecting entrenchment of views. It is always a running joke in the UK that liberals read the Guardian, and Tories read the Telegraph. "Joe public" exposure to policy is merely what the their favorite news outlet says, and they will naturally tend towards a news outlet which is "pro" their views, and "anti" the others. So their views on the party and policy become self reinforcing, and alternative view points often get less or no coverage.

> Fox News isn't right-wing, it's what use to pass for middle of the road.

I'm not sure it is right-wing, I just think it presents a very narrow viewpoint and chooses not to talk about things or points of view it disagrees with. I travel a lot all over the world, and I have to say Fox News is one of the more entertaining programs I get to watch, but I'm not sure it is supposed to be a comedy ;)

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Mushroom

Parties are illegal

Political parties are organisations which aim to improve the election prospects of members in return for their voting support in parliament.

It is difficult to understand how this differs from bribery.

They do nothing to help the country and force a blinkered view on parliamentary decisions without which the MPs - who we allegedly elect as individuals - would be free to consider each case on its merits.

Far from funding parties via the state, as has been suggested recently, we should ban them and imprison any MP who admits to being a member of one.

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Re: Parties are illegal

Politicians will inevitably form themselves into parties, formal or not. It's best that they do so in public where we can see them.

Party enthusiasts work pretty hard to get their men and women elected. Presumably it makes a difference. And presumably they'll be cross if their candidate promptly quits the party when they win.

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Re: Parties are illegal

A small group of party apparatchiks collude to appoint the next MP, err, I mean select the next prospective parliamentary candidate for the safe party seat. At least that's the UK model...

Brin's got it the wrong way around.

Stop people campaigning on party tickets in the first place. Every candidate to publish his own manifesto. Every candidate to have a campaign spending cap.

Oh, and at the same time, add a "None of the above" option so that I can register my dissatisfaction with all candidates rather than spoiling my ballot paper. (The do-not-cares still have the option of not voting.)

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Intelligence can be highly selective.

It's astounding that someone as smart as Brin, in specific areas at least, could be so incredibly naive about human nature and the politics. A politic party is merely a convenient form of signage to indicate to the public what side of an issue a politician is likely to take.

Say the politicians do give up any claim to a party alignment. Will they no longer stand for anything, have any beliefs? Will not those who closely watch such people and the general public soon slap labels on them to group them as per their voting habits?

Language is how we convey ideas and putting a label on something is how we avoid repeating the same lengthy explanation over and over unto exhaustion. It's far easier to say 'He leans left/right,' so long as they is a mutual understanding of what is meant.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Intelligence can be highly selective.

Complete tosh and also "incredibly naive about human nature and the politics".

Politicians make decisions based on what's good for their party - what's popular and what they think will likely keep their party in power.

Hard decisions, based on what's best for the economy and the country are ignored or watered down if seen to be unpopular - they are too afraid to make those hard decisions for fear the electorate will no longer vote for them.

If party politics were removed from this (yes, I know completely impossible) then we wouldn't suffer from knee jerk legislation or decisions based on what the Daily Fail thinks the electorate wants.

Decisions on who to vote for should be based on who is best for the country - voting for someone *just* because they are on the Left/Right is meaningless. Today's Labour are about as Left-Wing as my arse and the "modern" Tory party will adopt any idea as long as they think it's popular and will get them votes - even if it does mean leaning to the left.

The politics of our (notionally) two party system should have no place in electing our representatives in Parliment.

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Re: Intelligence can be highly selective.

No, because the BIG big issue is that sometimes we need to make sacrifices in order to advance. Trouble is, people in general don't like that. So what if you're faced with a necessary but VERY unpopular choice, such as needing to cut entitlements or raise taxes because the revenues can't keep up (I don't know about in Europe but it's a BIG problem in the US). Party has nothing to do with the decision; the morally right thing to do is ALSO political suicide. I think a number of authors have pointed out that the more people involved in a government, the harder it is to pass politically unpopular acts: barring a crisis.

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Paris Hilton

Career (and term limits)

I agree with Pete H when be says politicians want to be re-elected. The teat of other peoples' money grows sweeter the longer you can stay on it. To turn one's back on their party after being elected would likely be fatal politically. It would almost always be a career-limiting move, and almost anyone who wants to move up to the next rung can only do that with the party's help.

Term limits of 1 per level might help.

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Re: Career (and term limits)

All money comes from other people. Do you work for the Mint?

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Re: Career (and term limits)

Term limits won't really do anything. It'll just give rise to proteges ready to step into the retiring politician's shoes.

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Re: Career (and term limits)

Term limits are worse than the current problem. Setting aside the significant issue of the revolving lobbyist-elected official door (which in and of itself is enough to invalidate the idea), some expertise in handling issues is required. Sending someone into office for a mere 2 years isn't enough to build that sort of expertise. That means it gets pawned off to someone in a position to stay where they are for more than 2 years but with ZERO accountability to the people.

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dcd
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Wanker

As much as I despise most in politics what ranks higher in my disdane is so called captains of industry who spout shite like Mr Google.

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FAIL

Re: Wanker

I spare my disdain for those who can't spell it.

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Holmes

Now Brin's a believer...

How can he manage to believe they won't act the same sans label? "I'm not a [..........] Party member but I'll caucus with them," that sort of thing.

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Anonymous Coward

It happens in my home country

It's customary for the president to give over his/her party membershp upon election. The president is expected to act as a neutral arbiter between the parties. The president also doesn't have anywhere near the power the US president has, a lot of it was taken away and passed to the parliament some years ago.

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Mushroom

He doesn't go far enough...

It's politics as a career choice that needs to end.

Becoming a politician should be a voluntary (but paid) act of service for a limited time, in order to preside over lawmaking and meeting the needs of the people. Lobbying should be left completely out of it altogether and any changes should be voted by referendum.

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That doesn't work.

If all politicians have fixed terms, then what are they to do for a living afterwards? You can't give up a reasonable career for any length of time and pick it up just like that. Of hcourse, they have that problem anyway, if they get voted off.

And it may be better, too, for politics to be done by experinenced trained specialists, and not novice amateurs.

The political parties can arrange the training, and probably do. You start in local government usually, I think.

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Re: That doesn't work.

Actually, I wonder if the novice amateurs would do a better job. They'll be less motivated by re-election and more by not ticking off their constituency.

Then again, i sometimes wonder if the job of American politician shouldn't become the most thankless job in America. OTOH, doing that by reducing salaries and so on would probably mean no one would want the job. Not too many people are THAT dedicated to politics that they'd do it for the job and not for the money.

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Re: Not too many people are THAT dedicated to politics

Spoken like someone who has never even met an apparatchik. I have in my own political party at the very lowest level. They are, because at that level they pretty much don't get paid. It doesn't work any better as you move up. Sure you can draw a salary at some point, but you're still doing more work than the average allegedly money-grubbing executive ladder climber. By the time you're running for office, you're running a campaign that consumes 10 to 20 times your annual salary (or more) just to be elected. Rank and file get $174,000/yr while the Speaker of the House tops out at $223,500/yr. Some of those races cost upwards of $5 million to an individual candidate. The President makes $400,000 per year, including a $50,000 expense allowance. I can't find total numbers for the campaigns, but the numbers for the quarters ending in Sept 2012 were on the order of $170 million per campaign.

Excluding insider trading (which isn't illegal for Congress critters) Politicians make their money after they get out of office when they go on speaking tours, get sweet lobbying assignments, and/or write books.

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Anonymous Coward

What he really is saying is..

.. that he isn't sure if Google sponsored the winner..

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Re: What he really is saying is..

No he's quite sure Google sponsored the winner. But like the WOPR, he's starting to wonder if it was a winning move.

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Anonymous Coward

Divide and conquer

A politican isolated from the political activists and party funding would be much more susceptible to google dripping poison in their ear

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FAIL

So not being a member of a party suddenly stops you being biased?

FAIL

I absolutely understand the utopia of the suggestion - politicians once elected should be there purely for the people. But every one of us has our political leanings and will tend to side with those of a similar disposition irrespective of party membership. And Political Parties have been known to apply influence on non-members...

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