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back to article Confidence in US Congress sinks to lowest level ever recorded

Only a mere 10 per cent of Americans have "a great deal" or "quite a lot" of confidence in the US Congress, a new Gallup poll has found. "This is the lowest level of confidence Gallup has found, not only for Congress, but for any institution on record," the pollsters observe. Gallup posed a simple question to a random sample of …

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Anonymous Coward

Luckily, the US gov is keeping tabs on the dissatisfied 90%.

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So why the %$#@! do we keep re-electing the same politicians?

"Because if they don't vote for a lizard, the wrong lizard might get in."

- Ford Prefect.

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Re: So why the %$#@! do we keep re-electing the same politicians?

Things have changed:

You used to have a choice between, a southern baptist millionaire lawyer backed by the oil industry, or a southern baptist millionaire lawyer backed by the entertainment industry.

Now you have the same choice but one is half-black.

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Re: So why the %$#@! do we keep re-electing the same politicians?

Cue Kodos and Kang: "It's true, we are aliens. But what are you going to do about it? It's a two-party system. You have to vote for one of us."

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Re: So why the %$#@! do we keep re-electing the same politicians?

There are many contributing factors: gerrymandering, lobbyists, campaign finance reform, ringers, and so on. But if I had to pick the one that has done the most damage to the body politic, it would be a super-majority of the Press selling out their souls for a bowl of porridge.

Instead of reporting the facts and letting the people choose, they want to dictate the outcomes of the political battles. So they shape the terrain on which debates happen to at least tilt the odds in their favor if they can't outright name the winners and losers. Perhaps not as much in the UK as in the US, they are happy to report on any unsubstantiated smear against some politicians while heading facts about others. And if they can't win outright, they poison the well for everyone.

Don't believe me? Look at this article. Look at the author of it. Look at his previous articles. He's a committed progressive from the People's Republic of San Francisco. Yet he speaks as if he is representing the unrepresented majority of the US. Oh, yes he's learned the art of the dark arts well and couches it in "objective" terms, sites what other people are saying, and never makes a "personal" statement. But where is the balance? Where are the dissenters who disagree with study? Are there none? And look at the comments in response. I count maybe one positive comment from a poster about a politician. Remember that poison well I mentioned? Does a well get more poisoned than the venom which has been spewed on these pages?

In the US, if you want to fix it, it is actually pretty straight forward. Pick a party. Call them up. See if they have a precinct chairman/captain for where you live. If they don't volunteer to take the position. Chances are good you'll just get the job because about 2/3 of them are empty. Then go out and talk to your neighbors about who ought to be elected in the next contest. Help organize debates, and in the process change them to focus on the issues you want to have covered. And, when the party meets to make decisions, you'll get to vote. A vote that really counts, because you will be representing 500-2500* people in setting that platform. Including just maybe, who is on the ballot. If the position is already filled, volunteer to help him, or see if they would like you to take on a nearby precinct. It won't be easy. You'll actually have to work with a bunch of other precinct chairmen to advance what you want done. But the process is simple. But I don't think any of you will. You know why? Remember that poison I mentioned? How many of you won't do it because that would mean becoming just another sleazeball at the trough? If the Republic is dead, it's because Journalism killed it.

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I'm no longer voting "for" but "against"

I voted for Obama because I liked his record on space and a couple other things, but especially because he wasn't a religious freakazoid like Bush or Romney.

The next election I will probably vote independent because there will probably be no one to vote for, and not voting is invisible. It's the only "f*ck 'em both" option I have.

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Re: I'm no longer voting "for" but "against"

Except we're talking about Congress?

You may have unintentionally highlighted the problem - we hardly know our Rep/Senators' names (I'd bet 20% can name both their Senators, and 10% can name their Rep), so only hardcore political fetishists and party loyalists show up for primary elections and in November it's an R/D lesser-of-two-evils or party-line vote for the vast majority. Then we wonder why our Congress is completely dysfunctional.

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FAIL

Re: I'm no longer voting "for" but "against"

No difference in Australia

Last election I couldn't work out who I hated more. Ended up getting a Green's How to Vote card and put it in backwards...

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Unhappy

How to Vote.

Starting at the lowest number, decide candidate/party will do the most damage to the country. Then the next-most damaging, and so on until you put your number 1 next to the candidate/party you feel will do the least damage to the country.

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Not just the yanks

I was listening to a French radio debate this evening and it is the same for France, people are losing ( have lost) confidence in what politicians are capable of doing for their country.

My personal impression :

1st : Capitlistic greed has reached a level whereby it is no longer sustainable. Corporations and greedy Politicians, Business Men and the Banks have gobbled up the wealth and are hording it for themselves whilst the people struggle.

2nd : Over population of the world and none of the politicians care, so problems are just going to get worse.

3rd: It will take a third world war to calm things down if someone doesn't stand up and put an end to the greed. Why are there no rational politicians.

The first signs of this can be seen in the mid east. I can only imagine that it will arrive also in the west, the form might be slightly different but the fundamentals will be the same. People are sick of watching how the wealthy live in luxury at their expense.

I don't believe that Communism is the solution either but something other than the dog eat dog capitilism is required.

Proverb for the day : Unlimited power is apt to corrupt the minds of those who possess it. ( William Pitt the Elder, Earl of Chatham ).

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Not just the yanks

In other words...

"Authority has always attracted the lowest elements in the human race. All through history mankind has been bullied by scum. Those who lord it over their fellows and toss commands in every direction and would boss the grass in the meadows about which way to bend in the wind are the most depraved kind of prostitutes. They will submit to any indignity, perform any vile act, do anything to achieve power. The worst off-sloughings of the planet are the ingredients of sovereignty. Every government is a parliament of whores. The trouble is, in a democracy, the whores are us."

-- P. J. O'Rourke

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Holmes

Re: Not just the yanks

Yep.

Eventually the boomerang will come back around. It always does.

Marie Antoinette didn't get it either.

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Re: Not just the yanks

@Khaptain:

"Capitlistic greed has reached a level whereby it is no longer sustainable."

I have to disagree. I would firmly blame the moving away from capitalism as the problem (while the greed part is true). You mention france which voted socialist and are regretting the decision badly. But the reason they voted for him was the vast promises and bribes of a wonderful utopia of something for nothing. Capitalism promises work to earn but it doesnt promise to keep things running as normal by robbing the earners. And so a number of earners left.

In the UK we have a choice of left, left or closer to the middle but left. Things have moved so badly left that their new competition (labour/tory) is to keep promising to move to the right. Either way we sit under the EU as the closest to a mainstream party on the right is UKIP. And they really do seem to be what tories once were (an option to the right).

And so back to the US. At what point is it capitalism that the population dont know and dont care who is in charge. By voting in the same lemons they ensure nothing changes. The power is with the voter to decide the future of their country, yet I watch obama strip rights (bush did too but for war, obama seems to do it for fun) and fear used as a weapon to stop US voters from choosing.

Communism isnt a solution, it has yet to demonstrate any good. Capitalism provides much good on a daily basis. If you have any doubt just look around you at the advancements and improvements in life. That is capitalism. And capitalism exists through choice and the will of the people.

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Re: Not just the yanks

True - it's everywhere.

Beleaguered by lobbyists, politicians are isolating themselves more and more from the people they are supposed to serve, with the consequence that the people are distancing themselves from the politicians. It's a downward spiral.

Capitalism is all about accumulating wealth, and there is only so much wealth to accumulate. So when all the money is hoovered into large bins as it is now, there can be no more growth, and the system is bound to crash. Which it did, does and will do. Failure by design, so to speak. It would seem the cycle is 70 years or so.

Communism in the true sense is something the world has yet to see. What we have seen is socialism, which is nothing more than state-centered capitalism. Which - according to the definition above - will also fail by design. the trouble here is that when it fails, it's a whole nation that crashes.

I have no answer, but of the two options, I still prefer capitalism, because at least some of the time, society will prosper. If someone came out with an -ism that made it economically attractive to do something good for society, they'd have my vote. but as is stands today, I'm not sure where the money should come from ...

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Unhappy

Re: Not just the yanks

The problem with capitalism is that there is no restriction or limit to what a person can earn for a days work. It is an environment that rewards the greedy and people with sociopathic tendencies. What is a reasonable reward for working hard? Does the CEO or banker or whoever work 262 times harder. We all live in a symbiotic relationship with each other, and without all the little people who make the technology work, the people that make roads or soap powder or all the things they take for granted, the CEO or banker would just be a smelly, hungry, naked person in a field.

With regard to Communism, the socialist ideal is to have equality for all, Communism took that idea and twisted it to serve the interests of a minority. I believe that wealth and power should be distributed a lot more evenly among the populous. If all the cash was not being hoarded by a minority then it would probably be getting spent a whole lot more often, generating a bit of VAT every time.

I also find the idea of a professional politician offensive. I think we should be represented by people with real world experience, each for a period short enough that they don't get irrevocably changed, and develop the taste for power. Before you know it they would be buying an eye-patch and a cat and wanting to change the system to keep all the power to themselves.

"Fortunes cannot be made fairly. Wealth is created via unfair exchanges where customers are overcharged and employees are underpaid".(http://istealyourmoney.com/stupid.html)

The premise that market forces are some kind of panacea is deeply floored. Take the energy market, The "Big six" are quite happy with the status-quo and raise their prices in sync. This does not deliver the best deal for the consumer, nor will it ever.

I suppose the big question that comes out of all this, is how do you change the system without getting locked up for 600 years or becoming a professional politician?

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Coat

Re: Not just the yanks

I don't know the answer to your question

> I suppose the big question that comes out of all this, is how do you

> change the system without getting locked up for 600 years or

> becoming a professional politician?

But I have a couple of suggestions :-

1. Make being an MP, Congresman, Representative, or whatever, be something everyone has to do, like jury service, for say 4 years, and make it that twice is all that you could ever serve.

Sure, long term planning would suffer initially, but would you really say that what we have now is fit for purpose ?

2. If anyone shows any tendency to want to be a politician, then they are permanently, and irrevocably barred from that sort of role.

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Re: Not just the yanks

...and once you finish your term of elected service, we will put you in court, on trial, for all that you have done. If you've been a good PM, and broken no laws, told no lies and achieved what you promised (ie, not in breach of contract, no acts of treason etc) then well done....

....if not...well....

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Because we're STOOPUD!

Next question?

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Yes, of course.

But the institutions of government are there to be recreated on the electoral calender to survive the plebeian monstrosity. We are talking about government and its elected support.

Here in the UK what can we look forward to ?

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Re: Here in the UK what can we look forward to ?

A Nazi satsuma or a socialist trout?

I don't think the Adipose man has a future since the electorate seem convinced that he's responsible for everything evil that happens simply because he doesn't have the clout to stop it.

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Anonymous Coward

The really surprising thing...

...Is that 10 per cent of Americans still have "a great deal" or "quite a lot" of confidence in the US Congress. I wonder where they all live, as I've never met one of them.

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Re: The really surprising thing...

That group is comprised of the congressmen themselves, their families and their industry buddies.

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District tampering

District re-sizing/tampering certainly plays a role in how these goof balls get re-elected every year. Their real goal is to get their fat paycheck and pension.

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The reason they keep voting the same people is in is rampant gerrymandering. The party that is going to win is rarely in doubt.

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Boffin

Different views

It's simple, the question is worded wrong. I'd wager if the question was "I am going to read you a list of politicians in American society. Please tell us how much confidence you, yourself, have in each one – a great deal, quite a lot, some, or very little?" We would find out that on average each person has a great deal of confidence in 3 to 5 members of Congress and very little for the other 530 or so. In short, folks will say, 'the elected officials I voted for are good but I wish all the other stupid people in America didn't vote for all those other jerks.' As a result as an institution, to most folks Congress looks like a bunch of dopes with the exception of a few bright sparks. On the whole, most folks are absolutely right.

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Re: Different views

You give me that list and the only two who would get higher than 'some' from me are both people I don't get to vote on. That remains true if you include the people that my Congressmen have run against in the last couple election cycles. You go back further than that and add in a couple guys who are now enjoying their retirements and they might get higher, but they were in office before I became disillusioned with the entire process.

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Re: Different views

This is exactly what I heard from another research study released just after the last US elections. People, for the most part, feel confident in their own elected representatives, but don't feel the same way about the ones they didn't elect, even if they have the same voting patterns and records.

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Lost its relevance

The loss of confidence could just be the reflection of a trend I seem to observe in several parliaments around the world: loss of relevance. Once Parliaments were places where the power brokers sat. So they were places where serious decisions were taken. These days you see token members of minorities (UK, France) and cute girlies (France and Italy) being elected as MPs to make the place look good and please the electorate. There's nothing wrong with that, except that it debases the power element - Parliament becomes a more of a showcase than a powerhouse, more of a face than a brain. A kind of empty shell. A rubber stamp. And inevitably, people have less confidence in it, because there's no reason to have any confidence in it: the real power broking and decision-making takes place elsewhere.

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Why? Because they no longer work for us...

In the USA and, increasingly, it seems, in the UK, many politicians (especially those at the top) are now bought and paid for by wealthy vested interests, either through campaign contributions or offering lucrative directorships to "help them decide" which way they and their party will vote.

The idea that casting a ballot once every few years gives you some influence on the process is, regrettably, laughable.

We did have the opportunity a couple of years ago to at least improve the system, but, once again, the wealthy vested interests came down on one side and decided that they didn't want us to have it, so we got a a referendum on a system that wasn't great (instead of a *choice* of what system to use) and one party that opposed, whilst another party simply wouldn't support it and we, the electorate, got screwed.

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Orwell was right

Twelve voices were shouting in anger, and they were all alike. No question, now, what had happened to the faces of the pigs. The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which.

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No good choices

Sadly the only people able to get elected to DC in the US are extremists. Actually that's becoming true at the state level to.

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as long as 1% is happy

the remaining 99 does not count.

9 more to go before they have to worry about their base.

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You have two hand-picked partisan polticians: CHOOSE ONE

The Founders of the US wanted to avoid professional politicians holding office. They wanted Real People to take time off from being successful to help run the country. The people should be represented by their own.

Instead, we have career politicians (person who specialize in getting elected to office) hand-picked and pre-screened for party compliance. My choices in any election I can think of for 30 years have been Dickhead A or B. Whichever party holds the reins, they're going to do asinine things to further their political agenda, no matter how it screws the country.

Given the lack of decent folks to vote into office and no option for "none of the above, new election with new candidates, please", it's no mystery that Congress is full of misguided jerks. It's hardly a secret, so why should we have any confidence in them?

And would you Brits PLEASE keep our total lack of decent candidates in mind when bashing our government's actions? THEY DO NOT REPRESENT AMERICANS. Only the American political parties, who firmly control the process.

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Re: You have two hand-picked partisan polticians: CHOOSE ONE

To be fair, I've never seen a ballot with less than three candidates. Unfortunately no matter how fed up with Republicans and Democrats the nation gets most of the sheeple refuse to vote for any other political party because "that would be throwing our votes away". That's the only reason the two major parties have such a strangle hold on the process. If we could get all the people who have had enough to just vote third party or independent the Republicans and Democrats wouldn't stand a chance.

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Meh

Re: You have two hand-picked partisan polticians: CHOOSE ONE

The founding fathers generally regarded politics as a necessary evil and part if their civic duty. They even listed their jobs in the censuses (censusi?) as farmer, carpenter, etc. The idea of doing it forever was generally appalling.

That's why I'm all for term limits for Congress seats. More than partisan bickering, it is the arcane set of internal rituals that screw things up for everyone. Everyone is playing by a set of internal rules in order to get on fat committes at the expense of national legislature. Self important jackasses.

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Re: You have two hand-picked partisan polticians: CHOOSE ONE

It would take a lot of people voting 3rd party to get any traction. The networks alone can kill an outside candidate by not allowing them to the debates. It is so very screwed up.

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Re: You have two hand-picked partisan polticians: CHOOSE ONE

Too true, it's usually the networks that parrot their political masters' comments about third party candidates. It's usually the radical, extreme, fringe, quixotic or unelectable candidate versus the two respected, honorable, experienced and or wise candidates from the major parties.

In reality the two party cartel is basically voting for the shit sandwich with mayo or the shit sandwich with mustard. Of course there are the extremes of the two parties which claim to be whole wheat or multi-grain too but still a shit sandwich.

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@Eddy Ito Re: You have two hand-picked partisan polticians: CHOOSE ONE

According to South Park (Season 8, episode 8), it's a choice between a Douche and a Turd (I strongly recommend watching this episode).

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@ Tikimon

"And would you Brits PLEASE keep our total lack of decent candidates in mind when bashing our government's actions? THEY DO NOT REPRESENT AMERICANS. Only the American political parties, who firmly control the process."

Why do you assume it's any different here in Britain? It isn't.

Fairly recently I realised that my government, my country, and hence I myself (as a citizen) have a huge amount of innocent blood on our hands. Yet I never desired that or (consciously) voted for it. But what party could I have voted for that would have refrained from killing people in Asia for their own good? Not the "Conservatives" (who, incidentally, have not been conservative in any sense of the word for many decades). Not "Labour" (which no longer stands for labour, and whose last two prime ministers are now roving multi-millionaires). Not the "Liberal Democrats", who include a lot of extremely illiberal people who believe in democracy only when it suits them. You can't find a party with any MPs that has taken a stance against unprovoked aggressive war, the supreme international crime. On the contrary - they all glory in it, seeking the "Churchill/Thatcher effect".

So I have the choice of continuing to be an accessory to aggressive war and attempted genocide, or I disenfranchise myself by ceasing to vote. But even that wouldn't help, as whether I vote or not I still share the guilt.

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Re: You have two hand-picked partisan polticians: CHOOSE ONE

'Unfortunately no matter how fed up with Republicans and Democrats the nation gets most of the sheeple refuse to vote for any other political party because "that would be throwing our votes away".'

That certainly is a convenient rationalization. I actually believe the truth is even simpler: most people don't vote for the best candidate after careful study of his character and record, the issues, and his policies. Instead, they see themselves as part of a group, engaged in fighting or resisting another group; so they vote for their group's "representative". Democracy is a great idea, but it cuts right across the grain of human nature - which desperately wants to be part of a team, with a strong leader, that beats other teams.

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Stop

Re: @ Tikimon

"You can't find a party with any MPs that has taken a stance against unprovoked aggressive war, the supreme international crime."

To be fair, the Greens *do* have one MP. In a blind test of party manifestoes in the 2010 election, theirs came out on top, too.

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Alert

Re: You have two hand-picked partisan polticians: CHOOSE ONE

I tend to bang a drum about this but I don't apologise and I really feel that it needs to be mentioned more... Switzerland is a great (and the only) example of a direct democracy that works. No career politicians and functioning on public referendums for every new law, just as you describe.

Career politics is the enemy and it needs to end - spread the word!

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censusi?

Don Jefe, the (nominative) plural of census in Latin is census (with a long u). The phrase “in the censuses” would probably take the ablative in Latin, so would wind up being translated as in censibus.

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Anonymous Coward

The election and voting system is strategically designed by those already in power...

.... to keep independents and free thinkers out... Look at the games they play with regional or other boundaries to manipulate the voting system. What surprises me is how the low approval rating doesn't translate into people simply rebelling and voting for the oddest choice as a FU to the establishment....

.....But wait that won't work, because we only get to vote at the final screening. For instance I wanted to vote for Ron Paul. I didn't care if he's nuts, I just wanted to see the Fed get audited and our gold get counted. For no other reason than to make the elite sweat! But our eventual choices were Obama or Vulture Capital. Obama kept Bush's policies. So frying pan or fire you choose, either way we're screwed!

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I will believe in politicians...

When they take the medicine they prescribe for us... Isn't it true that congress has a fantastic medical plan that covers not only the politicians but their families as well?

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Congress in general, or your own congressman?

Our American public generally doesn't like the "other" politicians, but is quite happy with "their own" politicians. Yes they despise congress as a whole but as is said in other arguments, they keep electing it.

Unfortunate as it is, we don't elect all 435 representatives we only elect one (unless you are from say Chicago, where the motto is vote early, vote often). That single one is the popular one in the district, and the rest of the country be damned.

We get the congress we elect. Unfortunately that is how it is.

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Anonymous Coward

Our American public ... is quite happy with "their own" politicians

Really? I don't know *anyone* who has been enthusiastic about the congressmen they've voted for. Nearly always, it's a matter of holding your nose and choosing the one who will do the least damage.

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Binary human

It seems the end point of a mature democracy when there is no charismatic savior type figure running is a close to 50/50 split of political philosophy even if much of it is of the bumper sticker variety. One doesn't need even an intro course in physics to know that when two opposing forces are equal or close to equal, there is very little movement. When no one gets what they want it is easy to point to the other side as being obstructionist.

Voters and non-voters alike will say why can't elected leaders compromise and get along yet if one looks at the behavior or attitudes of these critics one will find there are plenty who can't get along with others either due to differences in personality, politics, consumption patterns, standards of social etiquette, dress and a host of other reasons too numerous to mention.

Members of Congress reflect the people of the United States. Our low opinion of them is because we pretend we are looking through a window instead of into a mirror.

Maybe we need to remember that mass politics always seeks the lowest common denominator and that seems to be the number 2.

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Nope, it's first-past-the-post which does that.

A "first past the post" system forces this:

- It rapidly becomes clear that voting for anyone other than the top two from last time is pointless.

- In an A, C, Z election, Voting for "Option C" that meets your views better than A, tends to cause option Z (opposed to your views) to win by moving votes from option A to C.

Thus it gravitates to a two-party system with "safe seats" in many votes, and the politicians can trivially ignore most of the electorate.

So why did the UK idiot electorate believe the big two parties when they campaigned against changing the voting system?

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Meh

Re: Binary human

"It seems the end point of a mature democracy when there is no charismatic savior type figure running is a close to 50/50 split of political philosophy even if much of it is of the bumper sticker variety. One doesn't need even an intro course in physics to know that when two opposing forces are equal or close to equal, there is very little movement. When no one gets what they want it is easy to point to the other side as being obstructionist."

Interesting theory.

So how do you explain the British result of a coalition under a first-past-the-post system?

Or are you talking solely about the American experience?

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