I've been glued to SkyNews on my Apple TV all evening tonight, fascinated by the election returns in the general election in the UK.
Yes... I know that makes me a great nerd, but I'm okay with that. It's so awesome to watch a country choose its leaders in a democratic process... even if you have no idea who any of them are. I may end up staying up all night. Politics is gripping like that.
I can't help but draw some incredibly stark contrasts between the way the UK process works and the way the US process does, and I think we could learn a lot from the UK about some ways our process is lacking. And, at the same time, there are some unsettling qualities about the UK process that make me happy we have a system that is set up the way ours is.
First... damn those Brits are cordial! What in the hell?!? – I mean, as the election results are coming in each candidate stands on a stage together with all of his or her opponents as the results are read. Then, they all shake hands with each other and stand together to listen to the winner give an acceptance speech! All across the country, in every constituency! Could you imagine this type f equality and cordiality happening in the US!? All of them! Not just the major party candidates! Even the smallest of independent candidates! All of them, standing shoulder to shoulder, facing their constituents! What a novel idea! I suppose when you are talking about a country that spends less than 5% of what American candidates spend on political advertising, it makes folks focus on issues and not on personal attacks and means that candidates don't have to hide behind ads. Theres a lesson we could learn.
Plus... these districts (or "constituencies", as they call them) are based on geography, not on political gerrymandering. Imagine for a moment, if you will, a district that is based on a city or town's borders! A member of Congress who is charged with representing the city of Fayetteville, instead of a tiny piece of Fayetteville and a tiny piece of Lillington and a tiny piece of Cary and a tiny piece of Pittsboro (all areas with completely different needs and interests). Sounds like good sense to me! They do that in the UK... and their districts are far smaller too, so they are able to focus on really serving their constituents on a more direct and personal level. Also a great idea.
We could learn a good deal from the UK by making our federal representative elections more cordial, more about policies, more local, and above all, LESS ABOUT MONEY! Good on you, UK.
That said.... I think the UK elections also hold a stark warning for the US and also show us an example of one thing we have, in the past, done better and must do better in the future.
The UK parliamentary system is all about party. MP candidates don't run on independent ideas or ideas tailored to their districts needs. They run on strict loyalty to a party. If you want a Labour Prime Minister, vote Labour. If you want a Tory Prime Minister, vote Tory. Its the equivalent of voting for a Democrat in your US congressional district just because you want Nancy Pelosi to be Speaker of The House. Well.. I agree with Nancy Pelosi on many things, but I'll be damned if I would have voted with her on every issue had I been elected. In fact, I fear that the US political climate has veered far too closely towards the same type of strict party loyalty system that the UK adheres to... and in my opinion, it's been to the detriment of good government in the US. And why is this? MONEY!!! When money is made SO important to the success of a candidate and a campaign, and the party holds so much power in raising and dispensing money to candidates, it removes the ability of candidates to remain independent and autonomous and truly represent their constituents at home instead of just their party leaders.
The US system has historically been structurally sound. Allowing for the right types of checks and balances between the Executive Branch and the Legislative Branch... an improvement upon the UK system which lacks this type of protection. Congresses past have had far more moderate members that were willing to buck their party lines when it was beneficial to their districts. The infusion of money into our races has weaken one of the major strengths that the US has always had over the UK system.
So the cordiality in the UK is not present in the US ... because of money.
The local and personal touch that is present in the UK elections is not present any longer in the US.... because of money.
And the strict party loyalty and lack of autonomy from party leadership that is not present in the UK (but has been in the US in the past), is sadly beginning to fade away from the US system now.... because of money.
Am I noticing a universal culprit here?
We MUST get the money out of our political system ASAP