U.S. Election note: Throwing the bums out

November 4, 2010

By Chris Wells

The recent U.S. mid-term elections followed a familiar mechanic; deep discontent driven by real problems like unemployment drove a voter “revolt” against incumbents (mostly Democratic) handing control of the House of Representatives to the Republicans. This type of voter sentiment is often summed up in the phrase “throw the bums out.

Pressenza, New York, 11/4/10 Unfortunately, this approach is based on a false assumption — that after throwing out the “bums” we are replacing them with “non-bums.” That is, with honest, hard-working, intelligent officials who will stand up for the true interests of the people they were elected to represent.

But where are such honest politicians to be found? Is it even possible today for an honest politician to become a viable candidate? This problem was clearly framed in the “Statement of the Humanist Movement” in 1993: “Through the party machinery, powerful interests finance candidates and then dictate the policies they must follow.”

Of course, this arrangement applies to both parties. The total campaign spending on the U.S. mid-terms was unprecedented – over $4 billion. So we continue this absurd pendulum swing between parties — with the illusion of change — while the process of centralization of power, and of concentration of wealth, continues with only surface changes based on which particular “bums” happen to be holding office at any given time.

Clearly deeper changes are needed. The “Statement” proposes “laws of political responsibility” that would subject officials who fail to carry out their campaign promises to censure or even recall. This would be an important step.

It is also necessary to seriously consider the Humanist call for decentralization of the apparatus of the State, to place more direct control of their destiny in the hands of the people themselves and to counteract the consolidation of centralized power, which naturally will act in the interests of the powerful few, against the interests of the majority, with results that are only too plain to see.

The question of how such changes are to be attained is beyond the scope of this note, but to begin with it’s necessary to see the problem clearly.

North American Spokesperson for New Humanism

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