Are political parties the problem?
Signed up on the mailing list for the local (Orange County, California) Republican Party. Looking for some way to make a positive difference. Mailings from the Party offer:
- Opportunities to meet and donate money to current and recently serving politicians. More money is better. Wear a suit.
- Opportunities to work as free labor in service to someone else's cause.
- Opportunities to back an existing cause, chosen by someone else.
So far it seems - as an individual voter - the organization serves no useful purpose. Not a word about who or how the causes are chosen.
Reading the local political weblogs, I see a lot of:
- The person under discussion is in the other political party, so they must be bad.
- The person under discussion is in the same political party, so they must be ok.
- The item under discussion was backed by someone of the other political party, so it must bad.
- .... etc. There are the odd exceptions, presented as exceptions.
Note that when politics becomes really local, political parties tend to disappear.
I voted for a member for the local school board, because I'd met her at local PTA and Boy Scout meetings, and thought she would do a good job. Don't remember if her political party membership was ever mentioned.
Do you know the party membership of members of your local city council? Did you vote for them mostly on issues, or mostly on their party membership? My bet is that party membership matters more in larger cities, and much less in smaller. When you know more about the individual and where they stand on local issues, then party membership matters less.
This ties in with a prior observation, that bad things seem to happen in politics when representation becomes more remote. Perhaps the existence of political parties are a symptom of the underlying problem. When you know a lot more about the issues in question, and the (local) guy you are voting for - political parties just do not matter very much.
How remote is too remote? The city of Santa Ana, with a population of about 380,000 (ignoring uncounted illegal immigrants), offers one example. Political party seems to matter rather a lot. With seven city council members, that works out to about 54,000 citizens (or roughly 18,000 active voters) per representative.
The nearby city of Lake Forest has a population of about 59,000, and a five member city council, which works out to about 12,000 citizens (or roughly 6,000 active voters) per representative. Local issues seem to be dominant, with political party affiliation almost invisible.
Is this enough to bracket the problem? Is one representative per 6,000 active voters workable, and one representative per 18,000 active voters too remote?