I don't think any rational person could argue that New York State government isn't
dysfunctional. From excessive pay hikes, greed in the form of "lulu's" and per diem pay, closed
door budget negotiations and party politics, our government on the State level is a good example
of Democracy gone bad. But we don't just face these problems at the State level as they exist at
the Federal and local levels as well. As I see it, there are three groups that contribute to the
mess that we are in. We'll look at them in no order of culpability.
The elected officials themselves.
They often do what's best for their party, not the district they were elected to serve.
Have created a system where the average person cannot afford to run for office.
Have created a system where the average person cannot fairly challenge an incumbent.
Sell their votes in exchange for money used to stay in office, such as PACS campaign contributions.
Virtually bribe voters with public money, in the form of pork barrel spending, to stay in office.
Get rich from public service. (I know of no example of a politician on the Federal level, and
few on the State level, who have come out of office poorer than when they went in.)
Instead of focusing on issues, resort in their campaigns to instilling fear into the voters and
slandering their opponents character and reputation.
Spend a lot of time during campaigns trying to have their opponents thrown off the ballot for
technical reasons, rather than beating them on issues.
The media is also culpable.
They do not fairly report on all candidates in an election.
Many reports are biased, both to the right and to the left.
Their endorsements are based on the political beliefs of the people in charge. Why are they
endorsing anyone, anyway? Their job is to report, not to make judgements.
They do not practice what they preach. As an example, the newspaper in my area will write
anti-Albany stories eleven months out of the year. They extoll the people to change things by "voting
the bums out", and bemoan the fact that the voters don't seem to care. But in that twelfth month,
when it comes time to endorse candidates, they endorse the same people that they preached against,
because, "these people have experience". If these newspapers can't seem to hold to their
convictions, why should the people?
Finally, many of us ourselves are equally guilty.
We applaud our elected officials for bringing home the money. Yet we yell that it's pork
barrel spending when other elected officials do it for their region. I cannot, at the moment, give
you the exact quote or who said it, but it goes something like this. "A Democracy will not stand
long when its members find out that they can vote themselves money from the public purse."
Some of us only vote Republican or Democrat because that's the way our Daddy did it and his
Daddy before that. There is no thought given in looking at what the other candidate has to offer.
Some of us don't keep up on the issues, or where the candidates stand, and go into the voting
booth voting on name recognition only.
Some of us are afraid of change. We complain that we are sick of the same old faces and that
we want somebody new. But when somebody new comes along, we complain that the new person has no
Some of us allow ourselves to be pulled into nasty, name calling campaigns, and vote on the
perception that was painted for us by one candidate about the other candidate. We don't bother to
educate ourselves to see if this perception is correct.
Many of us have dropped out of the system altogether and have stopped voting. Whether it's
because of a complete indifference to the system, or a lack of interest in the present two party
system, a Democracy cannot function when half of the eligible voters stay home.
You can probably come up with some of your own examples that would fit into these three
categories. Obviously, there is no one solution that would solve them all. But it's clear that
things need to change or the Democracy that we end up with will not resemble anything like that
of what our Founding Fathers imagined.