The Return of the Whig: Centralization and the Crisis of Democracy

Following a work-related blogging hiatus, Septimus is back online at The Whig, and in force. Catching up on news from recent weeks, he reflects on the Pew Research survey which found record levels of public distrust and discontent with Democratic-Republican Party government. Arguing that the public mood stems from "a dissatisfaction with the two political parties, and the concentration of power in Washington," Septimus focuses in on the latter, writing:
Power is being taken away from the local politicians that you can meet and know. When the national government is deciding where to build a local road, what the local speed limit is, what the local drinking age is, what the local building code is, whether you can resell children's toys at a garage sale, what the policies of your local elementary school will be, what local business gets a tax break, who your local bank will lend money to, whether a local factory gets built, whether a local port can expand, where your local mass transit can buy their vehicles, where your health care comes from (and on and on and on...) what real authority does your local government still have, exactly? What are your chances of real participation? How can you hold your local politicos to account when in all probability, their hands are tied?

That is not to say that there is not a good reason for each federal regulation or power. Each one can undoubtedly be justified. But when combined, it is not only overwhelming, but also unresponsive and distant. As the Russians say, "Heaven is high above, and the Czar is far away." Now you may reply, "But at least we get to elect our Congress." But how much do we really?

Most of us live in districts so gerrymandered, that we don't really have a choice in November. Combine complex campaign finance laws and large political donors, with unresponsive and corrupt political machines in the Democrats and Republicans, and the real question is not the large number that are discontent, but that so many remain content.
This situation is only exacerbated by the fact that the only choice voters are afforded – or rather, the only choice they believe they are afforded –, is that between reproducing the problem, i.e. voting Republican against a Democrat or voting Democrat against a Republican, on the one hand, or not voting at all, on the other. We have already reached a point at which the great majority of eligible voters simply do not vote in the majority of elections. This is a crisis of democracy that undermines the promise of representative government. Needless to say, Democrats and Republicans are unresponsive to this crisis because it is, arguably, a primary condition of their continued lock on the levers of power. However, the fact remains that the American non-vote is a vote of no confidence in the two-party state and duopoly system of government.

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