Are We Moving Toward A Parliamentary System?

Much of the political chaos we have seen in the United Kingdom is because of their parliamentary system of government.

Being a Member of Parliament has very little to do with individual personalities, but everything depends on your party. To be a MP there is no requirement to live in the constituency (election district) before or after being elected. MPs are cogs of their political party’s machinery. One interchangeable with the other.

Senior party members usually hold “safe seats.” As they climb the party hierarchy, prime ministers do not fear voters as much as their party MPs and senior party apparatchiks who elect them to the position. Loyalty to party matters the most…not your own personal policy ideas. Executive and Legislative functions are one under that system.

For the first 200 years of our system of government, we elected the person to the office. We kept in mind his party affiliation and usually voted with the label. However American parties had rather broad appeal from very liberal to conservative. “Blue Dog Democrats” and “Progressive Republicans.”

When I was growing up in New York, our two senators were liberal Republicans Javits and Keating. Both Republican Governor Rockefeller seemed to be ensconced in Albany as was Louis Lefkowitz who was A.G. for 22 years. They were all out of the progressive mold of Republican Congressman and Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia. Progressive politics did not start with Democrats but with Republican Theodore Roosevelt.

I also remember most people saying, “I don’t vote for the party but for the person.” To keep a party in power, it had to appeal to the broadest number of voters. That all went away when big money entered our politics. Now efforts are made to appeal to the donor and his money goes to make the voter accept his politics.

The Framers gave us a much more nuanced system than what has evolved. They counted on both politicians and people looking out for the greater good. Madison and Hamilton envisioned political parties and were leery of them.

The Constitution gives Congress the ultimate authority in so many matters. The president was more of a functionary to carry out the policies of the legislature. Executive power was feared by the Framers, and they were right to do so. They wanted a weak office of the president.

It hasn’t worked out that way. As the presidency became stronger in relation to Congress, parties became more important. It seems now that the members of the president’s party in Congress are there not as a check but to do his bidding. The other party has become not the loyal opposition but rather an obstruction to governing.

We are far removed from the Framers vision of how the government should work. The United States now has the worst aspects of both the parliamentary party centric model and the one we have had since 1789. This has not been in America’s best interests.

I like the form of government that the Framers gave us. Unlike Canada and the U.K., we are not meant to lurch from extreme to extreme on policy with each election. Party should not be the most important thing but another attribute for us to decide when we vote on a person for office. We are a conservative right of center nation. Our policies should reflect that rather than extremism.

This last election is shaping up to prove my point. The majority is not against true conservatism but authoritarianism. They are looking for elected members of state and federal office to show a willingness to work with all. If you deviate to cultism, you are more than likely not going to be elected, at least in statewide races.

We should return to the time that Republicans and Democrats fought over policy. Where they could sit down together and break bread or have a drink. In a nation of over 330 million people, it is the only way we can survive and thrive. Think Tip O’Neill and Ronald Reagan and not Donald Trump and Nancy Pelosi.

Photo by Fülöp Ádám on Unsplash

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Thomas F Campenni

Currently lives in Stuart Florida and former City Commissioner. His career has been as a commercial real estate owner, broker and manger in New York City.