Party Politics: Adult’s Work, or Sandbox Play?

There’s something about party politics that makes me tick. It’s not the fact that they vote in unified blocs on important issues (and thus, silencing individual opinion), but it’s the primitive nature of its hierarchy. Within a political party, there’s a hierarchy where certain individuals are expected to remain within certain boundaries and not cross them unless they want to face the consequences of it. For example, within a political party, there is always the leader and various senior members of parliament, and those senior members of parliament are supposed to keep the peace by not angering the leader, and if they do, they will face humiliation in one way or the other (likely in the form of being demoted within the party, or being completely kicked out of the party).

That primitive nature makes it seem that politics really is child’s play: if you don’t agree with the “adult” (i.e. the leader), you don’t get to play in the sandbox. I understand that this is the historical way of doing things within parliamentary democracies (especially those functioning on the Westminster model), but people need to start thinking about how this old way of doing things is hurting the legitimacy of political parties and, more importantly, hurting the legitimacy of Parliament itself.

“Thank you, Mr Leader, for letting me handle this important economic portfolio. I promise I won’t anger – I mean, disappoint – you!”

While the functions of a parliament are not necessarily hurt by petty party politics, its leadership is put into doubt. The problem with that is you begin to see entire parliaments losing their legitimacy in the eyes of the people (i.e. the very people you’re supposed to be governing). There’s a disconnect that happens between those that govern and those that are governed, and it seems to be a common problem for any sort of party, regardless of their stated political ideology.

The Need for Political Innovation

Aside from being financially wealthy, politicians have a wealth of experience. Many of them are successful people who have done tremendous things in their communities that helped them build a strong public portfolio. But it seems that the rigidity of ideology and parliamentary traditions have frozen their aspirations to come up with new policies or ideas to implement policies. It seems like parliaments now just take old formulas and fit them into novel situations.

An example of this, in my opinion, is the whole ‘environment crisis’ that has come to the forefront of business agendas. The finger is being solemnly pointed at big businesses who pollute for the plight of environmental quality around the world. For a while, nobody knew whether to believe whether global warming was real or not, but I think most of us are past that by now (and if you’re still not past that, humour me and assume it’s real). This is a problem that we’ve been told will affect us years from now and that, similarly, fixing the problem will only be truly appreciated years from now. Taking that logic, parliaments that have the political will to tackle this issue have basically made laws that either ban something or reward certain behaviour. The balance between these tools differs from country to country, but on the overall scale, there isn’t much difference in the method that parliaments are using to tackle the issue.

This may be the long-term effect of this old style of governance. (Source: Cartoonstock.com) (Note: I have no claim to ownership to this cartoon)

I certainly don’t have the answer right now as to how one can ‘innovate’ governance, but do you? Let me think on this one for a bit…

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