Over the last few weeks we have been witness to a perfect example of why party politics is bad. It is a distortion of our democracy yet it has been around for so long that we think it is an inevitable consequence of the democratic process. Perhaps it is, yet it prevents us from having the political representation that we should demand.
The example came from America during the process to appoint Brett Kavanaugh to the United States’ Supreme Court. To be honest I have been baffled as to why this has been such a news story over here and I suspect it is a mixture of prurience and intrigue that has kept it in our faces.
The gist of the story from my perspective, is there are those, predominantly Republicans who want to see Kavanaugh elected and those, predominantly Democrats who don’t. All sorts of muckraking has gone on to build up and knock down his candidature.
Yet not all Republicans, or perhaps Democrats feel the same way. Jeff Flake, the United States Senator from Arizona, a Republican, was certainly uncomfortable about the nomination and sought an additional FBI investigation before he cast his vote. When the people of Arizona first elected him in 2012, they did so to represent their views and best interests.
Clearly he felt that these would not be best served by the election of Kavanaugh yet, as he was havering, the full force of the republican party was brought to bear on him and he was whipped into line. In this way the people of Arizona where now represented by the views of the party and not of Flake. I believe he subsequently got his wish for an investigation but this does not detract from what I am saying.
American democracy is not the same as UK democracy but the same processes still hold.
Under our electoral system we vote for a person to represent the needs of the constituents. By being in a political party then they must, by definition, also represent the needs of the party. These requirements lead to conflict. They lead to a funneling of opinion to represent what the leaders of the party and those with most influence believe in. The opinions of our MPs are drawn towards the average of those in charge.
To get real power in this system, does not require you to have just influence within the electorate but rather in the party and, as we have seen time and time again, the wishes of the party prevail. This is a distortion of our democracy.