Rethinking the U.S. System of Government

Editor, News-Register:

All sentient beings know that power corrupts, but life on our sublime blue planet conjures up only two democratic models: 1.) British parliamentary; and, 2.) American presidential. The former consolidates power in a unitary national legislature, while the latter divides it among three discrete branches (and 50 states). Absent parliamentary majorities, the Brits, Canadians, and Aussies must compromise with rivals to govern.

Here, however, huge structural advantages embed two parties, marginalizing all pretenders. Single-issue third parties splash ashore, but then dissipate benignly. Who benefits most from today’s dysfunctional Washington stalemate? Obviously, it’s entrenched Democratic and Republican elites.

While monopolies are self-evidently worse than duopolies, America’s duopoly greases serial greed on steroids, eviscerating the middle class.

Second-term presidents ooze hubris. As a liberal Democrat, I wretch over Barack Obama reifying Bush II’s fallacious War On Terror (WOT), expanding drone strikes which award-winning battlefield journalist Dexter Filkins describes as losing the hearts/minds battle globally. By definition, war exists between nation-states (excluding al-Qaida); nevertheless, Bush II ignored his State Department legal experts by declaring a politically-motivated WOT, exploiting 9/11 shamelessly.

Why did Congress and most news media assent meekly? An incessant barrage of Bush/Cheney mendacity.

Sadly, only Bill Clinton nailed the paradigm correctly: al-Qaida was our primo law enforcement task, not a WOT.

Ex-Terror Czar Richard Clarke’s book praises Clinton for pursuing bin Laden relentlessly, but failing. Clarke rates Bush II as worst among five presidents he advised.

I assumed that constitutional law professor Obama would also ditch Bush II’s surveillance overkill, deleterious to democracy. The CIA and NSA are only two of 17 snoopers, with truly Orwellian implications. The Pentagon alone outspends all other countries for defense, rendering the Department of Homeland Security vestigial. Thus, I join analysts applauding Edward Snowden’s NSA whistle-blowing.

American egocentricity precludes ever embracing a parliamentary system, yet, as a career international studies generalist, I can cite impressive literature for the utility of a single six-year term in presidential systems, best countervailing hubris at home. Single four-year terms are too short for presidents to accomplish much, and single eight-year terms facilitate corruption; thus, single six-year terms prove most efficacious.

Michael Strada, Ph.D.