The Washington D.C. restaurant is dark, filled with business suits whispering to each other over candle-lit dinners. Nondescript acoustic guitar quietly falls over the crowd, covering dealings that affect millions. The group is populated with lawyers and lobbyists, politicians and judges. No one knows but the waiters, silently stalking the rows of tables, refilling water and overhearing the occasional national secret. This is where the politics happen.
Whenever someone starts talking about how unhappy he or she is with the governmental system, someone inevitably says, “I’m moving to Canada.” I’d argue that that’s avoiding the problem. One of the best teachers I’ve had in Keene proposed something that was both simple and difficult. Wes Martin, a political science professor, simply said, “We should rewrite the constitution.” And I completely agree. We need to reform our system into a multi-party parliamentary system. But it wouldn’t be easy. The idea we have of checks and balances and the two party system is the fundamental problem at our core.
Our government was built on the idea of the separation of powers with two rigid political parties. This idea has been taken to new heights with the emergence of hyper bi-partisanship. In a system that requires compromise and a majority, it is difficult to do anything with two contradictory parties.
Now at a 12-month high, Congress’ approval rating is around 16 percent. We as a generation have known more years at war than at peace. Corporations are now people, the national debt is in the trillions and every day nothing happens. In Congress no one says anything of significance; they bicker and moan, and then they leave. Back to their restaurants, back to making their deals, away from the public eye.
And even if we could just expel all the legislators from Congress, it wouldn’t solve the problem. The system would still be flawed. It’s next to impossible to get a majority in the Senate, the House and get the president to sign it in, because both parties have control of at least one of those roadblocks.
So what can we do? We’re just individuals, and in our society money equals speech. We’re not corporations. We’re not raking in billions in revenue to spend on a candidate. We need to talk about it. This is the first step, it’s the first thing we can begin to do. Political talk is taboo in our times and it shouldn’t be. We need to start promoting ideas. Occupy Wall Street was a good start, but we need another, we need to know what we’re doing. Conversation is the last great art, and with a few words ideas can spread. With a few good conversations a movement can start. Look at the Kony 2012 video. How many people saw that? And within a few weeks something happened. It started with a conversation.
Augustus Stahl can be contacted at