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Our Political System is Broken

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No matter the outcome of the 2012 presidential election, we must eventually face the fact that our political system is broken.   As such, our future struggle will be about whether we are able to fix it our not.   And we must realize that the "it" we need to fix inheres not in our laws, our constitution or even some other arcane program.   The "it" we need to fix is ourselves.

The Pundits

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On the 11/4/12 edition of ABC's "This Week" host George Stephanopoulos asked the roundtable:

"What does it mean for whoever wins".[the presidential election][when they are] almost certain to face"a very similar lineup in Washington than the one they have right now."

Political analyst Matthew Dowd replied:

"The dysfunction"is going to be even more exacerbated"-- the political system is broken."

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When George Will objected to this, asserting that the political system was "working beautifully,"   Dowd responded quickly:   "It's absolutely broken."



Many may ask "But why do you say it is broken?"   I would respond that I have come to the conclusion that we will never pass a law or any set of laws that can repair what is broken in our system.   

In other words, we say we have a Rule of Law system, that we are governed by laws and not by men.   But this assumption is false.   It is not even what the founding fathers actually believed.

In his writings, Thomas Jefferson said:

"It is the manner and spirit of a people, which preserve a republic in vigor.   A degeneracy in these is a canker that soon eats to the heart of its laws and constitution."  

From this Jefferson concluded that only the citizen farmer was spiritually independent and free of moral corruption sufficient to effectively operate a democratic government.

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As a public servant who has been both a prosecutor and a trial judge I can attest to the fact that our laws and our constitution are not the problem.    Today our jails are full of those who are poor, addicted to drugs, or who are mentally ill.  

But we also fail to acknowledge that it is not only the criminal who suffer from these scourges.   Nearly every child dependency case, every divorce and every foreclosure action involves either fear of poverty, drugs, mental illness or some combination of these.   And those who sit in the seats of power, those who make the decisions, are not immune from the struggle for wealth, for physical health or even for sanity.       

I cite Jefferson because   it may be that his thoughts, at one time, were correct, about farm life and the virtues it creates in people.   But if this is so we must also face the fact that we are no longer a nation of inherently virtuous farmers.   We are now something else.   We must ask:   What are we a Nation of?   What have we become?   Will what we have become make better citizens?   And if not, is there a way to change it?

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Eric Z. Lucas is an alumnus of Stanford University (Creative Writing Major: 1972-1975), the University of Washington (1981: BA English Literature and Elementary Education) and Harvard Law School, J.D. 1986. Since law school he has been a public (more...)

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