I'm still trying to get it all neatly organized and arranged in my mind, but thought I'd take this opportunity to toss out a few of the things that seem most pertinent to me.
- We don't seem to have a whole lot of political involvement by the teeming masses of citizens. The ones most likely to consistently vote are those of advanced years, with a significant drop in percentage of active voters as one goes down the age scale. The way I see it, this is perfectly reasonable: older citizens are still of the mind that their votes actually count for something, because they were raised to believe in the government (they're the ones that the old "We're from the government, and we're here to help" was effective on). However, as the years have passed since those folks were young, the American public has been treated to innumerable reports of government ineptitude, incompetence, malfeasance, outright chicanery of different kinds, and generally been given plenty of reason to be suspicious and mistrustful of our elected officials. Amusingly, it's a Catch-22: people don't vote because nothing changes, and nothing changes because people don't vote.
- Another reason that things don't change is because too many people have gotten too damn lazy to maintain the kind of on-going pressure needed to effect change. This year's Teabaggers? See how many of them are still around after this coming November. Or February next year.
- Related to the above is the fact that we have what amounts to a professional politician class. Does anybody really believe that some putz that has spent the last 20+ years in Congress has any concept of what it's like for an ordinary citizen? Particularly when those politicians grant themselves perquisites that distance them even more from real Americans? It's funny that damn near every poll on the subject comes back with the result that most folks think all the rascals in Congress need to be voted out of office - except for their own, of course. Um... people? Everybody in the other 49 states feels the same way about YOUR Concresscritters, too. If we really believed in "majority rule", then in every state, it's 49-to-1 that your Congressrodents need to go... so how about it, huh?
- There's also a growing sense of entitlement among the American people. Part of this is from our professional politicians enacting giveaways in an effort to stay in office, but it's also the fault of those that are all too willing to make demands of the government instead of taking responsibility for themselves and their actions. And as long as they CAN get their demands met, they'll keep at it; unfortunately, there's a hell of a lot more people (mostly younger ones) that are willing to claim what they haven't earned than there are ones willing to tell them "no".
- Our election process is seriously skewed due (in part) to the insistence on continuing to use the Electoral College system, where a few states with high E.C. vote counts can essentially take control of how an election turns out. Sure, the E.C. made great sense when the fastest and most efficient means of communicating and tallying election results for a large area was a hand-written page carried by someone riding a good horse; these days, we've got the means and methods to make truly representative and popular vote possible. How about if we drag our voting system into the technology age?
- Something else that screws up the election process is those incompetent jackasses that are referred to as "single-issue voters": the ones that vote a candidate or party for just ONE reason, instead of taking the time and making the effort to consider a broader range of matters and integrating them as a WHOLE. Screw the budget, screw the deficit, screw too much government involvement in our lives, screw too-high taxes, screw anything except the one, single thing that matters to a particular voter the most. Look, if someone is going to vote just to make themselves heard on one issue in particular? Do the country a favor and chain them to something immovable. Preferably heavy, and in the middle of a deep body of water.
- The political process is being seriously fucked up by the limitation of having just two political parties - every single issue boils down to "us" or "them", which is steadily polarizing them more and more. I genuinely believe that the country needs at least one or two additional political entities so as to allow a more diverse and nuanced response to various issues. Speaking for myself, for example, I'm neither Republican nor Democrat, but bits of both: I'm socially liberal (Gay marriage? Knock yourselves out. Abortion? Sorry, I don't have a dog in that fight; but I'm in favor of leaving it up to those that CAN get pregnant to decide for themselves), but fiscally and politically conservative (Government should be as small as we can possibly manage, kept on a DAMN short leash, and made to pay as it goes along - NO DEFICITS!).
What happens, then?
The way I figure it, most likely to happen is that the country will just collapse. There will be more and more people demanding (and getting) benefits from fewer and fewer people able and willing to provide them; the government will step in to make up the difference. Except that sooner or later, somebody (most likely a foreign government [*cough*china*cough*] that has bought our T-Bills or other "stock") is going to decide that it's time to get paid what they're owed - and when they don't get it (because the government doesn't have it), the whole bread-and-circuses deal will fall apart - with much anguish, furor, and unseemliness when our economy and political institutions come to a literal halt.
There is a chance that some group(s) of people will decide that enough is enough and attempt some dramatic change in how government operates - and it might even be big and soon enough to have the desired impact. Otherwise, it's only going to be a relatively minor event that won't appreciably change things.
I just hope it doesn't happen until after I'm dead and buried - it's bad enough just watching this much of it happen.