A Review of Chapter Two—The System of Collusion

Elizabeth Cole

Elizabeth Cole (pictured above) is an intern with the New York City Independence Party.  She graduated in May from Florida State University and joined the campaign team for Adolfo Carrion’s independent campaign for Mayor.  I asked Elizabeth to share her views of Chapter 2 of Indispensable Enemies, which is entitled “The System of Collusion.”

Here is Elizabeth’s review:

The System of Collusion left me rather skeptical. For one, words like collusion always arouse my sense of doubt, as it is one of those fancy terms utilized by conspiracy theorists with the hope of being taken seriously.  After all, The System of Collusion is suggesting that the Democratic and Republican parties are in cahoots to keep each other a part of this “single ruling oligarchy” through a type of symbiotic relationship that discourages electoral participation and believes in losing elections in order to stay in power.  Karp openly acknowledges the oddity of this particular theory. In fact, he even answers the glaring question, why haven’t we noticed this pattern? His response is simple and straight forward: “without opposition, collusion ceases to be obvious.” This is a pill I find easy to swallow, as it doesn’t take a philosopher to know that, currently, we live in a time where the game of politics resembles more of a seesaw than a tug-o-war. We move between one party and the other hoping a term booted from office will teach them a lesson, and then we re-elect them again only to find that nothing changes. Of course in smaller areas, where parties have firm control, it is more of a seesaw between candidates of the same party and, again, little changes. As a result, we become a frustrated population with more bark than bite; admiring our right to vote but rarely practicing it, voicing our frustration with the lack of changes in our lives, but never acting to remedy them. And worse of all, the blame is placed on us. As Karp very eloquently puts it:

“…legislators betray their constituents at the behest of their party bosses, and this betrayal too       is attributed to rural prejudice, for, according to the prevailing party myth, it cannot be laid at the feet of party bosses, since their one alleged motive is to court their local voters.” (pg. 37)

Karp raises a strong point here, which is that our votes are supposed to be earned, our presence at the voting booth respectfully feared. But the reality today is different, isn’t it? Democrats and Republicans have their laundry list of issues, and when nothing is done about them while in office, the parties simply blame each other and most every politician gets re-elected for another term. We can’t switch parties, can we? We would run the risk of finding ourselves supporting a party whose values we don’t agree with, so we stick to our own even if our representatives have stopped trying to win our votes through their actions in office. And this is exactly what Karp says the parties want because now they no longer need us. Minority and majority party bosses in each district or state sit comfortably knowing their position is safe, with the minority party receiving patronage and the majority party gaining control – all for successfully ignoring the needs of wants of their constituents.

Seems like a simple enough concept. But for me it led to more questions. In an age where we seem to be louder than ever and our recent presidential elections received over 50% voter participation, surely it can no longer be all that simple. With all the political chaos this country has experienced in the past two-decades, is it possible that this system of collusion described by Karp has maintained itself since he wrote this book back in the seventies? At first glance, it would appear not. Changing opinions and raised voices has even lead to changes within the parties. We have the Tea Party springing up from the Republican side, blue-dog Democrats tried to give a more conservative spin to the party, and libertarians taking seats in office as well as making headlines. But if we take a step back and forget what we have been bombarded with by the media, things begin to look a little different.  For all the fuss, our problems have remained consistently the same; with schools still failing to perform, incarceration rates remaining the highest in the world, and a plethora of other smaller and larger issues our government has no incentive to actually tackle. Because however angry or frustrated we become, we have been told that these are our only two options. It won’t matter if a Democrat loses or a Republican loses, because at this rate, minority or majority party both will remain in power.

Thanks Elizabeth.  

Our conference call discussion of Indispensable Enemies will be on Sunday, February 9th at 7 pm EST.  

The call in number is 805 399-1200 and the access code is 767775#.  I look forward to our conversation.

Leave a comment

1 Comment

  1. ramon pena

     /  January 30, 2014

    The more I read the more amazed I am at how little things have changed in politics. We have been stuck for over 100 years and as I read I realize that this is the way political parties have always wanted it.


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