By T.S. Khanna
Alamo, CA: “Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely,” said Lord Acton. Based on this collective wisdom, the democratic setup was designed to divide power with checks and balances to protect the public from its abuse. Besides dividing the power into three branches — Legislative, Judiciary and Executive — the legislative branch was further divided into two Houses — Senate and House of Represen-tatives.
Political parties were created with the intent to crystallize and vocalize various viewpoints and resolve conflicting issues through commonly accepted logic to protect and promote the public interest while serving self-interests. The system worked well when the people and their interests were not so diversified and the diversity was not as intense as it is now.
The Congress has earned its “Broken Branch, Do-nothing” title by default. The system is showing fatigue and needs to be examined.
Representative democracy gradually makes political parties stronger, stiffer, and non-compromising. The assumption that by compromises the various parties would pursue, protect, and promote the public interest is faulted. As the selfish pursuits of diversified interests are encouraged by representative democracy, logic loses its power even to define the public interest, let alone its pursuit.
Now the emphasis of each political party is to enhance its power by regimented unity at the cost of sacrificing the independence of elected representatives. The extreme end of each party now tends to wag the whole party.
With such stance of the parties, the system offers only three failed options:
— When the Senate and the House of Representatives have majority of opposite parties, there is a deadlock;
— When President’s party and the majority party of any one of the Houses is not the same, there is a deadlock; and,
— When the President’s party and the majority party in both the Houses is the same, the decisions taken may be fast but may tantamount to tyranny by majority.
To improve the system, a conceptual plan is presented to provoke thought and invite comments:
— Abolish the Senate. It has long outlived its usefulness, it is duplicate representation, and it slows down or deadlocks the Congress proceedings without ever adding any quality to the decision making process.
— Change the term length of elected representatives from two-year term to only one six-year term, with one-third retiring every two years.
— Eliminate the position of the partisan President. At every Presidential election, the cleavage between the political parties increases and hardens. Besides, the President, as head of the state, must not be a party representative; he/she must represent the whole nation in a non-partisan manner.
— Establish a 15-member non-partisan Supreme Council elected by the process of direct or collective democracy. The members may be elected for a six-year term. The council members may elect the President and the Vice President every two years.
— The Supreme Council may take over all the responsibilities of the Senate and the Senate President/Vice President may replace the partisan President/Vice President under the present system.
In addition, the Supreme Council and the House of Representatives may have the powers to initiate and adopt constitutional amendments with 2/3rd majority in both the Houses.
Establish a non-partisan agency — “Research & Development on Political Affairs” — answerable to the Supreme Council, for the best steer in political affairs.