The Lack of Accountability in US Politics Is Beyond Shameful

One of the biggest problems in the US — yet the one that is talked about the least — is that there is a complete lack of accountability for politicians who are screwing up the country.

The issue isn’t necessarily criminal accountability — although it would be nice to see people go to jail for things like leading the country into war under false pretenses, authorizing torture, lining their own pockets, destroying the environment, or deregulating the financial sector to the point of allowing a few greedy individuals to bring the world economy to its knees.

But clearly that’s not going to happen. So the next best thing would be some accountability at the polls.  

Unfortunately, the entire political system in the United States is set up to prevent that from happening.

First, there is the two-party system that deprives voters of making anything other than a binary choice. It forces Americans to select the lesser of two evils rather than somebody they can feel truly good about.

Second, thanks to partisan gerrymandering, most voters don’t even get to make that choice in November because so many congressional districts have been drawn in a way that makes the winner a foregone conclusion in the general election. In those places, the “real” elections are the primaries in which incumbents enjoy several key benefits, such as name recognition and the ability to raise money.

That’s why it is always such a huge shock when an entrenched incumbent loses, which is what happened in New York this week when Rep. Joe Crowley, one of the favorites to one day replace Nancy Pelosi (CA) as Democratic leader in the House, lost his primary to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a 28-year-old who ran to the left of him.

Unfortunately, voters’ desire for change may go unmet, even now. Even though Congress is hugely unpopular, incumbents who face general election challengers win at an extraordinary rate (in 2016, 97 percent of incumbents in the House of Representatives prevailed.) Even if the massive “blue wave” Democrats are hoping for this fall materializes, 80-90 percent of Republican seats would still be held.

Things aren’t much better in the Senate. While gerrymandering is not an issue there, the lack of true swing states still ensures that 80-90 percent of senators are usually reelected. And, of course, their six-year term means they have to face voters less often than any other elected official in the US.

With so much job security and so little accountability, it’s no surprise that US lawmakers aren’t really doing the people’s business. There is simply no incentive to do so. Instead, they most often side with the people who write their checks.

And there may be nobody “better” at this than Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), who is probably the most influential legislator of this generation — not only because of his 34-year record as senator or as the engineer of the GOP’s obstruction of President Barack Obama’s agenda — but rather because of one decision he made in 2016.

That may sound like hyperbole but it’s not. This was never more apparent than in recent weeks, when the Supreme Court handed down one decision after another — in most cases deciding key cases along partisan lines and almost always favoring the conservative viewpoint.

The court upheld President Donald Trump’s travel ban, dealt a blow to unions, opened the door for more voter suppression, and declined to curb partisan gerrymandering. In the 18 cases decided by a 5-4 margin, Neil Gorsuch, the court’s newest member, cast the decisive vote 15 times — and sided with the conservative block all but once.

Experts believe that the outcome would have been far different had McConnell not used a phony excuse — that a president should not get to make a Supreme Court pick in his final year in office — to steal this Supreme Court seat from Merrick Garland, Obama’s nominee to fill an open seat on the court in 2016.

With Garland on the court, most of these cases would have been decided the other way and the retirement of Justice Anthony Kennedy, the court’s most reliable swing vote, would not loom as large. Now, however, Trump will get a chance to cement the conservative block with his second Supreme Court nomination in two years.

Democrats claim that they may have a way to stop Trump’s pick but, ultimately, they will fold. They usually do. McConnell ruthlessly did not and regular Americans will keep paying the price for decades to come.

But they will never get a chance to make McConnell pay at the polls because he is entrenched in a red state and his backers will always make sure that his campaign coffers are filled to the brim. In his last election cycle, McConnell spent more than $30 million and ended up winning by more than 15 points.

There is no doubt that stealing that Supreme Court seat was shameful. But it’s even worse that McConnell will get away with it because nobody is ever going to hold him accountable.


The cartoon above was created by DonkeyHotey for WhoWhatWhy from these images: Mitch McConnell caricature (DonkeyHotey / Flickr – CC BY 2.0) and Elaine Chao caricature (DonkeyHotey / Flickr – CC BY 2.0).

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11 responses to “The Lack of Accountability in US Politics Is Beyond Shameful”

  1. Gunther says:

    You also had no real campaign reform that Newt Gingrich had promised to the country after the Republicans were swept into Congress in 1994.

    You had also the Republican strategy of now winning elections at the local place even if they had to lie, cheat, and steal.

    You also had the apathy of the American people in not holding their politicians accountable and now many Republican voters are finally finding out that their political and financial support was all for nothing in the last 38 years.

    • Miggy says:

      Pokahanas. 250 million dollar Nancy. The meaning of “is” is “I am a socialist from a blue collar neighborhood” even though she grew up in one if the wealthiest counties in America. “I did not have sex with that woman”. “We talked about golf in that plane on the tarmac in Arizona.” “We did not sell guns under ‘Fast and Furious'”. What difference does it make?

      Come on. The Dems are so full of BS 24/7 it makes your head spin.

    • Jeff Clyburn says:

      There lies the entirety of “examples” cons can drum up when attempting to create the false equivalency. They don’t like to be reminded of the list of unethical/immoral con examples, which is like 100 times longer with far greater effect. You’re not fooling anyone, sir. Tendency matters, degree matters. And all the “examples” you can show don’t add up to a hill of beans against the glacier of GOP fraud.

    • bob says:

      When you UNDERSTAND that 9/11 was perpetrated on America by Cheney, the Bushes, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Perl, Zakheim, Libby and the rest of the Treasonous PNAC NeoCons who then went on to lie us into multiple wars which have looted the Treasury of TRILLIONs and killed millions of innocent people and these people who call themselves Republicans don’t care about the TRUTH, you realize how truly screwed we are as a Country and democracy…

  2. Lee Mortimer says:

    You touched on something election reformers have known for years: there’s no such thing as a “true swing state,” let alone “swing” election districts. At least not enough to make politicians accountable to voters.

    Common Cause defines “non-competitive” as winning margins of 10 percentage points or more. While legislative and congressional elections are 80%-90% non-competitive, (non-gerrymandered) U.S. Senate elections going back to 2006 have been 77% non-competitive. Even in states that use non-partisan redistricting, elections remain overwhelmingly non-competitive, by the Common Cause definition.

    The real problem is that single-member/winner-take-all elections are structurally non-competitive. In any jurisdiction where only one person is elected, one party or the other typically predominates, resulting in lopsided majorities for the dominant party. Only through multi-member elections and some form of proportional representation can elections be competitive and legislators held accountable to voters.

  3. No democracy or democratic republic has ever been successful at accomplishing its two major goals;

    1. that of surviving for a prolonged period of time and
    2. doing what is in the best interest of the majority.

    The Nation-State always ends up being controlled by special interests and eventually fails because they bankrupt the majority. All governments may start out with great intentions, but end up being confiscatory cartels and protection rackets for the confiscators. From the Greeks to the United States, the truth be told. Only the Irish Celts appear to have been able to kill the beast after the Romans bankrupted their society and it lasted nearly 1,000 years until the British Monarchy and their interbred friends finally defeated them in about 1650.

  4. William C. says:

    I sense the act of holding politicians accountable in America may be finally taking hold based on recent actions by voters in Florida who remove the longtime prosecutor Angela Corey, the recalling of Judge Aaron Persky of State Superior Court in California and protesters in Pittsburgh vowing to remove longtime Pittsburgh pro-cop DA Stephen Zappala who has run without opposition for years. It’s a ground-up operation and we just may see how real the movement is come November 6, starting in Florida where young voters vow to wipe out any and every politician taking cash from the NRA.

    • Jeff Clyburn says:

      good post.

    • Miggy says:

      Won’t happen. The only thing stopping an out of control government is a well-armed citizenry, and our founding fathers knew it.

      When was the last time there was a shooting at an NRA event or gun show? Never. Why? Everybody is armed. Do you really think murderers, who are breaking the law by murdering, are going to abide by gun laws? The cat is out of the bag. Guns are here. Lets make sure the law abiding can defend themselves.