Avoiding Business Politics Can Derail Career Success

Survival of the Savvy was on my bookshelf about a month before I had the privilege of meeting the author, Rick Brandon, at a leadership conference in San Francisco where we both were speaking. Our talks were at different times so I was able to attend Rick’s presentation.

That was when I realized how important this book could be to all the women I work with who are sometimes underestimated, overlooked, and denied proper recognition for their accomplishments because they abhor and avoid anything associated with the word politics. If this sounds like you, you are not alone.

Survival of the fittest! That is what it feels like in the work world sometimes. I know how tough it can be. I have worked in business since the mid 1980’s where I have witnessed political games of all sorts – power struggles, back biting, turf wars, and blind ambition.

Reading the book you will learn that the stereotypical image of the term ‘political’, that usually is thought of as overly political and at time unethical behaviors are definitely not what the authors are recommending.

Survival of the Savvy describes the political style continuum that ranges from the less political type who believe hard work, facts, and good ideas are enough to the overly political individuals driven by self-interest.

Brandon and Seldman suggest a high integrity middle ground (aka ethical and more palatable,) approach to politics that even the most politically averse can employ. They call it the green light/safe travel zone. This vital balance is neither too political nor politically naive.

Power and politics are not dirty words. You can promote yourself with integrity. These are important messages in the book for all women in business and especially for those in the traditionally less political career tracks who want to advance to leadership positions – women in science, R&D, Information Technology, engineering, and other technical fields.

The authors successfully help readers, who hate the thought of workplace politics, reframe how they think about power and politics. They offer useful and practical advice even for the political novice.

The further you advance, the more vulnerable you are if you remain politically naive. The authors claim in their experience ethical political skills are a leadership competency.

If you want to get ahead, but are so opposed to the concept of politics and to any of the ideas in the book the day will come when your subject matter and expert technical status are no longer good enough for you to advance. Your career will plateau. Shunning even high integrity, ethical politics can mean you are destined to succeed only in a job in the ranks below management and leadership. If you do progress into management you are at risk to derail in all but the most non-political cultures.

Reading and applying the information in the book is not easy but worthwhile for all who want to land the top jobs and earn the income they deserve. If you feel frustrated or have plateaued in your career advancement, it may be a political blind spot and reading this book can help.

Although not a book written specifically for women, the authors offer ‘political’ success strategies especially relevant for women.

Myers Briggs Personality Type and Political Affiliation

We’ve all come across people who just seem incapable of modifying their perspective based on new data being presented. Most of us still mouth the words that additional education (or indoctrination/propaganda as is often the case) is what is needed since surely this person will turn around if his/her consciousness is sufficiently expanded with additional data backing your perspective. However, all too often deep inside we know that some people are “hopeless”. This conclusion concerning failure of propaganda is reached from all over the political, cultural, and religious spectrum at one point or another. It thus becomes fashionable to outright dismiss “inconvertible” individuals and opposing zealots (on political and religious fringes of any given population) as nuts and crazies.

Personality theory in psychology allows us to better categorize individuals in society without resorting to name calling. Myers-Briggs typology in particular offers a better construct (compared to useless terms like conservative and liberal for example) to predict how an individual will act politically and socially. Myers-Briggs research combined with biology and brain scan techniques also offers us hints at understanding the underlining anatomical basis that predisposes a person to be either a disagreeable radical or a gentle follower.

There’s been little relative popular attempts to scientifically explain why the bulk of the population is always a warzone between the extreme fringes. It’s just assumed that it will always be this way just like there will always be criminals and extremely altruistic self-sacrificing givers. This assumption seems reasonable and obvious but gives rise to two other creeping and unsettling assumptions:

1) The human population is relatively fixed along a bell curve type continuum. Perhaps this is better visually represented by a sphere with a number of spikes extending from it. The moderate population is the bulk of the sphere and the zealous “radical” factions (whose opinions differ dramatically from the statistical average) are the spikes extending from the sphere’s surface (as well as into the interior to some degree which would represent silent sympathizers). It is irrelevant to label the spikes as extreme left, right, etc. All that is important is that a relatively fixed minority of the population (lets say 10-20% range) will be:

a) prone to modes of thought that are tangibly different from majority’s

b) prone to action and lifestyle based on these thoughts

Authors like Friedrich Hayek for instance, observed that in 1920s Germany roughly a million workers swung their support between communists and Nazis based on who was winning. It was noted that the two seemingly opposing ideological parties clashed with one another the most because they were very often competing for recruits in the same psychological pool of young people. Considering how many overexcited Americans called both Bush and Obama the new “Hitler” in recent years, we can easily imagine how an aggressive drooling at the mouth anti-war protestor from a big city could have been an equally excitable protester at a teabag rally if only he was born in a small town and into a different culture.

2) Since the ratio of intensely active people (prone to being perceived by population at large as “wingnuts”or criminals or radicals or genuinely informed and committed activists, etc) to more relaxed apathetic majority seems to be roughly fixed across all societies and globally as a whole, the explanatory basis for such a dynamic can only be biological. Just like there exist (and can further be bred) aggressive dogs and peaceful friendly dogs, there exist aggressive people, natural Buddhist-esque peaceful people, etc. A person who is an aggressive pit bull equivalent (and who wants to impose his views of the world onto others the most) would differ in his relatively extreme ideology depending on what part of the world he was socialized in. Psychiatry has shown us that people are born with different ratios of neurotransmitter production and quantitative as well as qualitative differences in the types of chemicals that affect their mood and cognition. We now understand that people differ a lot more in terms of brain architecture than they differ in terms of things like body type, skin color, fast twitch/slow twitch muscle ratio, etc.

The reason why these assumptions are unsettling is not because there is a degree of fatalism involved (“he will be a radical of one stripe or another no matter what” or “he will be socially lazy, shallow, apathetic, and uninvolved no matter what). Obviously with modern socialization methods and pharmaceutical modification (with psychological genetic and cybernetic modification to follow in near future), an individual can be shaped more than ever before by society and by himself. The assumptions are unsettling because if the broad direction of our views, opinions, and political/cultural/religious affiliations are largely physiologically determined at birth, then societal progress becomes enormously more difficult. Societal progress can be defined here as one zealot faction (that is seen by majority as the most “correct” in its socioeconomic policy perspectives and formulations of what humans should do next) dragging everybody else along behind it as has always occurred throughout history.

Obviously people will disagree on what constitutes progress (some actually thought arrival of Reagan was progress) but if majority of people are physiologically predisposed towards the status quo, progress of any sort becomes a lot harder in a democratic society. In the past, one intense dedicated fringe of the aristocratic elites dragged the other nobility along behind it (since majority of nobility would also have a soft apathetic bulk) and thus dragged the rest of the population behind it as well. We also had scenarios of power vacuum developing and one intense fringe political faction overpowering the others (as in the case of Bolshevik and French revolutions) and filling the leadership position to then drag the rest of the serfs behind it.

In today’s democratic structure however, protection of the status quo is a lot more preserved since the moderate bulk of the population has a political voice and thus a way to provide the ruling elites with legitimacy. The moderate bulk of the elites now also has ever more sophisticated consent and perception manufacturing methods to influence the newfound voice of the majority. For a small number of dedicated activists, pushing society along towards desired version of progress against the forces of social inertia is now harder than ever. The powerful activists now need to sway both the fellow elites and the people simultaneously.

Let’s finally get to the Myers-Briggs part of the article to see what we are now dealing with.

The most widely used way to get a glimpse of people’s underlining neural physiology has been the Myers-Briggs psychological questionnaire (one of the better versions found online for free can be found here). Over the past few decades, the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator has been utilized to collect enormous amounts of statistical data on personality types found within the human population. The statistical type breakdown (I am using a combination of 3 different sources on the %. Don’t mind the catchy positive nicknames each type and group cluster has been given. What matters here is the number within a population.) so far has been as follows,

Protectors (SJ)

ESTJ – Overseer, supervisor = 11.8%
ESFJ – Supporter, provider = 11.7%
ISTJ – Examiner, inspector = 9.8%
ISFJ – Defender, protector = 9.9%
All SJs = 43.2%

Creators (SP)

ESTP – Persuader, promoter = 8.4%
ESFP – Entertainer, performer = 10.3%
ISTP – Craftsman, mechanic = 6.4%
ISFP – Artist, composer = 7.9%
All SPs = 33%

Intellectuals (NT)

ENTJ – Chief, fieldmarshal = 3.2%
ENTP – Originator, inventor = 3.7%
INTJ – Strategist, mastermind = 1.5%
INTP – Engineer, architect = 2.2%
All NTs = 10.6%

Visionaries (NF)

ENFJ – Mentor, teacher = 3.4%
ENFP – Advocate, idealist = 4.2%
INFJ – Confidant, empath = 1.2%
INFP – Dreamer, healer = 2.4%
All NFs = 11.2%

Each of the personality types (the well defined strong ones at least who haven’t self reported to be a mutt of 2 or more different personalities) can be seen as a specific brain type. As mentioned above, the physiological neural difference between 2 people of vastly dissimilar brain types is a lot more significant than how a person looks on the outside. That is because the brain type determines a mental and emotional predisposition of a person for the rest of his life. People classified as “bipolar” or “anti-social/sociopathic” for instance, have neural structures that will make them lean towards some things more than others during their entire lives.

We can see from the statistical breakdown that SJ (left-brained people with parietal lobe strength) predominate in the overall population. The second biggest group are the SP (right-brained with parietal lobe strength). Together they are almost 80% of the population. The SJs tend to be conservative, authoritarian in outlook, conventional, focused on concrete “what is”, and protective of the general society. They don’t rock the boat too much and defer to tradition. The SPs tend to be fun loving, crafty, entertaining, and have uncanny ability to focus on “what is” (with their parietal lobe) in order to fix and modify it.

If you look at the cute nicknames given to different brain types, you can see that the human herd pretty much needs all of them if it is to evolve and survive. Some types are needed more than others in the great scheme of things. The SJ and SP groups for example are conveniently numerous. SJ population provides a great amount of soldiers, policemen, social workers, self sacrificing charity givers, accountants, and status quo protectors. In other words they keep the herd safe even if it means stagnating the herd through using their positions in the executive to slow down rapid change. SP group provides us with artisans who improve quality of life for the herd through provision of entertainers, artists, dancers, singers, and resourceful improvising mechanics. SPs can be said to exist to entertain SJs and keep them on their toes by having more fun than them.

It’s easy to see how SJs lean republican and SPs lean democrat overall. The jokes that democrats have better sex lives than republicans begin to acquire an element of truth (considering the different approach left and right sides of the brain take in deciding on how to deal with the here and now). However, the two large groups are united by their concern with all things as they are in the now. That makes the two groups friendly and status quo leaning by default. An ESTJ born in Brooklyn may identify as a traditionalist democrat whereas an ESTJ born in West Virginia may identify as a traditionalist republican, but both are more likely to seek similar professions and get along if they hang out together. Brain type identification provides a lot more material to predict a person’s behavior and views on the world than simple political identification.

The overall theme emerges that people with neural computers that predispose them to either protect the status quo or be apathetic about it (since they are busy pursuing hedonistic adventures) are the supermajority that are not as interested in “what can be” (as the less numerous NP and NJ groups tend to be). A point must be made here that not one group is more important than another and that even their numerical breakdowns seem amazingly appropriate. It would be turbulent for the herd to have for example, more ENTJs/INTJs than ISTJs/ESTJs since the problem with authority that NJs have (due to their desire to be the authority themselves) would create unsustainable infighting and not allow enough people who follow orders. Each brain type has a very key social niche and function and over thousands of years there evolved an intricate genetic balance and ratio. There are of course also multitudes of physiological “mutts” who are a hybrid of all and can’t be “pigeonholed” (the most common complaint brought against psychological typology in general).

Interestingly enough, the Hindus have spent thousands of years evolving classification of human beings into 4 broad psychological varnas or classes. Each was considered as important as the other (all parts of the same body) with their own particular temperaments and duties.

Some brain types are literally made to create new theoretical constructs on how society should be organized and which steps it should take next (INTPs, ENTPs,). When balanced by the emotional consideration and input of INFPs and ENFPs (since strong T theorists are prone to being too rigidly rational and thus not take into consideration the emotional impact of their constructs) new paths for society can be developed that would be acceptable to SJs and SPs combined. However, as explained above, these people will always be outvoted and marginalized by politicians who mobilize the other more numerous groups. “Think of the children!” is a call to arms for ESFJs and ISFJs for instance whereas being tough on crime, national strength, and defeating foreign enemies is the bread and butter of ESTJs and ISTJs.

This dynamic reinforces the need for proportional representation in our system of governance. Proportional representation is practiced in most European Union countries to great effect. This way each brain type cluster can get a political party of their own. The marginalized 20% of the population can get representation and even serve as coalition kingmakers. New voices can be heard in the discourse. Today the 20% of population has to either join the big parties they don’t like and “radicalize” them (seen by the tail wagging the dog phenomenon of militants dominating today’s Republican party and driving moderates out of it) or abstain from the process thus depriving society of valuable input. In proportional representation, each batch of brain types seen as “radicals” can find a party to call home and really support. They would also have more political representation to vent out their frustration and to institutionalize their presence and views. Citizens can then pick and choose which vision of progress to support and which to leave behind.

Reasons of Failure of Pakistan’s Politics

Democracy in Pakistan has never been successful and even after more than 65 years of independence, political setup in Pakistan has yet to mature and deliver. Unlike other democratic countries of the world, Pakistan’s politics is badly under the control of bureaucracy and establishment where parliament sometimes acts like a rubber stamp.

There are many factors leading to this pathetic state of democratic process in Pakistan. Top three reasons of failure of Pakistan’s politics are:

1. Lack of Political awareness in public:

Majority of the common people of Pakistan is unaware of the worth of vote and they just throw or sell their vote for some petty benefits or under some pressure of elite powerful lords. In a country where literacy rate is very low and people are trapped in several sectarian, ethnic and religious biases, political mafia plays a clever game to play with the sentiments of the people through hollow slogans and sentimental speeches and manages to get their support easily.

2. Military take-overs:

Democratic process in Pakistan has never been consistent and military has taken over the charge at different occasions by imposing martial laws in the country. This type of take overs severely affected the democratic system in the country. It also brought anarchy and riots in the country which resulted in more messy conditions directly affecting the people of Pakistan.

3. Lack of democratic culture inside political parties:

Most of the political parties of Pakistan have proved themselves as just family parties or one man show with all power concentrated in one family or one individual. Most of the parties don’t have party elections and same leadership is being imposed for decades. Lack of democratic culture in the parties has resulted in a widening gap between rulers and masses and consequently, political parties have failed to strengthen their roots at grass root level.

Politics of Pakistan is an interesting, yet complex game of action with a lot of twists. It seems that years are required for politics of Pakistan to mature and deliver. Political setup of Pakistan won’t change until the thought process of people of Pakistan is changed and their level of understanding for the political culture is groomed. Private media is working constructively in this regard to bring awareness in the masses and to educate them politically and one may hope for a change of thought process of people of Pakistan with the passage of time.

Busting Political Cultural Bubbles

Culture can be generically defined as the beliefs and customs of a particular society, group, place, or time. In short, a way of life shared by people or social groups at any moment in time. Culture changes over time because the passage of time brings change. From a purely historical context these changes can be profound to incremental. The harnessing of fire and electricity, farming to feed entire communities, the printing press, the automobile, and the integrated computer circuit took place at various points in time that made massive impacts on culture as a whole as well as political culture.

Political culture is the result of combining a political systems history with the history of the people in a society. So it is rooted to the overall cultural changes that occur over time (history) in any society. This matters because the political culture governs the core beliefs and policy ideas of a political system or party. In America today, many of those that participate in the political process, vote, or are otherwise engaged in the political culture do so from a bubble.

Individuals gravitate to these bubbles of political culture because they are comforting, they protect from the fear of the unknown, and they feed the want to be “right”. This holds true regardless of ideology or political party. But the danger of being inside the bubble is isolation. Being isolated from others members of the same society that live outside the bubble has a long history of ending badly for the society as a whole. Wars, racism, sectarian violence, bigotry, sexism, and many other evils have erupted from or been feed by cultural bubbles.

In America today, bubbles of political cultural within the society as a whole have helped add to the current level of polarization. These political bubbles reveal themselves when individuals only receive their political news and opinions from one point of view. The radio and cable news political commentators have become the go to source, if not the only source, for political information for many individuals. And these commentators combination of political slant and spin, becomes “gospel” for many individuals who have not been exposed to the reality outside of that bubble.

Rank them in any order you want from either ideological slant, the political “commentators” on radio, cable television, and in print are, first and foremost, entertainers. Their job is not to get elected. It’s to attract and maintain as many listeners, viewers, or readers as possible. If their main goal was to help the majority of Americans, wouldn’t at least one of them have run for office? In my opinion, there are three reasons they don’t run for even statewide office: 1) they couldn’t win; 2) they don’t want to take the pay cut; or 3) they would have to answer specific policy questions without spin which would hurt their future as entertainers. This doesn’t mean they’re not true believers. What it does mean is that whether they’re true believers or not, they are still paid to be entertainers. And the belief is that in order to be entertaining when talking politics on TV or radio, you must take a hardline, be opinionated, and be uncompromising, not because it makes for good policy, but simply because it helps drive and maintain ratings. Many of these political entertainers should be congratulated for having the talent to make a lot of money by repeating the same basic concepts daily.

They accomplish this by not technically lying but by spinning, telling half-truths, taking things out of context, and promoting conspiracy theories. A classic technique they often use is to attack one fact with another fact that, in reality, is not contradictory. Voters should just remain aware that any opinion given is coming from an entertainer whose main goal is to preach to the choir and keep you from changing the channel so they can sell books, advertising, and so forth. If all or most of your political information is coming from these political entertainment sources, then you live in a bubble and it’s more than likely you are politically misinformed or under-informed. Politicians in Washington DC are often accused of living in a bubble, but if you are getting all your political information from cable news or talk-radio shows that have a similar spin, that is also living in a bubble. Fortunately, it is easy to burst the cable news/talk-radio bubble: just spend some time getting your news and opinions from different sources. Knowledge is your friend, my friend.

The political liability of this bubble is the perceived detachment from the concerns of the majority of Americans who do not live in a political bubble. One of the most fundamental motivators of individual voting dynamics is whether or not a politician is perceived to care about “your” concerns or problems. For many voters, a policy position or ideology is moot if they believe a politician does not understand or care about their basic wishes or desires.

In the end, an individual can choose to live in a culturally isolated bubble but a national political party must extend beyond the edges of any bubble or risk becoming evermore regional or marginal.

Political Gridlock In Washington

A lot of people are asking the question as to why government in Washington is unable to respond to the wishes of the people as expressed in elections or in the national polls.

The answer is that in a presidential system when the executive and the legislature are from different parties it causes stalemate and the executive is prevented from implementing its platform.

In the current crisis President Obama is a Democrat but the House of Representatives is under Republican control. In such a situation both sides have to compromise with each other in order to pass legislation as happened in the Reagan and Clinton years. It is the inability to bridge this partisan divide that is causing the gridlock in government.

These days government seems to just muddle along from one crisis to another, kicking the can down the road until it pops up a few months later. Since President Obama took office in 2008, we have had the impasse over the extension of the Bush tax cuts and the increase in the debt-ceiling, then we had the budget crisis leading to the current draconian spending cuts (the sequester) and most recently the failure of the proposed assault weapons ban following the Sandy Hook massacre in December of last year.

The issue over the budget should have been settled in the 2012 election when the people clearly decided that the budget should not be balanced on the backs of the middle class and the poor. But the crisis still obtains.

As regards the proposed assault weapons ban, the polls show that most people favor it but the bill did not even get a vote in the Senate. On this issue the Democrats are not faultless as some Democratic Senators from red states backed away from it obviously fearing a backlash from the National Rifle Association which might harm their reelection chances. In simple terms the people cannot get legislative protection from guns designed for mass killing like the AR15 because Congress is afraid of the NRA which represents a small minority but has political influence through their big money and lobbyists.

REPUBLICAN OBSTRUCTIONISM

We have had disagreements before between Congress and the President but the looming question is why in this crisis is compromise so elusive. There are two reasons.

First, we now have a new GOP, a Ayn Rand inspired party which is inflexible and uncompromising, with a fantasy philosophy that the rich do not have enough and that the poor have too much, and that there is no role for government which should be shrunk so small that “it can be put in the bathtub and drowned” according to Grover Norquist.

This contrasts with President Obama who came from humble beginnings with an appreciation of the importance of government to protect the small man and whose professional background is community oriented.

President Obama has been obsessed with bipartisan consensus and despite the philosophical differences he has reached out to Republicans (much to the disappointment of some in his party) only to get rebuffed. On the health care initiative he left the writing of the Senate health bill to a bipartisan “Gang of Six” and in return he got no Republican votes.

In the budget discussions he put entitlements (which Democrats consider as sacrosanct) on the table but there has been no reciprocity from the other side on revenues.

Second, I would be remiss if I did not say that a lot of Republicans can’t come to terms with an African American being in the White House. This is what the tea party is all about hence their slogan “take back the White House”.

Another question is, how the Republicans who only control the US House of Representatives can so effectively block President Obama’s legislative agenda at every turn.

They are able to do it in two ways:

(1) In the Senate they use the filibuster i.e. pursue an endless debate to block legislative action. This ploy was only originally used in exceptional circumstances by both parties but between 2007 and 2009 it affected a record 70% of major legislation (New York Times, Congress Reconsidered).

It is worth mentioning that in the current Congress majority Leader Harry Reid had a chance to change the rule but took a pass presumably with his eye on the day when he could be in the minority.

(2) The Republicans have effectively used their increase in control of state legislatures in the 2010 elections to carve out an almost permanent majority for themselves in the US House through the system of gerrymandering i.e. they increased the number of districts in the areas of their support and reduced the number in Democratic areas by enlarging their size.

THE MEXICAN MODEL AND PROPOSALS FOR CHANGE

With the government unable to even pass a budget, the US might like to look to its neighbor to the south, Mexico, for a model for what can be done when a nation says ‘enough’ to self-inflicted hardship.

Since December 3, 2012 Congress set aside its differences and newly elected President Nieto and the three main political parties signed a pledge called the “Pact for Mexico” to seek 94 national reforms after suffering for years from self-inflicted gridlock. Many years of gridlock was too costly, the drug wars had gone on for too long so under the “Economy first” strategy of President Nieto the government with the backing of the legislature has taken on the big interests that for years held back Mexico in education, energy, broadcasting and telecommunications.

Mexico is now on a turnaround from past stalemates. The government has opened Pemex (the state oil monopoly) to private investment that has led to a boom in oil exports; there are new tax reforms to pay for social programs and new infrastructure; a constitutional amendment has led to a drastic improvement in education and the President has broken up monopolies in the TV and cell phone industry and made it more competitive (Christian Science Monitor – A model to end Washington gridlock: Mexico 3/24/13).

The Mexican model might not be a model to end gridlock in Washington. Today the partisan divide is much deeper and the political culture far more vitriolic than 20 or 30 years ago. The Republicans block bills proposed by President Obama though they originally supported them such as Cap and Trade, infrastructure spending, mandates under the Affordable Health Care Act, the Dream Act and raising the debt-ceiling.

It’s not in the political interest of the Republicans to work with the President. They have retreated behind a firewall of gerrymandered rural districts, mainly in the south where their base of support is built on anti – Obamaism so that they cannot be seen to be working with him. GOP Senator Lindsay Graham said that criticising President Obama was “good politics” (Huffington Post-Obama criticism ‘good politics’: Lindsay Graham 4/2/13). Furthermore, they fear a primary challenge from their right flank.

Given Congress’ unwillingness to return to bipartisanship in the US, the Mexican model is not helpful in breaking the stalemate and so I would propose that the following measures be taken to solve the structural problems in Washington:

First, in accordance with the principle that government should come from and not at the people there should be public education programs to educate people about their political interests and the workings of the political system. This can be done through the media of the local town hall and social networking. The need for this is illustrated by polls that show that people who want to cut government can’t say what should be cut and as regards those who want to abolish Obamacare, when asked about its elements say they want to keep them. How can people pressure their leaders for change if they don’t know what changes they want?

Second, introduce a parliamentary system to replace the presidential one. Under the parliamentary system people elect a parliament and the party with the most seats gets to form the government. Since it has the majority the government has a clear path to implement its platform and if the people don’t like what the government is doing that is easily rectifiable at an early election.

The parliamentary system would remove a lot of the structural problems in the present system because:

(a) It’s faster and easier to pass legislation because the executive is often members of the legislature where it possesses more votes to pass legislation. In the presidential system if the executive and the legislature are from different parties that leads to stalemate unless they can compromise, but that only leads to watered down legislation such as Obamacare which left 10 million people uninsured and does not contain a public option.

(b) In the parliamentary system a party is voted in on the basis of a platform so the will of the people is more easily instituted.

(c) In a parliamentary system a Prime Minister has less importance than a President in whom all executive power is concentrated so people are more likely to vote for political ideas rather than the personality.

Third, big money should be taken out of politics and replaced by public funding of elections. Political Action Committees and Citizens United should be abolished. This would spare us of these long election campaigns and free up Congress to spend more legislative time on the people’s business and less on fundraising. More time would be available to deal with real issues like unemployment, global warming, the national debt and cyber attacks which threaten national security and industrial infrastructure and which experts agree we are unprepared to resist. Lastly it would break the stranglehold that big money has on our leaders by cutting the nexus between political office and political contributors.

One good thing that might come out of the present crisis in Washington is that it may spur people to develop more political awareness, vote their interests and be more informed to pressure both parties to return power to the people.