I saw the problem a decade ago and ran for the House of Representatives to tell voters (Wiki). I ran as an independent since the problem relates to the Democratic and Republican parties. In that election the key things voters wanted was an end to wars and some sense that the rule of law was applicable to the criminals involved with the Global Financial Crisis (Wiki). But neither party addressed those issues and instead there was talk about bathrooms. The main function of each party is to get elected, not to do anything to improve the country.
This has been going on for many many decades. Part of the problem is the Electoral College (Wiki) which along with the idea of there being two senators from each state (Wiki), where both done to prevent large population centers from over running rural areas. The effect recently has been not to move Congress to compromise but rather to not get anything done at all. Another side effect of the Electoral College is that it's impossible for a third party candidate to become president of the U.S. This is not widely known so when there is a third party candidate they act as a spoiler against one of the major party candidates causing them to loose the election. This concept will show up later when addressing solutions.
These are the result of my reading since 9/11. This is about epistemology (Wiki) where I'm firmly in the Karl Popper (Wiki) camp.. They are:
1. The extent to which you can fix or improve something will be limited by how well you understand how it works.
2. Everybody, with no exceptions, holds false beliefs.
This is vitally important since any actions taken based on false beliefs most likely will not work or make the problem worse.
I think there are two major considerations at the nation state level. The economic system and political system and how they relate to each other. Confusion about either or both of these will lead to very poor decisions. There are pairings of political and economic systems that are stable while other pairings are not stable.
It is extremely important to understand the economics of governments in order to make rational choices. Not noticing when the rules are changed in a major way has lead to problems. For the first couple of centuries the United States operated on a literal Gold Standard (Wiki) economy. This meant that there was a gold reserve to back up the U.S. dollar thus limiting how many dollars could be printed. But before getting into details about that it's important to notice a few zombie ideas that keep surfacing even though they are functionally dead.
Adam Smith (Wiki) and later Milton Friedman (Wiki) promoted the greed is good from of Capitalism (Wiki). Ideas that I do not subscribe to.
During the primary for the 1980 election Ronald Reagan (Wiki) said that if federal taxes were lowered the government would take in more money. George H.W. Bush (Wiki) called it "Voodoo Economics" (Wiki). I think Reagan was correct based on the Laffer Curve (Wiki). But being post Nixon Shock this really has little meaning. The idea of Trickle Down Economics (Wiki) was not mentioned at the time and I believe is unrelated. Trickle Down Economics has been debunked (Wiki) and has failed every time it's tried.
Nixon Shock 1971 (Wiki)There are various stories about why, but I remember Nixon on our black and white TV addressing the nation on a number of economic issues the last of which was decoupling the U.S. Dollar from gold and how it would not have much effect. Nothing could be further from the truth. This changed, in a fundamental way, nation state economics not just for the U.S. but also directly for those countries who signed the Bretton Woods System (Wiki) and indirectly for the rest of the world.
The most immediate effect was on the price of oil. Prior to Nixon Shock the price of oil was quoted in U.S. Dollars. And since the Bretton Woods countries had fixed exchange rates with the U.S. oil could be sold to any of those forty countries using the fixed exchange rate. But after Nixon Shock the price of oil was increased both because of the variability in exchange rates but also because the U.S. Dollar could no longer be exchanged for gold metal.
Another effect was on international trade balance. Prior to Nixon Shock imports and exports between countries tended to be balanced, but after Nixon Shock that changed in a big way. Many people see the trade balance as a problem because they learned economics prior to Nixon Shock.
An ongoing effect is the false idea that federal taxes pay for federal spending. That's never been the case. In the years prior to Nixon Shock it appeared to be the case. Note that if you have any money it's because the government spent it and has not yet collected it in taxes. An implication is that federal debt/deficit is a good thing for everyone not part of the government. Balancing the budget means no new money in circulation. A federal budget surplus, like during the Clinton years (Wiki), means sucking money out of the private sector a very bad thing to do.
He studied the U.S. economy and in 1867 published Das Kapital (Wiki) about 100 years after the U.S. was founded. Like Adam Smith he put a lot of stock in the value of manual labor.
The key idea is social ownership of the means of production (Wiki) rather than a Capitalist (Wiki) approach where they are all privately owned. Pretty much all modern nations have socialized medical care. In the U.S. the medical system is based on making a profit so it's the most expensive medical system in the world and with outcomes that are far behind the rest of the world. So that's an example of socialism working around the world and Capitalism causing pain and suffering in the U.S.
BUT, most people in the U.S. have a very adverse reaction to the word socialism. I think because they confuse socialism, Marxism, communism and other ..isms and/or do not know what they actually mean.
A nation state needs some type of political system (Wiki) to bring order and hopefully a better life for those who live there.
DemocracyMany people think the political system in the U.S. is a Democracy (Wiki). This is not the case. I remember when Ross Perot (Wiki) was running for President he promoted changing our form of government to a Democracy. This would involve firing all Congressmen and having allowing all registered voters to vote directly on legislation. He did not win and the Constitution has not been changed.
Representative democracy (Wiki) is the from of government we have in the U.S. Instead of voting directly for legislation we vote for politicians who in turn make the legislation. The U.S. Constitution has nothing to say about the qualifications of Congressmen other than their age and home address. In France there are very prestigious universities with a whole course of study to train politicians, but in the U.S. there are no qualifications. This means even though each Congressmen swears an oath to uphold the U.S. Constitution it's likely that some of them have no idea what that means. A French politician will tell his constituents it's not their place to advise him on a particular policy.
Communism (Wiki) is an extension of socialism where the government supplies all the needs of it's people. It does not seem to work very well. People living in a communist country typically do not want the government it total control of their lives and given a choice would change governments or countries. Therefore communist governments are authoritarian (Wiki). The guns on the border between East and West Germany (Wiki) were pointed inward toward East (communist) Germany to keep people in.
Fascism (Wiki) "... is a far-right, authoritarian ultranationalist political ideology and movement, characterized by dictatorial power, militarism, forcible suppression of opposition, belief in a natural social hierarchy, subordination of individual interests for the good of the nation, and strong regimentation of society and the economy that rose to prominence in early 20th-century Europe." I would think any reasonable person would look upon Fascism as a very bad form of government.
In response to the election of Donald Trump (Wiki) the Antifa (Wiki) movement came about because Trump seemed to be following the Fascist play book.
As a part of democracy political parties (Wiki) are a way to bring together groups of people with common goals and/or causes for political action. During the 1956 and 1960 presidential elections I had a number of television sets all tuned to different stations during the conventions. (not as many as David Bowie in The Man Who Fell to Earth (IMDB, Wiki).) One of the key issues was the Party Platform (Wiki). The platform was made up of "planks". A lot of effort was spent developing the platform. Once agreed then all members of that party would "stand on that platform".
As a general rule the U.S. Democrats were conservative on Economic issues (Wiki) and liberal on Social issues (Wiki).
As a general rule the U.S. Republicans were conservative on Social Issues (Wiki) and liberal on Economic issues (Wiki). Starting with the Trump 2020 election the Republican party no longer has a platform.
But these stances may have been reversed around the time of the Civil War.
The major positions of both the Democratic and Republican parties are based on ideas that we now know are false. See Misunderstanding Economics (above). Both parties have not come to grips with this reality. For example when Bernie Sanders (Wiki) was running against Hillery Clinton (Wiki) in the 2016 Democratic presidential primary his economic adviser was Stephanie Kelton (Wiki) a major proponent of Modern Monetary Theory (which I believe is the correct way to view the U.S. economy) yet Bernis's web page showed balanced economic plans, i.e. how he was going to "pay for" his spending programs. This is ancient economic thinking, yet he would not fully support MMT ideas. COVID and the Russian-v- Ukrainian war have shown the U.S. government can spend whatever congress votes to spend and has nothing to do with federal taxes. Inflation is the price for too much government spending, but that's not the same as deficit spending which by itself does not cause inflation.
The words Liberal and Conservative have no meaning in a political context without specifying which axis you are talking about.
I lost the 2012 CA2 House of Representatives election (Wiki) to Jared Huffman (Wiki). An interesting thing happened in the 2016 Democratic convention where Huffman was going to vote for Clinton even though his voters in my area were 99% in favor of Sanders. This is an example of the party telling a politician what to do rather than representing his voters. There are news articles about a party telling one of their politicians to take a position that the politician does not support or else the party will "primary" him. The idea is that the primary election is where the candidates are chosen for the November ballot. The primary is the election where the big money donors and political parties choose candidates since voter turnout is low for these elections. In the movie Charlie Wilson's War (IMDB, Wiki) it was made clear that people in New York funded his campaigns, not the people who voted for him. The only rule about campaign funding is that it must come from the U.S. So typically a Congressman has financial ties to his funders and maybe some loyalty to his voters. There's a book about the idea of the primary election being decided by money, i.e. choosing who is going to be on the November ballot.
The total fix is going to require many parts.
We need a smaller number of Democrats and Republicans in Congress. Note that if five or ten percent of each house is made up of independents they will be in control. Their vote will be needed for any legislation to pass. It is not necessary to get a majority of independents, only enough to control the vote. The down side to this is demonstrated by Mitch McConnell (Wiki) who has blocked a lot of bills. But that's not necessarily going to happen. Many countries have a multi party system unlike the U.S. where the Electoral College mandates a two party system (one of those things that needs to be fixed). I think a multi party system would be better than our current two party system.
The first step is to recognize that no matter which political party is in power nothing changes. So for now on:
1. Change your voter registration to decline to state or independent,
2. Stop voting for Democrats and Republicans.