By DUVALIER J. MALONE
Duvalier Malone Enterprises
For decades, America has been a leader in democracy and political stability. But, without proper succession planning, our political system could be on the brink of collapse. America is a representative democracy, in which people vote for their representatives, who in turn vote on policy initiatives, as opposed to a direct democracy, where people choose their leaders directly to act or make decisions on their behalf. But the country’s form of democracy, once regarded as a model, has come under fire lately due to its numerous shortcomings, transforming into oligarchy and gerontocracy in disguise.
America has regrettably turned into an oligarchy, a government by a few wealthy people. It has become quite expensive and is not for the fainthearted. No wonder Mark Hanna, a former Republican senator from Ohio, once remarked, “There are two things that are important in politics: The first is money, and I can’t remember the second.” More than a century later, the statement still remains valid. For example, the 2020 presidential and congressional elections gulped down a whopping $14 billion, which is twice and thrice the cost of the 2016 and 2008 elections, respectively. Money politics has eaten deep into the fabric of our electoral, legislative and administrative processes. Big companies, the oligarchs, and some interest groups are the primary sources of political funding.
The majority of winners of congressional elections in the country are the candidates who have greater financial support. These representatives then do the bidding of their financial backers at the expense of the people whose interests they should protect. They would speak for their own vested interests rather than for vulnerable people. Even members of Congress have to collect money from the interests they’re meant to oversee in order to buy top spots on the most powerful committees.
Dark money also floods our electoral system through super PACs because they engage in unlimited political spending and may raise funds from virtually anywhere, including individuals, corporations, unions and other groups. The high cost of running for office makes it hard for young people to beat people who have been in office for 20 years or more with thousands of dollars in their super PAC.
America’s democracy has become a gerontocracy, a government by elders. It has been hijacked by old men and women. For example, President Joe Biden, 80, and his predecessor, Donald Trump, 76, are running again for the country’s highest office under the Democratic and Republican parties, respectively. Biden has served as a U.S. senator since 1973 before he became vice president in 2009, but his recent approval ratings are at best poor due to his lackluster performance in the area of the economy and his age. Trump on his own became the president of his father’s real estate business in 1971 before assuming office as the 45th president of the United States from 2016 to 2020.
Both Biden and Trump are the oldest U.S. presidents. They were 78 and 70 years old at the inauguration, respectively. Some other presidential aspirants for next year’s election are also in the same age bracket. Even Congress is getting older. The average age of the current Congress leadership in each party is even higher, with Democrats approaching 70. The average age of the Senate is 63 years, while that of the House of Representatives is a bit younger at 58 years. These politicians continue to recycle themselves due to the absence of term limits.
Some may argue that older politicians are more experienced and financially buoyant and therefore stand a better chance of winning an election and doing well in office, but the truth is that old age comes with its own challenges, including mental deterioration, which can negatively impact cognitive ability and hamper an effective decision-making process. Sometimes, they make far-reaching decisions that may haunt the younger generation.
Money should be deemphasized in American politics, while there should be term limits on all branches of government. The future of American politics hangs in the balance if its two main political parties, the Democratic and the Republican, can only field political veterans in an election. They should give younger candidates a chance to stand for election. Much younger candidates will bring much-needed energy into the political system and make America great again.
The lack of succession planning has become increasingly apparent in recent years, as our government has been plagued by partisan gridlock and political stalemates. With no clear line of succession, it is difficult to ensure that qualified and experienced leaders will be available to step in and fill the void when a leader leaves office. This has created a vicious cycle in which inexperienced and unqualified leaders are appointed to positions of power, leading to further political turmoil and instability.
Furthermore, the lack of succession planning has left us vulnerable to the whims of special interests and wealthy donors. Without a clear line of succession, it is easy for these groups to influence the outcome of elections and to manipulate the political process to their own advantage. This has led to an erosion of public trust in our government and a decrease in public participation in the political process.
It is also important that we create a system of accountability for elected officials. This can be done by instituting a system of checks and balances that ensures that elected officials are held responsible for their actions. This will create an environment in which elected officials are held to a higher standard and are more likely to act in the public’s best interest.
Without proper succession planning, our political system looks bleak. It is essential that we take steps to ensure that qualified and experienced leaders are chosen to fill positions of power. Only then can we ensure that our government is truly representative of the people and that the public’s interests are being served.
Duvalier Malone is the CEO of Duvalier Malone Enterprises, a global consulting firm. He is also a motivational speaker, community activist and the author of Those Who Give A Damn: A Manual for Making a Difference.