Hello, my name is Anastasia and I’m coming to you live from the heart of the United States(alt), a country much like yours, but located in a reality alternate to the one you are currently in.
U.S.(alt) is very similar to your U.S., at least at first glance. Our official language is English. Geographically, our land is identical in size and topography to yours. Our cities, our towns, our names - everything looks the same as it does where you are but, underneath the surface, there are quite a few fundamental differences; differences which, you will be pleased to know, did not cause any disruptions in the fabric of the universe since the laws of nature permit deviations between realities. I will use the (alt) designation whenever referring to places here (since they go by the same name as in your U.S.), to avoid any possible confusion on your part. Let us start with:
First of all, we now have a system of government which we call a “domain direct democracy”. The change came about some years ago when we realized (finally!) that the Constitution(alt) could no longer be taken word for word as the basis for our laws since the document was written too many years ago to be applicable in the present. Not only did it contain too much antiquated terminology which had no reference to our modern day society, it was filled with far too many ambiguities which caused only disputes and divisions among our citizens. Keep in mind that the Declaration of Independence(alt) was signed in 1676, and the Constitution(alt) became law in 1687, one hundred years earlier than yours did, respectively. Our new version of the document is called The Constitution2.0
In accordance with Constitution2.0 , we are governed by senators, one from each domain, or what you call state. There are three delegates from each of the commonwealths (Puerto Rico(alt), Hawaii(alt) and Alaska(alt) and two ambassadors, one from the District of Columbia(alt) and the other from New York(alt) which declared itself to be a neutral zone domain (rather like Switzerland). Unlike senators, delegates and ambassadors are not eligible to become acting Head of State, (in a rotation which takes place annually) nor can they vote on cabinet appointments e.g. Secretary of State, Defense, Interior, Agriculture, etc. We are no longer a two-party system. We have no parties at all as we learned from the past that, left to their own devices, neither the Democrats(alt) nor Republicans(alt) held true to their party principles. Instead, they became entities onto themselves and used their differences to do nothing while calling it gridlock, a euphemism for “We don’t give a rat’s ass!”
Each senator, delegate or ambassador is elected by a majority vote in his or her domain or commonwealth to represent the wishes of their constituency. Those wishes are now evidenced by referendums in which the people can make their voice heard on individual issues which, at any given time, concern our nation as a whole.
Our politicians no longer have any special exemptions or immunities, nor are they allowed to pass laws which would grant them even the smallest form of preferential treatment. For years Capitol Hill(alt) was populated by men and women who entirely lost sight of why they were elected, instead using their time in office to do little more than enrich themselves. For example - a news program called Sixty Minutes(alt), did a story on members of congressional committees who while making policy affecting certain industries purchased or sold stock of companies in those industries, depending on the impact they knew their policies would make, and they did all this before these policies became public knowledge, their actions constituting nothing less than insider trading, a felony punishable by law for the rest of us. Voter outcry after the program aired forced legislation to stop these activities in the form of what we called the S.T.O.C.K. Act(alt), an acronym for Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge. Some months later when the furor died down and the public spotlight moved elsewhere, Congress(alt) very quickly and on the sly, repealed large portions of the legislation, effectively returning things to “business and usual”. This was only one, on a much too long list of instances, in which our politicians created, for themselves, legal ways to circumvent the law of our land.
Like you, we have our special interest groups but their lobbying activities are centered entirely around swaying public sentiment, as influencing the senators, delegates and ambassadors is no longer effectual in any way. They can act in an advisory capacity, assisting our elected officials in understanding the intricacies of a particular issue, but that’s the extent of their activities on Capitol Hill(alt). In the old days, when our system of government was the same as yours, our special interest groups became so powerful, they largely dictated how our country was run (as yours appear to do now). It all began innocently enough. With a myriad of explanations none of us could understand, (probably because they either made little sense or successfully obfuscated their true purpose) politicians structured laws so that political donations and campaign funding by wealthy lobby groups became perfectly legal. With almost all restrictions lifted or easily circumvented, money flowed like manna from heaven, and buying legislation became a widely accepted, if less than transparent, practice. By financing the political careers of elected officials, often from day one, these special interest groups controlled how politicians voted, effectively shutting the electorate out of the whole process. The result was that, over the years, we metamorphosed into a “theoretical” democracy, one which failed abominably in practice.
The changeover wasn’t easy; we had to create the new system in secret. We couldn’t take the risk that the politicians in office would find out what was going on, and write legislation blocking it’s implementation. At snails’ pace is how these people normally did things (if at all) but, when it came to their own interests, they could move with lightning speed. For example, when forced budget cuts resulted in layoffs of air traffic controllers which in turned caused massive delays at airports, Congress(alt) did nothing, not until it dawned on them that they were very soon going on vacation themselves and if they didn’t do something and fast, they would get caught up in the mess they themselves created. Not accustomed to working constructively, never mind at break-neck speed, they scribbled parts of the legislation by hand and submitted it as is for signature! It was almost comical, except that none of us were laughing, too outraged at how openly self-serving they were while publicly touting their ability to set bi-partisan differences aside for the good of the people!
Is it any wonder that, before we did anything else, we instituted a provision which allowed for all existing members of Congress(alt) to be immediately suspended from duty, pending legal action akin to impeachment proceedings. After all was said and done, only a few people were exonerated; the rest were found guilty of abusing their office and unceremoniously fired. New elections were immediately called. Purification Day, as it became known, has been observed annually ever since, to celebrate how far Capitol Hill(alt) has come from those dark days of indolence and corruption.
Any policy changes which do not lend themselves to being decided via the referendum process, are discussed and formulated by a committee comprised of selected members of academia, the corporate and legal community, as well as specialists in the particular field of concern, drafted to act as advisors for the duration. No congressional member is allowed to sit on these committees. The resulting proposal is then presented to Congress(alt) which duly votes on it’s adoption.
Another difference between you and us is that we practice a separation of Church and State which is absolute. So much so, that even such seemingly innocent words as “In God We Trust” are never used. We substituted these with “In the Greater Good We Trust”. No terminology to do with any religion is permitted in conjunction with any governmental activity. No law can be passed, no argument made, no policy or legislation enacted which has even the remotest basis in any scripture. We function strictly within the confines of secular law.
So there you are. These are the basics of how our political system functions. It no longer contains the many pitfalls which your system continues to be plagued with, and which only serve to fuel the ever increasing disconnect between Capitol Hill and the electorate.
Next time, we’ll discuss the economy.
Till then, this has been,
A. J. Aston
Reporting to you live from the United States(alt)
Article first published as An Alternate Reality United States, Part I: Politics on Blogcritics.