Both parties focus only on elections
It hasn't been as far back as the Lincoln-Douglas debates, but it sure seems that long since we've had a great debate about ideas.
Today's politicians seem too caught up in hanging on to power (Republicans) or getting it back (Democrats) to care much about which ideas are better than others.
Once people actually debated such things, but in a day of focus groups, polling, fundraisers, blogs, talk radio and hyperventilating cable TV hosts, ideas and ideology seem in short supply.
I like the first and second definitions of ideology in my dictionary: "(1) visionary theorizing; (2) a systematic body of concepts, especially about human life and culture."
Among the definitions for "idea" is this: "a plan for action."
Isn't this what's missing from much of contemporary politics: visionary theorizing, a body of concepts, and most especially a plan for action that benefits the most people?
Perhaps this reflects a culture that is so fixated on self that it has no regard for much else. Are politicians merely a reflection of this narcissism, or are they contributing to it by their failure to lead? What Democrat has had an interesting idea in recent years? Democrats mostly oppose whatever Republicans are doing. Republicans, who once had ideas, (the Reagan Revolution; the Contract with America) behave like the Democratic majority they replaced. The ideas that put Republicans in power seem to have evaporated. Instead of advancing those ideas, too many Republicans pander to various constituencies, hoping their soon-to-be former supporters will overlook their prostitution.
If a party mostly focuses on winning the next election, rather than giving voters a reason to vote for its candidates, the likelihood of success declines greatly. Electoral victory, like happiness, is usually a byproduct of something more substantive. If winning the next election becomes the only goal and if one's sole platform is "elect us, because we're not as bad as members of the other party," it will turn voters off and they either will switch sides or stay home.
Some believe Republicans should lose this fall to show the party bosses that they cannot take its conservative wing for granted.
Democrats suffer from a similar affliction. Ultra-left groups claim Sen. Hillary Clinton isn't liberal enough, because she cloaks her liberalism with moderate talk for a possible run for president in 2008. The Democratic agenda in Congress is nonexistent. It merely repeats the familiar lines about class and race.
When ideologies and ideas evaporate, the public becomes politically disoriented. With too many Republicans acting like Democrats and both parties seeming to want power for its own sake, the public has understandably become not only politically disoriented, but also disgusted.