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Democrats are the problem. Republicans are the problem.

In the U.S., political parties are the problem.

Copious amounts of ink have been spilled opining about the general erosion of trust among Americans in the institutions that have long served them and defended their basic rights. Bureaucrats get a raw deal from the public. By and large, civil servants at all levels go about their days ethically and with a belief in their mission. This is true for both your local code enforcement officer and a scientist with Environmental Protection Agency.

Red tape isn't rotting America's belief in its systems. 

Last week, Politico published excerpts from a book written by former Democratic National Committee interim Chairwoman Donna Brazile. In it, Brazile expressed shock with just how much power Hillary Clinton's campaign held over the DNC's operation long before she became the party's nominee. Brazile claimed Clinton's campaign seized control about a year before she actually won the Democratic nomination for president.

DNC's finances were a hot mess, Brazile wrote. The party was buried in debt, much of it dating back to President Barack Obama's 2012 re-election bid. Clinton's campaign offered the DNC a lifeline. But it required signing on the dotted line, essentially forcing the party to agree to rules that turned the Democratic primary into a coronation.

The options were Clinton or bust. 

Party Chairman Keith Ellison kicked out a statement essentially confirming Brazile's version of events and calling for reform. Others griped about "re-litigating" the bruising contest between Clinton and left-wing Sen. Bernie Sanders so close to 2018's midterms, but also expressed concern about Brazile's allegations. 

My career has sent me to some of the most partisan states in the country. Royal blue New York and its abnormally high taxes. Crimson red Idaho and its unwillingness to fund its schools. Illinois and its Democratic coalition of Chicago attorneys and unions. Iowa and its odd Republican caucus of regulation averse farmers, so-called values voters and affluent business owners who just don't like paying taxes.

I've watched Democrats drive states into the ground to keep unions happy. And I've seen Republican tax policy eat a state like gangrene. 

Any government dominated by a single party fails. One must only look at Illinois' pension mess and Iowa's foundering privatization of Medicaid to see what one-party dominance looks like. 

Is there any question that President Hillary Clinton would be up on impeachment charges if she pulled half the stunts President Donald Trump has? Just this past week, Trump publicly leaned on the Justice Department to investigate his former political rival. More evidence of previously undisclosed contacts by Trump's inner circle with Russian operatives came to light. And Trump's spokeswoman promoted his businesses from the White House lectern. Each of these would have been a scandal a year ago. Partisan tribalism is Trump's only cover.

Odd thing is, more parties might be the answer. 

Anyone who knows me is keenly aware of my affinity for British politics, which, I admit are far from ideal. But in the U.K. a slew of parties tends to moderate discourse. Sure, Brits have the big two, Conservatives and Labour. But parties such as the Scottish Nationalists, Liberal Democrats and U.K. Unionists maintain viable blocs in the House of Commons and, therefore, wield real power. In 2010, former Prime Minister David Cameron, a Conservative, doesn't build his ruling majority if not for a coalition formed with the Lib Dems. 

In the U.S., there are just two legitimate choices, thanks to a flawed primary process that Brazile's account only serves to highlight. And, too often, neither offers much of anything to the free-thinking voter who wants ideas. No, institutions exist solely to promulgate and enhance their power. So tribalism is encouraged. Districts are gerrymandered. Party operatives rail like fire-and-brimstone preachers. Radical bases are fed red meat while the rest of us are but passive observers.

What's to trust?

Jon Alexander is editorial page editor at the Quad-City Times. He can be reached at


Editorial Page Editor

Editorial Page Editor, Quad-City Times