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Billionaires Going Rogue -

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By now you may have the question in the back of your mind: who cares about the political parties? Aren’t they just agents of the status quo at a time when innovative thinking is needed? Maybe diminishing their role will help lessen polarization and open up the system?

There may be some truth to this and perhaps the benefits will outweigh the costs. Conversely, the diminishment of the parties means that the institutions with the single-minded goal of winning a majority will be weakened. When parties are influential, they can help keep some candidates and office holders from going off the ideological deep end. The emergence of independently financed super PACs give voice to those with the most extreme views. An ad like this is likely to alienate as many citizens as it motivates:

American Principles SuperPAC

A billboard in Florida shows President Obama bowing to a Saudi king and blames him for soaring gasoline prices.

Predictions are notoriously dangerous, given the multitude of possible outcomes. If the parties are eviscerated, the political system could adjust itself and regain vitality. But I doubt it. For all their flaws, strong political parties are important to a healthy political system. The displacement of the parties by super rich men determined to flex their financial muscles is another giant step away from democracy.

There are many rich people -- among them Michael Bloomberg, Bill Gates, and Pierre Omidyar -- who would like to see a revitalized political system.

It will happen when the time is right.

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