The short version: The United States is a republic, not a democracy. Democracies don't work very well. But everybody seems to think we are a democracy, or at least that we should be. They're wrong. But by voting as if we were a democracy, and demanding that the leaders behave as if it were a democracy, they're making it into a democracy, with all of the corresponding difficulties. They're encouraging democratic (the political concept, not the party) behavior, and attracting democratic (ditto) politicians, not good good leaders.
Democracy: Government by the people.
Republic: Government by elected leaders.
To put it into more common terms: When you get onto an airplane, the stewardess doesn't stand up and ask the passengers to vote on the plane's destination. Neither do they vote on the plane's flight plan -- heading, altitude, airspeed. And they especially don't stand over the pilot's shoulder during the landing procedure and tell him "ok, a little to the left, a little to the right, ok, now pull up a bit..."
I'm not saying we shouldn't vote, or that we shouldn't carefully monitor the leaders of the nation. We shouldn't be silent, and we shouldn't allow stupid things like the DMCA to go unchallenged. But neither should we micromanage our elected officials. We elected them, now we should let them do their jobs to the best of their ability. If they screw up, we can kick them out. If they betray our trust, we can kick them out faster. But if they make a decision we don't agree with, that doesn't necessarily mean the decision was wrong. If the leader is trustworthy, it probably means there were factors involved that we aren't aware of.
More common terms: Ever had a manager ask you to do something that made no sense? That was impossible, or counter-productive, or seemed easy when he/she said it, but was really a can of worms? Well, that's what happens whenever we cast judgement on a political leader who has done something we don't agree with.
However, just like you and I might learn to "play the system", politicians are happy to do the same. When we vote based on hot-button issues or platform points, the politicians are just going to determine what it takes to get a majority. Getting a majority is not the same thing as doing what is best, what is right, or what is good. It is doing what makes the majority of the people/sheep (sheeple?) happy (or satisfied or complacent). Even worse, this system attracts people who are good at playing the game or who want to push a particular agenda, not people who want to serve the country.
When you want to travel by plane, you buy a ticket on an airline (political party?) for a destination (platform). The airline has a reputation that you find acceptable. Airlines with bad reputations go out of business, so the airline tries to avoid bad behavior. You trust the airline to handle the rest, and you trust the pilot (unelected advisors, officials, etc.) to be intelligent and do a good job piloting the plane. If the plane starts heading for the wrong destination, you might have to do something about it, but that usually isn't the case.
Every day I hear about what the [insert politican's name here] is doing, and polls about whether that is good or bad, talking heads (who are on the news based on popularity, not expertise or knowledge) making commentary, etc. The result is that the politician's job is to make the talking heads happy, not to make the right decision.
I don't advocate being any less involved in politics or not watching politicians carefully. But I think we would do a lot better as a nation if we were to vote more based on character and less based on issues. An honest, trustworthy candidate might not make us happy all the time, but will try to make the best decision based on information available instead of based on what is going to be popular. Knee-jerk reactions from the constituents lead to jerks in office. Single issue voters lead to politicians who got into office based on a single issue.
So the bottom line is this: When deciding on how you will vote this election, concentrate on character and intelligence, not issues. The issues are always more complicated than the media lets on -- the real situation doesn't fit into a 20 second sound bite, isn't as interesting, and doesn't create a scandal (the truth? we can't handle the truth!). And sometimes they're more complicated than the politican can even explain (ever try to explain some complicated algorithm to a non-computer person? did you tell the whole truth, or did you simplify things a bit?). If you vote for somebody based on an issue, chances are good that you're voting on VERY incomplete information. Obviously you don't have complete information on a candidate's character either, but I think it is a bit easier to manage than issues.
Above all, character and intelligence play a role in all of an offical's actions. The opinion of the masses only comes up in the hot topics of the day, and is often wrong anyway. So let's get some honest, intelligent leaders into office, and get rid of the politicians.