Ok. I’m totally lying. A two party system is not necessary. You mad, bro?
You know what I did here? I gave you a position so you would do what I want—read this article. Then I totally defied that position. Just like the two party system does. Just like politicians do.
They’ve been doing this bait and switch for years and getting away with it. Listen to political analysts talk about how faithful or unfaithful a certain politician was to their campaign platform, and they often sound resigned to the fact that there is going to be some betrayal, maybe a lot. I remember the first time I heard talk like that. It was almost twenty years ago.
Democrats are not being democrats. Republicans are not being republicans. People are afraid to leave the system no matter how much they hate it. What is a citizen to do?
(Oh, and I chuckle at the people who share this on Facebook without reading it, thinking it’s a straightforward article supporting the two-party system. If you even suspect someone did that, make sure you make it as embarrassing as possible when you call them on it.)
They get away with this for two reasons. One of them is our flawed, two party system. The other is that chances are, you’re an idiot.
Most Americans don’t read the fine print, don’t read the instructions, don’t read the warnings, don’t apply critical thinking, don’t self-reflect, and don’t pay attention to the difference between what politicians say and what they actually do. Most Americans take in fewer than three news sources that are all within their political sphere. Most Americans engage exclusively with mainstream media that verify and inter-reference in the most incestuous, homogenized way. They lie to you, and you’re stupid enough to believe them.
Even if you’re not a complete idiot, you still likely indulge in a buffet of logical fallacy. It’s understandable and nobody is innocent. Not me and not you.
The two parties want and exploit this. They want you to blindly follow them and reflexively condemn the opponent. They want you to be trapped, unwilling to vote outside the system.
Six of one…
Both parties are completely alike in too many ways. And I say that as a long-time Democrat.
Why am I a Democrat when I’m condemning the two party system? Because even though the two parties are similar in too many ways, there comes a point, past the money and rhetoric, where they veer away from each other sharply.
Democrats are still democrats, even if they are barely democrats. Obama does something actually liberal, that’s a good thing. I don’t want to see women in binders, dogs on roofs, blacks in prisons or Mexicans as slaves, and that’s the way current republican politicians talk as well as govern.
I vote Democrat even if I sometimes want the Green Party. I vote Democrat even if I don’t like the democrat.
A true thinker is able to hold seemingly contradictory appraisals in their head, especially when they are different but interrelated perspectives on a three dimensional, real-world whole. Look at the picture above. You look at it one way and it’s a circle. Look at it the other way and it’s a square. It’s a cylinder. It’s a real thing. It’s confusing, but it’s a fucking cylinder no matter which way you look at it.
Hillary Clinton might be under the sway of Wall Street. She may frequently side with big business, just like almost every damn Republican, but I don’t want someone like Mitt Romney or Donald Trump picking the next two or three Supreme Court Justices. I don’t want Mitt Romney in charge of my morality. I don’t want a Bush in charge of foreign policy. I trust Hillary Clinton with the Supreme Court, and I trust her with my girlfriend’s vagina. (I heard that coming and I just let it happen, because awesome.)
We need political balance. There is a grace to the pendulous sway of progressivism and conservativism. There is stability and flexibility inherent in a system that simultaneously pushes for change and urges faith to the status quo. If the ideology of the democratic party was untethered, progress would become entirely ideologically based and we might have communism or socialism, which, while wonderful concepts to study and be informed by, do not work purely. If the ideology of the republican party were to be unhinged (further) we’d also have an entirely ideologically based system of faith to “old ideas” that were civil rights nightmares and disastrous to all but the rich. We’d also have facism or tyranny.
It would be absolutely disastrous if we had a three party system unless that third party were ideologically neutral OR we somehow found a third leg maintained balance without drawing incongruously from either.
But we already have that. Every independent in the country makes up that third party. Most independents are ideologically neutral only because they are so completely turned off by the two parties that they distance themselves from both.
These people are balanced. I don’t mean that they’re balanced and I’m batshit (although there are plenty of people that have long believed this.) They have constructed their political identity as true third option. It’s part of their narrative. They will either respond only to voices of moderation or, in some scary cases have a balance of too-exreme voices from both ideologies. They are not democratic or republican enough to care about the values that that other two thirds care about. For whatever reason.
Sure, there are some people that declare independent that are basically just hipster versions of reps and dems. Just like me, they don’t like the current system, but they cut off their nose to spite their face, but they don’t like the current system.
House of Cards
You might not agree with my idea of balance, but most Americans do. Even those americans that say they don’t still themselves navigate the same language and system in many of the same ways. Even atheists frequently promote and further judeo-christian values and language. (Cenk Uygur mocks religion, yet he says “god bless” 800 times a day. It’s silly)
Any remotely establishment politician or pundit will scoff at any ideas of breaking away from the two-party system. They either think it’s stupid or unfortunately unrealistic. Either way it’s folly. They will not let it happen.
So are we trapped in the system? No.
There are obvious solutions they don’t want us to think about because they are the only ones that lose. Business, media, and politicans are the only ones that lose. We don’t lose, discourse doesn’t lose, politics and governance don’t lose. More power is in the hands of the people and even the founding fathers didn’t want that! (And I’ll give an example of why in a minute.)
They’re wrong and we don’t live in a fragile house of cards. Even though I praise balance, even though I’m a (mostly) unapologetic democrat, even though I am admittedly ALL of the things people say prevent Americans from being able to break the 2-party grasp, I know we can escape the trap of the two-party system, and I know we must.
There are three things we have the power to change the political landscape and make two-party politics academic instead of life-or-death
Power to the people
There are election procedures that we can adopt that will render the imbalance of third parties moot. There are real and reachable ways we can disarm the two-party system. We can embrace the founding father’s vision of the limited role of statesmen and at the same time spit in their eye for their low opinion of the masses.
Like I said, most people are idiots. (And they don’t vote regularly.) Politicians prefer this. As long as we have the current system, corporations that own the mainstream media and the politicians that have learned to survive and thrive in this system will never allow us to make a truly informed and active electorate a reality. It is not in their best interest to do so. As long as only a fraction of people vote, rich voters have the first and last say.
We have to abolish the electoral college.
They also believe that we need the electoral college because they know most people are idiots. This is why the founding fathers established the electoral college. They balked at the idea of the uneducated and uninformed masses having unadulterated last say on who is president.
Sure, there a few reasons why better men initially wanted an electoral college (slavery and suffrage rendering slaves and women powerless) but mainly it was preferred that a small group of men make the decisions for each state.
We still maintain this system! We still sit back and allow a system that ultimately renders the popular vote obsolete. However philosophical some might argue it is, it is still a bad philosophy that initiates every presidency.
Every vote must be directly for the candidates of our choice.
We have to take the money out of elections.
Did you know that the donors who donate early ultimately control who we have the opportunity to elect? It’s all about who gets the early money. Watch mainstream political news programming for five minutes when they’re talking about candidates and they will refer to money—often in a begrudging way. Oh we hate this thing we never stop talking about.
Look at Bernie Sanders. He regularly draws larger crowds than Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump, the “top two candidates.” He is further ahead in the polls than the likes of Scott Walker, Ted Cruz, and Jeb Bush, yet all of them get covered more frequently than him. Why? Even though Walker and Cruz have miniscule numbers, and Jeb Bush trails far behind Donald Trump, they all have been able to get big donors now and in the past and they are establishment candidates.
Forget all of the arguments that money equals free speech. Do you want money to equal speech? Do you want to have to compete with the likes of the Koch brothers or George Soros for the attention of your congressmen? Should you be ignored?
Should you be relegated to waiting hours for a couple of terse and tense minutes with your elected official, if you’re lucky, when wealthy donors can have lengthy dinners and laugh shrilly over a bottle of expensive wine and make plans to tour the blab la blab la…..
It’s not just that you have nothing next to Trump. Your city can’t compete with Trump. Everybody in that whole line of people hoping to get a few minutes with their elected representative is meaningless next to donors who mean the beginning or end of a politician’s mainstream viability.
Sure there are exceptions, but do you want to pray for exceptions, or do you want to work for change?
We don’t have to worry about the two-party system. We don’t have to worry about getting 100 million people to fundamentally change their sensibilities. If we change the way elections work, we won’t have to.
We have to change the power structure at the voting booth.
The main reasons why it’s so hard for third parties to get leverage or footing are access and sensibilities. If Bernie Sanders can’t get love from the mainstream media, do you think the head of the US Marijuana Party or the Transhumanist Party will?
Now you vote for a winner and loser. Now you vote for a party rather than policy.
Instead of putting an X next to one candidate, and thus turning your back to your own best interests, you would put a one next to Bernie Sanders, a two next to Hillary Clinton, a three, four, etc for left leaning parties or for politicians who reach across aisles, or for Deez Nuts, or for referendum candidates. Whatever. Then put conservative candidates dead last.
OR the converse. You have a hard on for the Donald, but you don’t want to give him your vote (since he’ll run independent) and completely throw Jeb under the bus? You want to say your piece, but doing so means you’d be giving a vote to Clinton. Vote your actual interests.
With the new way, if Donald doesn’t win, your vote isn’t completely abandoned. Your political values are extended without self-sabotage. You haven’t been manipulated by the two-party system.
We need to change the system because it will make politicians more honest. It will rob some of the power of mainstream media. It will give more attention to third party candidates. We’ll start paying more attention to third party candidates, since we can consider them reasonably. We’ll respond more when media covers third party candidates and that will make the coverage viable.
If we make these changes, platforms and policies will become more important, and referendums will become more important. All of these things will diminish much of the power of the two-party system.
We need to change the system because we don’t accept that our vote doesn’t matter. We need to change the system because we don’t accept that free speech apparently means elections are anything but free and your voice is worth 1/100,000 of what it should be. We need to change the system because you can’t vote for who you might want without compromising or “throwing your vote away.”
Wulfie MaGhee has a very different approach to some of the same conclusions. Read her article, “Why the Two-Party System is Bullshit,” and see where perspectives relate.
Then please comment on both posts and let’s keep the discussion going.