Two Parties, No Progress
By Anthony Levensalor
Monday, June 18, 2007 at 08:24 AM
We're addicted to partisanship, and afraid to break the cycle. Why?I hate overstating the obvious, always have. Once, when I was a younger man, I said to a friend of mine “Wow, look at that snow come down.” I immediately regretted it, and no sooner was it out of my mouth than I heard the very cliché “Have you ever seen It go up, dumbass?” remark from my buddy.
Sometimes, though, in order to make a point, the obvious has to be stated, no matter how ingrained in our little monkey-brains that truth might be. It is in this spirit that I gratuitously state the obvious:
Political discourse in this country is all messed up.
“Of course it is!” you yell. “Everyone knows that, why would you trot that out?”
I have to overstate the obvious in order to confront it, and I think there are far too many of us that take the level of political discourse in this country as a constant and simply play by those rules. But when the game itself is rigged, what do the rules matter?
If I’m a Democrat, then Republicans look for something in my point of view to dislike simply because I am in “the other party”. If I am a Republican, the same thing happens, and people stop seeing me, they only see a D oir an R, a conservative or a liberal.
There can be no gray area, no middle ground. So used to pigeon-holing are we that even the people who don’t subscribe to either a strictly conservative or strictly liberal ideology get labeled. They’r e “centrists” or “independents”. I’d like to think we’re smarter than that. I’d like to think that we can see past an R or a D, and not vote a straight ticket. The truth of the matter, whether we choose to see it or not, is that people don’t run for office in this country, parties do. And this is allowed to happen because we as a people don’t vote for a person any more, we vote for a party.
And now I get to say something inflammatory. I admire Joe Lieberman. I disagree like crazy on his view on Iraq, and I agree with him on many of the social issues, but I admire him no matter how adamantly I disagree with him. I admire him because he’s honest. I know that what he espouses are his own ideals, rather than those of a party. He’s wrong, but he’s doing what we’re supposed to do, and stand up for our own beliefs in the face of whatever social or political ostracization may result.
Not so for 99% of all of the politicians I have ever known.
The two-party system, that pits Liberal against Conservative, Republican against Democrat , is a system that simply doesn’t help people. Allowing two (or three, depending on a third party candidate) into the general election for the highest office in our country is ridiculous, irresponsible, and unrepresentative of our nation, our people, and our culture.
And the way we talk about politics suffers for it. Suddenly you have the average person so confounded by the process and limited by the choices that we must simple choose the devil we know, or the elitist warmonger who scares us the least.
Democrats vote against Republicans, not for Democrats. Republicans vote against Democrats, not for Republicans. It becomes a zero-sum game, because they’re all controlled by the same lobbyists, and we’re fooled into believing that there is a difference, and that things will change if someone else is in the hotseat. So we snipe at each other instead of getting behind our ideals. We fight about whether or not Kerry earned his purple hearts or Bush served his time in the National Guard instead of what matters.
We berate, we rationalize, and we compromise our beliefs until we’re comfortable voting the party line.
A better system would see all “parties” disappear, instead forcing people to run under their own counsel, for their own beliefs. Better for us to not have the crutch of only choosing from the people in our own party, and be forced to do a little homework on who we liked for office and why, instead of depending on their affiliation to earn our support.
Is Clinton different from Romney? No, not really. They’re both trying so very hard to say what we want to hear that they end up being the same candidate, because you can’t trust anything they say.
Maybe I’m jaded on the parties. No, not maybe. I’m definitely jaded on the parties. The system is broken, and no one can be bothered to fix it.
The solution to this problem is rather simple. People need only vote for anyone other than a republican or democrat.
So true. I recall years ago when you could have a political discussion that didn't end in a shouting match or with both parties so angry at one another that subsequent civil discourse becomes impossible. The team mentality has taken over, and politics has now become both a team sport and a religion.
But...the answer is not to abandon the two-party system. If we do, we get something like what they have in Germany - where there are so many parties that winning is about getting 10-20% of the votes. Things become fractured to the point that crazies can actually make it into office.
I'm not saying I have the answer, but I know what it isn't.
As for Leiberman - he may be "honest" today, but he was not always so. If you recall, he abandoned pretty much all of his major positions to join the Gore ticket in 2000. Maybe he learned his lesson. Who knows. The point is that there are probably not any national level politicians worth their weight in crap.
George Washington had some comments along these lines:
". . . I have already intimated to you the danger of parties in the State. . . Let me. . . warn you in the most solemn manner against the baneful effects of the spirit of party generally."
Washington was considered less of a genius than was Jefferson, Franklin, or Adams, but he was very intelligent and benefitted from a classical education; as had all of them. The historical example of Greece, and the consequent evolution of democracy over the centuries since that time, had impressed them with the inevitable and ultimate failure of pure democracy and its effect of giving the 'mob' the power to decide national concerns; specially redistribution of wealth.
They had, in their genius and historical opportunity, the chance to correct some of those problems by devising a representative democracy which would better assure that wisdom, intelligence, experience and knowledge would be elected to serve the whole of the public for their overall benefit. However, he (they) recognized that human nature with its basic survival needs, was a stumbling block to the constitution:
"This spirit, unfortunately, is inseparable from our nature, having its root in the strongest passions of the human mind. It exists under different shapes in all governments, more or less stifled, controlled, or repressed; but in those of the popular form it is seen in its greatest rankness and is truly their worst enemy...."
So, partisanship is part of nature's effort to assist the survival of a species through group cooperation and the need for the individual to support the group in its tribal organization without question. When applied to group tribal concerns (party), this chauvanism makes it necessary to emphasize party concerns over those of apparently less immediate, however much larger, expressed needs of society, as a whole. Washington spoke directly to that:
"It serves always to distract the public councils and enfeeble the public administration."
So, party concerns for their survival and advancement of their interests apparently outweigh those of all the nation, if not actively moderated. An example might be the present situation the USA finds itself. On the one hand, the nation is in a war which is all inclusive and with two possible outcomes: victory or defeat. Yet, on the other hand one party fights against national victory, proselyting defeat, in order to protect and advance party; not the nation as a whole.
Washington goes on:
"It agitates the community with ill-founded jealousies and false alarms; kindles the animosity of one part against another; foments occasionally riot and insurrection."
Global warming, dislike (even hatred of) the rich, attacks by members of one party on the conventions of the other, evil corporations vilified for partisan reasons, etc.
"It opens the door to foreign influence and corruption, which finds a facilitated access to the government itself through the channels of party passion. Thus the policy and the will of one country are subjected to the policy and will of another."
One party undermining the efforts of the elected government and while emphasizing the need, requirement that international decisions about our nation's existence be mandatory before the nation proceeds with any conflict.
"It is important, likewise, that the habits of thinking in a free country should inspire caution in those intrusted with its administration to confine themselves within their respective constitutional spheres, avoiding in the exercise of the powers of one department to encroach upon another. The spirit of encroachment tends to consolidate the powers of all the departments in one, and thus to create, whatever the form of government, a real despotism.... "
This is familiar since the present Congress is actively attempting to encroach on the duties and responsibilities of the executive; rather than take care of their own business; e.g., refusing judicial appointments, trying to usurp the prerogatives of the executive to appoint or remove Justice Department lawyers, conduct individual and personal diplomatic discussions with foreign agents and nations; without expressed authority to do so, ad nauseam . . .
". . . But let there be no change by usurpation; for though this in one instance may be the instrument of good, it is the customary weapon by which free governments are destroyed. The precedent must always greatly overbalance in permanent evil any partial or transient benefit which the use can at any time yield."
Washington is often reviled by those who hold party above nation, and because he promoted morality -- the antithesis of humanistic 'progress.'
"Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of patriotism who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness -- these firmest props of the duties of men and citizens. The mere politician, equally with the pious man, ought to respect and to cherish them. A volume could not trace all their connections with private and public felicity. Let it simply be asked, Where is the security for property, for reputation, for life, if the sense of religious obligation desert the oaths which are the instruments of investigation in courts of justice?"
A party may desire that concepts of 'property' be ended; along with the lives of unwanted children, those who can't feed themselves, the terminally old and sick, along with other categories of 'undesirables' not yet designated by the collective . . .
. . . which hates the memory of Washington and call him dull, boring and a bit stupid . . . along with the present president . . .
This sounds like the birth of another Ron Paul supporter. There's enough people like us who would vote for a principled man like Dr. Paul for him to win the election if we'd just quit rolling over and urinating on our soft underbellies in submission to the farcical "two-party" system.
The Libertarian party is marginalized by people like Ron Paul! He actually believes this war in Iraq is illegal! Notice, though, that he avoids mentioning the same status for Afghanistan? None of them can even begin to acknowledge that all of America's wars have been 'illegal,' except a short handful!
Ron Paul is just another self-interested politician who compromises his principles for party and his own livelyhood . . .
Interesting bit, A, are we now kicking around Cartesian Dualism? (Sorry, had to, my bad)
I put a lot of the blame on a jaded public who gets 99 percent of their political data off telly, a few who read the papers. Gibbon (Decline And Fall Of The Roman Empire) stated that "loss of civic virtue" was a key piece to Rome's downfall. Sad, we see that here these days. Too busy with nasty jobs, kids, and soccer...to go to caucus meetings, to get involved with the daily politic that we should more closely monitor.
Thus, the old Ya Pays Yer Money Ya Takes Yer Chances kicks in. We've become jaded to two-party rule. To break that would require a phenomenal candidate, third, of course, and with enough financial horsepower to make a dent in this jaded mechanism. Another Ross Perot? Perhaps, or something like that, which, can electrify the voters enough to think outside the box.
Too, we must remember the twain system is so much like a virus, both contain sufficient safeguards to prevent alternative candidates from upsetting the status quo. Again, it takes an electrifying candidate to toggle hard enough a desire of the voters to make said change happen.
Until such a candidate emerges, don't look for a big change in the twain method. I won't hold my breath.
I would argue that it is not the responsibility of the candidate to come forward, rather it is our responsibility to produce said candidate, and to back them sufficiently, asserting ourselves and being the driving force behind our country, rather than the defeatist, confused, and bewildered farm animals being led to the slaughter, though not in any physical sense so much as an ideological one.
IMHO, of course.
Disgust with the existing political structure is rampant. But do we have anything resembling a consensus on which way to go instead?
I laugh when I read the polls about extremely large majorities of Americans thinking the country is on the wrong path. You'd have to be very silly or unbelievably pro-Bush not to think that. Try asking that large percentage of people which path we should be on instead of this one--consensus evaporates immediately.
The good news so far is that anger about politics as usual seems to be a lot stronger than it has been in decades, and just might percolate into something worthwhile. Just a little while ago NYC's Mayor Bloomberg announced he was leaving the GOP to become an Independent.
But extreme polarization is a serious problem, and the public debate has been deliberately lowered to the level of a gutter fight by people like Grover Norquist. Years ago he commented that he hoped to turn the tone in state legislatures nasty and partisan (because extremists on the right tend to win when that's the atmosphere).
As a result, even when people like Trent Lott seem to recognize that debate and discussion in this country is screwed--hence his "Talk radio is ruining America" comment the other day--one branch of the response is vitriolic and edging toward violence.
A blog called Blue Collar Republican toook Lott to task and closed with this:
So President George Bush, Senator Trent Lott, and others are franticly attempting to serve their "masters" and it is us ignorant citizens who should keep our mouths shut and let them do whatever the hell they want. With all due respect, if the government makes a move to "deal with that problem" and (like that fine moron in Venezuela is doing) to shut down those exercising their First Amendment rights, and I think you'll find that Americans won't tolerate it very well.
Keep your powder dry Patriots, we are living in dangerous times.
Dangerous times, indeed. As I tell my wife far more often than she wants to hear: "The 21st century; a bad time to be alive and a worse time to be dead."
"Dangerous times, indeed. As I tell my wife far more often than she wants to hear: 'The 21st century; a bad time to be alive and a worse time to be dead.'"
Which sounds an awful lot like:
"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to heaven, we were all going direct the other way--in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only."
And I recall what was going on then, too. You're scaring me, Lee.