Thursday, April 15, 2010

Two Headed Beast: The American Two-Party System

America, according to Democrats and Republicans alike, is doomed. Other countries believe so too, but I suspect wishful thinking on their parts. Republicans believe that the Democrats are demolishing what makes our country great, removing individual rights in favor of government control that will drive us into financial ruin.  Democrats believe the Republicans are keeping the U.S. in an archaic state of apathy and greed, perpetuating an already failed financial system that funnels money to the top at the expense of the working class.  Ask card carriers from either major party for a prediction of American prosperity and they will try to convince you, with the utmost certainty, that the other party will ruin your life and their way is the only way to save the country.

Both parties are correct and both are incorrect.  Republicans and Democrats are certainly damaging the country and neither party is willing to explore non-partisan solutions.  And here is the American public in the middle of an entrenched, self-perpetuating system, which forbids a viable third option, and instead we are forced to pick between two gnawing cancers.

The two major parties have devolved into opposition parties, allowing no room for good ideas from the major opposing camp simply because they are the enemy.  Enemies can't have good ideas, see, because they are the bad guys.  There is an inherent distrust on both sides of anything the other party says because they despise each other.  They would rather poke holes in an idea from the opposition, condemning it as a failed attempt to harm the public good, than to even try and improve it and recognize its merits.  The two heads of the beast would rather annihilate each other than protect the public or acknowledge the damage their war is causing it.

When voting to fill a government office, lest one of the candidates be the rare independent, we must choose between two preset ideologies, uniform among party members, that regulates a candidate's reasoning, restricting it from operating outside party lines.  The individual candidate that has been elected to office, entrusted with the power to make consequential decisions, will, when beckoned, vote along party lines with Pavlovian expediency.  When we vote for a candidate, whether for state representative, congressman or President, we are not voting for a man or woman that can get the job done, who can adapt to situations as they arise and solve problems, we are voting for a tool of the party, a bullhorn used to broadcast an ubiquitous political agenda.  Candidates frequently have no opinion of their own. Opinions jeopardize candidates' positions within the party.  They must vote with the party or risk losing their support.  That is why you will see so many politicians voting against their own inclinations.  If an unforeseen danger pops into American view, the U.S. is incapable of proper and quick response because our representatives must filter their opinions through the party, making sure their proposed solutions do not conflict with party ideals*.  If freed from party affiliated candidates, we would be freed from policies that have been passed through the biased filters of several party leaders, irrevocably binding those policies to the archaic or naive ideals that impair their ability to adapt to elastic and elusive issues.

The average but loyal party subscriber, Joe Democrat or Joe Republican, doesn't help matters.  The major political parties rely on our unflinching obedience and loyalty.  Over sixty percent of the population gives exactly that to one party or another.  Party subscribers tend to sanitize their candidates of any wrong-doing, exonerating or ignoring conspicuous errors in judgment, frequently forgiving them for blatantly lying to the public or straying from the political ideals their constituents expect them to champion.  On the other hand, the opposition blindly focuses on innocuous indiscretions.

No candidate is inexorably clean.  I'm sure we can all agree that even the most revered of us are imperfect.  For example, George Washington was a hesitant leader that frequently let things spiral out of control before confronting a situation.  Thomas Jefferson struck personal low blows against his political rivals, likely slept with his slave(s), and condoned the reprehensible slaughter of innocents in the latter period of the 1789 French Revolution.  Abraham Lincoln was probably Bi-polar, which dipped him into deep despair without a moment's notice, and suspended Habeas Corpus in the raucous Union states during the Civil War.  Franklin Roosevelt authorized the concentrated imprisonment of Japanese Americans during WWII and bullied unconstitutional legislation through Congress, a branch of government he should have had no direct influence over. And these were the "Greats."

None of us should expect or even accept that a candidate is flawless.  A voter must weigh a candidate's flaws against his attributes or accept that the voter himself is but a mindless tool to be used in political scheming. Presidents Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln and Roosevelt all deserve their esteemed position in American History, but one must consider their whole reputations, their bad decisions along with their good.  Glossing over their mistakes denigrates the difficulty of their position and the efficacy of their tenures of office.  In the majority of elections, we have both parties claiming perfect candidates.  Without party affiliation, candidates would have to rely on their merits and individual worth and not their political propaganda machine. We should use our reason and education to select a candidate that best fits views arrived at with individual critical thinking, not views that have been thrust upon us by others.  Unfortunately, this is nearly impossible in a two party system, because both candidates in any race are cookie cutter replicas of their party confederates.

A side-effect of the two party system may be the most problematic to our government.  The U.S. was built upon separation of power and checks and balances.  Those two concepts are the first things we learn about government while in grade school.  The Executive branch and the Legislative branch are separate in order to keep the president from forcing his agenda into law.  The president is supposed to have nothing to do with the legislative branch.  His domestic role is to protect the people and enforce the law.  He is not supposed to have a role in a law's creation other than signing it. Thanks to the two-party system, the president becomes the leader of the party and forces his soldiers to back his play. They do, of course, because the President himself is a product of the party, endorsing his party's plans for the country. That's how he got the nomination in the first place. Men and women are not running the country; we are ruled by the checklist-agenda of the party in power.

There doesn't seem to be much desire for reform, no matter how needed.  Most people are unaware that other possibilities exist because of the stranglehold the Republicans and Democrats have on the American political process.  We still have a two-party ballot, for one thing.  We must 'write in' other options in most races.  Funding laws also heavily favor the two parties.  It's difficult for a third party to gain any ground without the generous benefits given to Democrats and Republicans.  Because all other parties are at the mercy of the lawmakers who are 99% Democrat and Republican, we may never see any legislation favoring small parties.  Indeed, we may never even be aware of reasonable smaller parties. The only way to gain favor for a third option is to create something akin to the 19th century Whig party, a hodgepodge of all the non-partisans wishing to oust the current powers.  This too will create problems, but at least we could drive a wedge into the power of the great two.

Sadly, all options outside the two-party system are unlikely, because it would face too much opposition.  Somehow, along the way, these parties convinced us that, not only is the two-party system harmless, it's a good idea.  That is, unless the opponent wins the election. Then it's dumb.

--------------------------------------------------------
* On those rare occasions we see a Congressman vote against his party, it is not a crisis of conscience or a moral statement, it's just bribery.  Politicians refer to bribes as "contributions," in exchange for "earmarks," or "pork-barrel spending." Let me simplify: they're bribes. This practice is impossible to eradicate without passing some laws.  Who passes laws? Congress.  Who takes bribes? Click the following links for the answer. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11.

No comments:

Post a Comment