In an email I received this week, the author suggested that the Two Party System was about to fall apart and asserted that most of our political corruption, gridlock and buffoonery can be traced directly back to being a two party system. I felt that this was an intriguing concept worth looking into.
She said the two-party system “stifled the entire democratic process” and likened it to “two rival Mafia families; neither is strong enough to eliminate the other so they compromise and split up the spoils by territory. They kill off any upstart family that might show up to siphon off profits.”
I tend to agree and I’m not sure I have ever heard a better explanation – I’ll use it in the future.
I’ve lived much of my life in countries that use a multiparty system and operated almost 10 years in countries that used a single party system. Single party is an obvious nightmare, but to be honest – the multi-party system is one of the very few things I think the EU got right.
That and the possibility of a “No Confidence Vote” – Can you imagine how our Politicals would act if they knew we could call a vote and fire them if they didn’t do what they promised?
You might ask yourself, “If the two party system is so bad, how in the world did we end up with it?” The answer is actually pretty basic – We didn’t.
Well not by law anyway, it’s one of those things that just crept in on us when no one was paying attention; kind of like the man-bun, soy lattes and golf as an Olympic sport.
The Republic was initially a no-party system. Not by design and not because parties were bad or unconstitutional, there was no Constitution at that time.
No one actually thought of it. There was no reason to organize into parties and the thought of voting a party ticket would have been ludicrous to the founders.
Candidates made political alliances with others who shared the same political leanings but it was pretty much every man for himself until 1796, when candidates in virtually every contest, from Constable to President, aligned into two political parties and campaigned as a Party.
The idea of Democrat and Republican has become so ingrained in us that it ceased to be questioned a century ago.
The binary nature of American politics goes all the way back to Washington’s first term. American politicians fell into two distinct schools of thought: Federalists and the first opposition movement in our history, the Democratic Republicans.
The Federalists, led by George Washington, John Adams and Alexander Hamilton, were convinced they were the Keepers of the Law, and were staunch proponents of the newly written but un-ratified and unsigned Constitution. They wanted the fledgling nation to continue along a Federalist agenda.
The Democratic Republicans, headed up by Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, thought the Constitution was incomplete and that the people should have more power. Individual rights were the focus of the Democratic Republican Party – Less federal intrusion was a big part of their platform.
It should be no surprise that the Bill of Rights came from the Democratic-Republicans but both sides originally considered it imperative to communicate to the citizenry.
The election year tango is a relatively new invention.
In about 1794 there was a conflict over trade with the British, the Federalists thought we should engage in unlimited trade while the Democratic-Republicans were less enthusiastic about snuggling up with a former oppressor. The result was a drawing of Party lines and the invention of party loyalty.
As my old Sergeant Major liked to remind me: “Crap rolls downhill” and the entire political system swiftly polarized.
If you have never read the Federalist papers, they are basically an 18th century PR campaign. A collection of political essays designed to persuade white, land owning males to support the Federalist’s political point of view.
They are still well worth studying as long as you keep in mind they are not codified – i.e. They do not carry the weight of Law.
Even without studying them, the Federalist Papers should be a Red Flag to all of us regarding today’s Politicals and what they think about the electorate. It shows just how secure they feel, way up there in that Ivory tower and how little obligation they feel to represent the people.
The founders intended the electorate to be treated completely differently.
Two centuries ago our Politcals had enough respect for the voter to write EIGHTY-FIVE very succinct and in-depth documents to explain their policies, what they wanted to do, why they wanted to do it, how they intended to accomplish it and what the result would be.
Today the best we can get from either end is vague inferences and sophomoric name calling. – there is no clean end to this turd.
Having two major parties calling all the shots gives them a monopoly on power. It forces people to make compromises they can’t ethically make.
What party does the gay, gun owning, anti-abortion, Muslim adhere to?
What about the staunch Constitutionalist, who believes Madison got the 2nd and 10th right – Both sides adhere to major policies that violate his Constitutional morals – which party do I support?
Madison was convinced party affiliation was a temporary thing that would only raise its ugly head during debate; Washington denounced parties as a “threat to the republic” – both were wrong.
Somehow, the advent of the two party system had an unintended consequence and it actually worked pretty well. People were able to ascertain the basic stand of any candidate by their party affiliation; higher ups could cultivate new support at the lower level offices.
Communicating political platforms was revolutionized by homogenizing the message and speaking as a party on major issues.
In the 18th Century the system served the electorate.
In the 21st Century the electorate is expected to serve the system.
In a functioning multi-party system the electorate can usually find a party that actually represents most of their beliefs and aren’t forced to choose the party that is least repulsive.
It forces legislators and elected officials to compromise, to form political coalitions and get things done. It prevents filibustering and kindergarten tactics like shutting the government down because one faction or the other didn’t get their way.
Like or hate the Libertarian party, their plight is a good example of what is wrong here.
While, based on their foreign policy, I personally find it hard to fully support a Libertarian for President, I do wholeheartedly agree with several other aspects of their platform. I have no doubt that A Libertarian candidate would represent me much better in Congress than either of the other two options.
The fact is – Millions of Americans identify with a third, fourth, or fifth party movement – but are stifled by the two party system.
I’m not talking about one of the lunatics that run every election cycle. I’m talking about viable political movements with actual ideas and proposed solutions – something the current front-runners have neglected to offer.
Media hype and the economics of big donors have prevented the Libertarians, along with any other outside party, to even be considered in the polls or given a platform to present their ideas.
In earlier times the Soapbox was the most common means of propagating a political beliefs. There was a free and unfettered exchange of ideas and was conducive to progress.
What we have today is only conducive to what we ended up with.
Consider, for a moment, a congress made up of 5 or 6 parties – Competition and lack of single party majority would give rise to communication.
Alliances based on pending legislation would be made, productive compromise would be a requirement for any political faction to survive.
Our Current legislative branch has become as useless as nipples on a fish because it lacks these very qualities.
I need to point out that there are a few contemporary cases where having too many factions and parties resulted in chaos and political anarchy. – think Greece. But… in each case there were other factors that prevented any system from functioning and the multi-party system is not to blame.
Maybe I’m wrong, but what we are doing today isn’t working.
This is the first time in well over 40 years of participating in elections that I can’t, with clear conscience, vote for either side. There isn’t even a lesser evil to choose from.
I think I’m gonna write in Pat Paulsen for President.
He’s dead… there is no way he can screw it up any worse.