SYNDICATED COLUMN: The Evil of Two Lessers

Two-Party System Is Not Democracy

We get the government we deserve.

Don’t get mad at the politicians! It’s your/our fault. You/we elected them.

Most Americans accept these aphorisms. Yet they are lies—lies that distract us from the fact that our political system is a farce. Really, we should get rid of this phony two-party “democracy.” And we will. In the meantime, we ought to ignore it.

The two-party system made simple:

Two worthless scoundrels are on the ballot.

If you vote for one of them, a worthless scoundrel will win.

If you don’t vote, a worthless scoundrel will win.

It’s a pretty unappealing sales pitch. How did it last 200 years?

The two-party system, a political mutation unanticipated by the Constitution and dreaded by the Founding Fathers, mainly relies on the “lesser of two evils” argument.

Next year, for example, many liberals will hold their noses and vote for Obama even though he has not delivered for them. They will do this to try to avoid winding up with someone “even worse”: Michele Bachmann, Mitt Romney, etc.

Conservatives will do the same thing. They will vote for Michele Bachmann, Mitt Romney or whomever—even though they know full well they won’t come through with smaller government or a balanced budget—because Obama is “even worse.”

The two-party system is a sick game. Many citizens, realizing this, opt out by not voting. Others resort to negative voting.

In 2008 one out of three Republican voters told pollsters they were voting against Obama, not for McCain. Out in five Democrats voted against McCain, not for Obama.

A quarter of all votes cast in 2008 were “negative votes.” Thirty-eight percent of voters in the 2010 midterm elections crossed party lines from D to R “to send a message.”

To “get the government they deserve,” as master curmudgeon H.L. Mencken asserted, we would have to have a wide choice of options on the ballot. Two is pathetic.

Two parties isn’t even a facsimile of democracy.

Would you shop at a store that only offered two books? Two kinds of cereal? Two models of computers? Two brands of computer?

What about third parties? The Dems and Reps conspire to block the Greens, Libertarians, etc. with insurmountable obstacles. Minor parties can’t get campaign financing, ballot access, media coverage, or seats at presidential debates. So they rarely win.

“With a single elected president if you’re going to have a chance to win the states, which are all awarded on a winner-take-all basis, again you don’t have a chance,” John Bibby, University of Wisconsin professor and co-author of the book, “Two Parties—Or More? The American Party System” told PBS in 2004. “The incentive is to form broad-based parties that have a chance to win in the Electoral College.”

The argument that we, the people, are somehow to blame for the failings of “our politicians” is absurd. Even partisans of the two major parties are substantially dissatisfied with the nominees who emerge from the primary system.

Politics is not what happens on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November. Real politics is the process of arguing about how we want to live. In America that happens over dinner with our families, over drinks with our friends, over the water cooler at work (if you still have a job).

What happens on Election Day is a circus, a farcical distraction meant to siphon away the vitality of real politics.

Real politics is dangerous. Real politics, as we saw in Cairo’s Tahrir Square, can actually change things.

The two-party system is a twisted con based on fear. If you don’t vote for Party A then Party B, which is slightly more evil, will win. If “your” Party A wins, all you get is the dubious, incremental pseudo-victory of somewhat less suckiness. But Party A gets something infinitely more valuable: political legitimacy and the right to claim a mandate for policies that you mostly dislike.

“Hey, you elected them.”

“You got the government you deserve.”

Not at all.

It’s a terrible, lopsided bargain. You get little to nothing. They use your vote to justify their policies:

No jobs.

One war after another.

Wasting your tax dollars.

Corruption.

More pollution.

(Notice: I didn’t specify which party. Compared to the vast spectrum of possible politics from left to right, which encompasses such ideologies as communism, socialism, left libertarianism, right libertarianism, fascism, etc., the Dems and Reps are more similar than different.)

Until there’s a revolution we’re stuck with these jokers. But that doesn’t mean we have to pay attention.

(Ted Rall is the author of “The Anti-American Manifesto.” His website is tedrall.com.)

COPYRIGHT 2011 TED RALL

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+Share on RedditDigg thisShare on StumbleUponEmail this to someone

15 thoughts on “SYNDICATED COLUMN: The Evil of Two Lessers

  1. Point taken, but is Tahrir Square “real politics,” or was it an uprising?

    Rising up in protest against a repressive regime is not governing. It’s necessary, it’s inspiring, it’s great. But it’s not a sustainable form of government and it’s not sufficient to provide for people’s needs. Uprisings can lead to better government, as with Havel in the Czech Republic, or they can lead to new tyrannies, as in the case of Qaddafi in Libya.

    Blaming democracy and Obama for everything proves nothing. No perfect system exists. We need the Ted Ralls of this world, but we also need the Barack Obamas.

    Sorry to be so boring, but it’s true.

  2. Unless you are independently wealthy and have no skeletons in your closet (or moths in your brain like the Donald), you will never be able to take over either party. The money and power structure will not ever bend.

    New party? Maybe, but do it grass roots not tea roots.

  3. No, I’m just being realistic about the situation. Since the end of the Whigs, Democrats and Republicans have been the two parties and that will be the way for a long time. Theonly way to change things is to take over the party.

    • Within the existing paradigm, sure. But it is inherently flawed. We can wait for it to collapse, or we can act to get rid of it, but one way or another it is unsustainable.

  4. Quoth Albert:
    The two-party system will never end, that is a fact

    Never is a very long time, Albert. Are you an aide to David Axelrod?

  5. 1. In a Democracy, one ends up with two parties. A majority is required to rule, so one party consists of all those who joined the majority, and the other party consists of all the others. The fact that the parties must take the same name in the US is irrelevant.

    2. In economics, the amount that someone can steal drops with competition. A monopolist can steal half the GDP. Duopolists must split 1/3. Tripolists must split 1/4. Etc. So, by looking at how much the government steals, one can estimate the number of real alternatives the voters have by the size of the Federal budget. And in the US, the number of real alternatives ain’t that many.

  6. Warning: Extremely Wonkish

    1. In a Democracy, one ends up with two parties. A majority is required to rule, so one party consists of all those who joined the majority, and the other party consists of all the others. The fact that the parties must take the same name in the US is irrelevant.

    2. In economics, the amount that someone can steal drops with competition. A monopolist can steal half the GDP. Duopolists must split 1/3. Tripolists must split 1/4. Etc. So, by looking at how much the government steals, one can estimate the number of real alternatives the voters have by the size of the Federal budget. And in the US, the number of real alternatives ain’t that many.

  7. Pingback: Suburban Guerrilla » Blog Archive » The evil of two lessers

  8. …’It comes from a very ancient democracy, you see…’ (this is just after a huge robot lands in downtown London, killing people, doing billions of dollars of damage – and announcing ‘I come in peace, take me to your lizard’)

    ‘You mean, it comes from a world of lizards?’

    ‘No,’ said Ford, who by this time was a little more rational and coherent than he had been, having finally had the coffee forced down him, ‘nothing so simple. Nothing anything like so straightforward. On its world, the people are people. The leaders are lizards. The people hate the lizards and the lizards rule the people.’

    ‘Odd,’ said Arthur, ‘I thought you said it was a democracy.’

    ‘I did,’ said Ford. ‘It is.’

    ‘So,’ said Arthur, hoping he wasn’t sounding ridiculously obtuse, ‘why don’t people get rid of the lizards?’

    ‘It honestly doesn’t occur to them,’ said Ford. ‘They’ve all got the vote, so they all pretty much assume that the government they’ve voted in more or less approximates to the government they want.’

    ‘You mean they actually vote for the lizards?’

    ‘Oh yes,’ said Ford with a shrug, ‘of course.’

    ‘But,’ said Arthur, going for the big one again, ‘why?’

    ‘Because if they didn’t vote for a lizard,’ said Ford, ‘the wrong lizard might get in. Got any gin?’

    ‘What?’

    ‘I said,’ said Ford, with an increasing air of urgency creeping into his voice, ‘have you got any gin?’

    ‘I’ll look. Tell me about the lizards.’

    Ford shrugged again.

    ‘Some people say that the lizards are the best thing that ever happened to them,’ he said. They’re completely and utterly wrong, but someone’s got to say it.’

    ‘But that’s terrible,’ said Arthur.

    ‘Listen, bud,’ said Ford, ‘If I had one Altarian dollar for every time I heard one bit of the Universe look at another bit of the Universe and say ‘That’s terrible’ I wouldn’t be sitting here like a lemon looking for a gin. But I haven’t and I am.

  9. Getting rid of the electoral college would require amending the Constitution, as that is where it is defined. Getting 2/3rds of the states to vote “yay” on a Constitutional amendment is not an easy feat. What might be somewhat easier (admittedly by a slim margin) is to have every state proportion their electoral votes in the same manner as Nebraska and Maine: instead of “winner takes all,” those states allocate their electoral college votes based on the percentage of votes each candidate received. This would be a huge step toward levelling the playing field for so-called “third parties.”

    Of course, the best way to really let people’s voices be heard is by allowing them to actually vote their consciences. In my opinion, this can be achieved by implementing instant run-off voting as well as including an option for “none of the above” (the purpose of which would be to show no confidence and force a recall of candidates, should NOTA receive a majority vote). Unfortunately, IRV has seen little support at any level of government (the legacy parties find it works too well) and an attempt to implement such a system in the UK was recently rejected by voters.

  10. The two-party system will never end, that is a fact. Instead of bitching about it, liberals/leftists/progressives/greens/socialists need to take over the Democratic Party at all levels the same way the fascist conservatives took over the Republican Party.

    The two-party system may suck Ted, but “in the meantime, we ought to ignore it” is 100 times worse.

  11. Fun thing to do.

    Go the the 2000 Presidential election results.

    If you go state by state and compare number of eligible voters not voting versus those voting for Bush and those voting for Gore: none of the above wins in a landslide.

    People ride me for not voting but why bother? Apathy wins hands down and still we have to have some asshole in office.

    First thing to do is get rid of the electoral college. Don’t give me the crap that it favors bigger states, I have lived all my life in states with no more than 4 electoral votes and they have been either extremely Republican or extremely Democrat. I could have voted a hundred times and never have my voice heard. My vote counts for (diddly * squat)squared.

    How about we have a revolution and become a country governed by the Constitution and not big money?

Leave a Reply