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Independence Day Retrospective: The Fallacy of the 2-Party System


Independence Day Retrospective:
The Fallacy of the 2-Party System

By Will Shonbrun

The people who founded this country, risking their lives and fortune to do so, all men because women and most all but landed gentry didn’t have any status or standing, legal or otherwise, based its principles – legal, civil and moral – on, for the time, remarkable ideals. It was a unique departure from the rule of monarchy to a form of election by the people of persons to rule them from their ranks. And these people established a government of themselves and answerable to the population at large. A revolutionary concept for its time. 

Their allegiance to the bedrock tenets they espoused – liberty, equality and justice for all – were hypocritical and categorically untrue for any but white males, and civil rights under the law didn’t come about for almost 200 years until after the drafting of the Constitution. But nevertheless a benchmark – an ideal, not a reality – had been set and engraved into the citizenry as it grew and diversified over the years. It became so much a part of the nation’s tapestry it was taught in schools and incorporated into the legal and civic systems over time. All this despite “equality for all” being a sham.

A reading of U.S. history shows divides from its very beginning. With every new group that arrived on its shores divisions persisted and, it’s conjectured, increased. There were times when deep rifts were in greater bas-relief – the labor struggles in the late 1800s, the Civil War, the 1960s and ‘70s – and times when the nation more pulled together to confront some common foe. I maintain that now is such a time.

We live under the pretense of a two-party political system while reality dictates there are many political viewpoints and some are diametrically opposed. The Republican Party has three major divisions: establishment conservatism, further right and more hard-line advocates, aka the Tea Party, and the religious right, which is religion-bound and bible-oriented. Sometimes these divisions in the Republican Party overlap in their agendas, but often they do not. Under duress they can be manipulated from within their own ranks to coalesce for some purpose, e.g., beat Hillary, but in actuality they are distinct and differing in their political views and the kind of government and civil society they want.

The Democratic Party professes to hold both an establishment wing and a progressive, also called liberal, faction. These divisions are deepening and to a degree that it’s suggested each faction grows increasingly disaffected with the other. This is not new in this party, but it is currently more pronounced. Like the Republican Party, the Democratic Party will join ranks to defeat a common foe.

All other political parties have been frozen out of the mix by the wiles of the two behemoth parties, which are private companies, not government entities. But the question here is: For how long are the citizens of this nation going to pretend that we all fall into two parties despite the obvious untruth of that? It’s akin to “don’t ask, don’t tell” – a lie we have to tell ourselves in order to get along. But lies will always be defeated when the truth of reality steps in. It’s time for a big truth bath.

We, the people, do not all fit within a narrow, confining and arbitrary two-party system despite being conditioned to believe this is a superior configuration. In fact  most of the world’s other nations have multi-party systems with proportional political representation more reflective of its citizenry. Other political, civic and economic systems work just as well as ours and in some key respects better. For example: While it’s true that the U.S. is the most militarily powerful country on Earth and has the highest GDP, it does not have the highest per capita standard of living, the best healthcare system, the lowest mortality rate or the best educational system. There are other indices where the U.S. doesn’t stack up too well either. On the flip side it’s also feasible that a multi-party system would not function any better than the two-party form, but at minimum it would be a much truer picture of the reality in which we all reside. Then we could stop lying and pretending when we say we are in the You-Name-It Party when in many respects we differ with that party’s platform ideals.

Having a reflective and representative multi-party system is only one albeit significant change needed in American politics. Ridding politics of the influence of money, jettisoning the undemocratic, vestigial Electoral College, and regulating lobbying to render it transparent are even more important. But that’s for another July 4th proposition.