Current mood: animated
Category: News and Politics
That's my favorite new phrase - and I coined it. I'm so cool some days. Let me explain briefly from where it came.
[warning - this is one rare nakedly political piece you will see in this space]
a bit in the news this week, I saw a piece on current Iranian views of
the US. The piece quoted a few individual Iranian citizens,
specifically about the US presidential election. Normally I would blow
this off since, well, THEY DON'T GET A VOTE. But then it dawns on
me, a single US election has more impact on a typical foreigner than it
does a US resident! That seems odd, but it's true. There's
very little reason to expect substantial domestic change.
being decided in this race? To most people, it's a binary choice
between two major party candidates. And that's how it's been for
most of democratic history. It's just easier to run a campaign if
you can polarize people and make it a mano-a-mano sporting
affair. That's far easier than stating and defending principles
and leading people through the logical progressions to policy.
Note the history of the popular vote.
and more in modern elections, the major parties manage to keep the vote
very close to 50/50. This is surprising. Should there not
be swings in attitudes over time, populist ideas that take hold, or wax
and wane through decades? If the parties were consistent in what
they represent, any ideological shift would flow through to the
election results. I submit that the major parties, if they know
they have a hold on power, will always tune their message to appease,
and fight each other to a near draw.
The scary thing to me is
that nowadays the two party system actually *is* a system. It's
no longer a natural result of free political discourse, but in many
ways it's codified in law, and backed up beyond even that by courts
that espouse expediency or other super-legal rubrics. For one
thing, the material barriers to entry are set high at every
level. Independents and minor parties must mobilize substantial
armies to get signatures to even appear on ballots. Funding rules
exclude parties that don't already have a substantial previous result.
Election media laws practically exclude them from the tremendous free
coverage given the big two.
Then, even when they do
everything right - the courts are ready to prop up the status
quo. In two States this year, the Libertarian party was kept off
ballots for technical deficiencies. But in Texas, both major
parties made the same kind of mistakes, and were still allowed on
ballots despite legal appeals from the Libertarians (who can scarcely
afford a high powered legal team).
The major parties are not
going away any time soon. At this point we can at best hope to
keep them honest and on-target. For a quick way to cut though and
see what those targets were supposed to be, I recommend you take the
totally non-partisan quiz at,
I'll give you my scores on request.
own comment: Since the Republicans completely co-opted the traditional
liberal agenda in 1994 and 2004, I have to ask - what are the people
crying for "change" really asking for? Real change at this point
would be a shift to a limited government, based on strict principles of
defending real freedoms, which is engaged in the larger world without
being entangled in it.]
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