Monday, November 3, 2014

The Two-Party “System:” Principles Vs. Priorities

If you would like to know why the nation appears to tolerate the current, wholly unacceptable state of our politics, this Armstrong Williams column will prove a great help:

...the two-party system is an imperfect mechanism for governing in an environment that demands more political nuance than usual. Voters have not been able to get enough of what they want from either party without getting too much of what they don’t want from both.

There are too few alternatives outside the two-party system for both expressing voter concerns and making a difference in policy outcomes. The party that wins is usually too mortgaged to special interests and too saddled with the power dynamics to pay attention to its base. And the party in the minority is generally too focused and ideologically closed to garner a governing coalition.

Mind you, when Williams says “too few alternatives outside the two-party system,” he intends that the reader apply the qualifier from the paragraph above: alternatives that provide voters “enough of what they want without getting too much of what they don’t want.” Therein lies the trap of American Big Government, not even concealed from our eyes.

The trap is simple: Now that the federal government has burst its Constitutional constraints, each major party has latched onto a set of priorities that are contradicted by the other major party. Additionally, neither major party can satisfy the desire – the aggregate desire – of the majority of Americans, who would be happy just to be left alone in the peaceful enjoyment of what’s rightfully theirs. Not perfectly happy, perhaps – after all, there’s at least a little authoritarianism in all of us – but willing to settle for the result.

The Democrats claim to support certain freedoms – once upon a time the “civil liberties,” but these days, mainly those pertaining to sex – while arguing for deep encroachments upon others, especially freedom in the economic sphere. Conversely, the Republicans support economic freedom – to a greater degree than the Democrats, at least – while appearing to threaten the ones the Democrats champion. This poses the typical leave-me-alone voter a painful dilemma.

Leave-me-alone voter John Q. Public normally has one or a few priority issues. His vote will be steered by those priorities; that is, it will very likely go to the candidates put forth by the major party he deems more likely to agree with his priorities. He will instinctively resist the suggestion that he vote for a minor party candidate as a “waste” of his vote. After all, a candidate with no chance to win the election cannot help to defend the things he values. Worse, should the balloting narrowly favor the candidate of the major party he disprefers, he will know fear for his priorities and agony over whether the votes drawn off by the minor party candidate might have made the difference.

Thus, the “parties of principle,” for instance the Constitutional and Libertarian parties, are defeated by the very thing they oppose. Only a narrowly focused single-issue party such as the Right To Life Party can garner significant support, and that solely from those voters whose personal priorities are equally narrow and intense.

One approach a minor party can take for winning nominal electoral support is cross-endorsement of the major party candidates closest to its views. A voter can then support a major-party candidate by voting for him on the minor party’s line. However, most minor parties deem this unsatisfactory, for obvious reasons. In any case, it results in near-perfect dominance of elected offices by the major parties, which is the crux of America’s political problem.

We who prize freedom lack an effective method for chastising both major parties simultaneously. This will continue to be so until the current political system suffers a complete loss of the confidence of the American electorate...and the consequences of such a collapse would be terrible indeed.

Yet we cannot help wondering how we might best defend ourselves from governmental predation and intrusion. With the midterms a single day away, it’s a question on many good men’s minds.

More anon.

2 comments:

  1. Fran,
    Thanks for your insights. I likely agree with you, and I feel your recent pains of grinding teeth, restless sleep, and fisted rage, but must opine.
    I, for one, am done pulling for the lesser evil. I consider my votes for McCain and Romney to be more "thrown away" than those cast for any long shot outsider. I'm done asking (by voting) unprincipled wannabe-tyrants to rule over me. It reminds me of a defendant in court who faces a secondary charge of "resisting arrest"...did anyone expect him to assist in his own kidnapping?? Obviously not. Why should we assist in our own enslavement for voting for the lesser evil? We would be, after all, voting for evil.

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  2. "We who prize freedom lack an effective method for chastising both major parties simultaneously."

    I believe the very beginning of the "TEA party" came real close to this. Before Rick Santelli ever said a word, I think a lot of Americans were dissatisfied with the bureaucracy and ever-increasing scope of government. So they (mostly) spontaneously decided to go stand on corners and say, "Hey! I'm not in favor of this." (I know, I was one of them.

    We were immediately marginalized. And to this day the whole IDEA is derided as a a fringe, right-wing cabal of poorly informed or racist wannabes who don't understand the political process.

    We understand it all too well. Our parents suffered under Roosevelt's prolonged depression. We went along with the failed "Great Society" and "War on Poverty." We chafed under Carter's "malaise" and were even a little distrustful of Reagan.

    Then our children grew up under Clinton and Bush and now live in our homes with their college degrees and unemployment under Obama.

    We know what we see and it's not the America we grew up with, believed in and were proud of.

    Parties be damned. Some founder warned of factionalism. And lots of articles imply that it's unavoidable. What's happened is that both parties and the media have combined to portray one of the honest, UNfactional stirrings of the past century as a fringe element bordering on lunacy.

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