22 August 2007

The Party's Over (or ought to be)

In the declining months of the Bush Administration, too many people still assume that the Democratic Party is the solution to the country's problem. The performance of the Democratic Congress testifies to the contrary. The Democratic leadership is unwilling to take the radical steps necessary to purge the nation of the Bush influence. In part, that's because the likes of Reid and Pelosi tremble in fear of Fox News and talk radio. At the same time, they assume that they don't really have to go to all the trouble. They have the two-party system in their favor. No matter what they fail to do, they know people will vote Democratic out of sheer fear of the Republican Party and its neocon/theocon/just-plain-con baggage. They assume that no matter how badly they get beat in some election, e.g. 1994, they can just wait until people get tired of the Republicans and put Democrats back in power. They have no incentive to do more than the minimum necessary to mark them as different from the Republicans. Most of the time they don't have to do much more than talk.

The problem is that too many Americans vote anagramatically: they make their votes into vetoes. Instead of voting to advance an agenda they actually believe in, they vote defensively, rallying behind one of the two big parties in order to prevent the other one from taking power. This wasn't what the Founders had in mind, but they failed to anticipate the rise of the two-party system as we know it today. James Madison expected a variety of different interests (regional, economic, ethnic, religious) to cancel each other out, preventing any one group from becoming an oppressive majority. But thanks to Republicans and Democrats, we're stuck with an oppressive majority every time, a revolving duopoly in which both sides agree to perpetual struggle under a set of rules that gives each a fair chance at power and effectively excludes everyone else -- as long as people believe.

Like the major religions, the two-party system is founded on faith. In this case, it's a negative faith that presumes that no one who doesn't wear an R or D label is competent to govern the country. There is no basis whatsoever for believing this, and if you don't believe that, we at the Institute intend to drive the point home repeatedly in the months to come. We intend to remind you as often as possible that all you have to do to end the era of two-party stagnation is vote for somebody else. Once you abandon the idea that the ancient histories of the two parties give them some special, exclusive expertise, once you break the spell of brand-name loyalty, their power will be at an end.

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