Apology for the Duopoly

In an opinion piece in the DC Examiner, Matt Patterson makes the case for the two party system in general and the Republican party in particular. He writes, "Compared with the multi-party, parliamentary arrangements favored by other democracies, where the proliferation of voices often produces gridlock and instability, our bicameral political architecture ensures that only one side need give way in any dispute. The result is that compromise is reached more often than not." Patterson thus explicitly argues that the strength of the two party system is that it excludes the positions and fails to represent the interests of large swaths of the population. At least he's honest. Noteworthy here, aside from the idea that there is no partisan gridlock in US politics, however, is Patterson's implicit equation of the two party system with "our bicameral political architecture." Of course, the bicameral legislature has no inherent link with the two party state and would work just as well in a multi-party system. It is rather disconcerting to see how many believe that the two party system is one of the "checks and balances" necessary to curtail the power of government over individuals, rather than the condition of possibility for the radical expansion of government power to the detriment of individuals, many of whom are admittedly excluded from the political process.

Patterson continues, "by ensuring that the party in power always has a sizable and organized opponent awaiting the inevitable electoral transfer, the two-party system acts as a brake to radicalism and overreach on the part of those temporarily holding the reins of government." In other words, the two party system maintains the status quo, no matter who's in power. He sees a threat to this equilibrium in the current economic crisis, which is "a result of mismanagement in both the private sector and governments run by both parties" (emphasis added). Fear of change, specifically, a re-alignment of political forces which would upend the two party system, thus forces Patterson to call for the rebuilding of the Republican party, laughably, as the only party capable of saving capitalism, "which has had in the Republican Party its most ardent, and at times its only, champion. Conservatives and libertarians, Randians and Reaganites, must all rally to the Republican banner in this, the time of its great sickness." In this perhaps unwittingly ironic, quasi-Marxist call for capitalists of the world to unite (all you have to lose is a higher marginal tax rate!), one detects the fear that perhaps the two party system cannot save capitalism, and even, on the contrary, that the future development of capitalism will destroy the two party system. Perhaps there is hope.

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