Political Indoctrination in the Two-Party State

Though it has a historical momentum all its own, the two-party system in its current form does not simply reproduce itself. It is not a "natural" phenomenon. It has been auto-institutionalized by the duopoly parties themselves through laws, regulations, and statutes that marginalize third party and independent political associations and campaigns. However, it also structures the very way we think about and perceive our politics. Duopoly ideology is literally ingrained in the American political psyche by the form and content of our political discourse, and is therefore detectable in the prejudices and assumptions that silently delineate the parameters of acceptable opinion and legitimate debate. On occasion, however, the latter must be revealed explicitly, for instance, in the process of political socialization and indoctrination, which is to say, in the name of education.

Every summer the American Legion sponsors political education camps for our nation's high school students. According to their portal website, the Legion's Boys and Girls State organizations are, "the premier programs for teaching how government works while developing leadership skills & an appreciation for your rights as a citizen." Though this is undoubtedly a noble goal, and an excellent opportunity for politically minded students, two articles on the camps in local newspapers reveal the way in which participating youth are indoctrinated into the ideology of the duopoly system of government. At East Bay RI, we read:
Nearly 80 high school seniors from throughout the state participated in the American Legion Boys and Girls State programs this month at Roger Williams University, and learned the workings of the executive, legislative and judicial branches of government . . . They elect their own officials at the beginning of the week such as governor, Lt. governor, treasurer and attorney general, and develop a two-party system.
It's worth noting that students in this particular program were rather interested in the failings of the war on drugs, and set an example for the professional politicians in our state and federal government:
During one “legislative session,” the boys and girls spiritedly debated the merits of a proposed resolution promoting marijuana for recreational use. It took place on their “senate floor” in a RWU lecture hall, presided over by the president of the senate, Robert Stout, a student from Portsmouth. (The resolution ultimately passed.)
An article for the Oneida Daily Dispatch in upstate New York reports on the workings of another local Boys' State camp:
Morrisville State College will host more than 1,000 young men during Boys State, a government camp sponsored by the American Legion, Saturday to Friday, June 27 to July 3. . . . Boys State is a program in which participants learn about government by forming a virtual government. The nationwide program provides the experience, opportunity and organization to teach young men citizenship and workings of the government . . . Throughout the week, Boys State is operated on a two-party system mirroring the current governmental organization of the state and its cities and counties. By the end of the week, elections are held for government officials from the mayor of a small city to the governor of the state.
As the two-party system is nowhere mentioned in the federal Constitution, nor in any state Constitution of which I am aware, one would think that students taking what effectively amounts to a civics course would be spared from being forced into the political and ideological straight-jacket that is the duopoly system of government. Instead, it appears they are subjected to what amounts to a program of political indoctrination that feeds right into the Republican and Democratic Party political apparatuses. One wonders if they are also taught how to conduct back room deals and betray their constituents to the benefit of corporate lobbyists. Maybe not. Perhaps that's a lesson they first learn in their college Republican and Democrat clubs.


Debbie said...

I can tell you there are MANY of us out here who are fed up with the two parties we have now. I've never thought a third party really had a chance in the past, but I'm beginning to change my mind now.

I realize there are already a list of other parties a mile long, but a truly Conservative party would suit me just fine.

This voting along party lines no matter what has got to stop.

Debbie Hamilton
Right Truth

d.eris said...

Hi Debbie. There are indeed many of us who are fed up with the two-party system. But nothing will change until more of us withdraw our support from the duopoly charade. As you say, there's a long list of parties to choose from, and it is unlikely that there is one which does not better conform to a given voter's interests and outlook than either the Republicans or the Democrats. Are you involved with any of the actual conservative parties out there?