If the Founding Fathers Were Alive Today, They Would Be Turning Over in Their Graves: It is Time to Break with the Two-Party State

Among both conservatives and progressives, the ideologues of the two-party state and duopoly system of government are unified in their support for an anti-incumbent electoral strategy that I have elsewhere termed the primary folly. Democratic double-thinker Katrina vanden Heuvel recently summed up the strategy by quoting conservative con-man Richard Viguerie:
he warns against the "third-party trap," which would split the vote. Instead, he counsels, the movement should run "principled" candidates in the primaries and support the most like-minded main-party candidates surviving for the general
The fatal flaw in this strategy is almost too obvious to necessitate elaboration. If the primary challenges fail, voters are stuck with the sitting stooges of the ruling parties. However, even if they succeed, the strategy ensures that our representatives will continue to be nothing more than the puppets of the ruling parties, as the strategy can only ever result in the reproduction of the existing two-party state and duopoly system of government. Summing up the results of this week's primary elections in Ohio, Indiana and North Carolina, Chris Cillizza writes:
The establishment wing of both national parties scored wins in Tuesday's Senate primaries in Ohio and Indiana -- and, to a lesser extent, North Carolina.
The "strategies" promulgated by the likes of Viguerie and vanden Heuvel refute themselves. The primary system and its accompanying strategy is the means by which the Democratic and Republican parties ensure their continued control over the government of the United States, which they rule in the service of the corporations that own them. Our interests, those of the people of the United States, will not be represented by our government until we succeed in dismantling the Democrat-Republican two-party state and removing the ruling political class from power. At the New America Foundation, Blair Bobier writes:
With only two choices on the ballot and two parties in Congress, Americans are condemned to an eternal ride on a political see-saw. Our “two party system” is an artificial construct. Nothing in the Constitution or federal law requires two parties—or any parties at all. It is the two major parties themselves which have done a superb job of squashing any potential competition by enacting a series of restrictive state laws designed to keep new parties and independent candidates off the ballot. This process is reinforced by the press and pundits who view elections as a horse race and ignore any campaigns which won’t place first or second.

Ending the two party monopoly of the ballot would encourage more candidates from all over the political spectrum; giving voters more choices and stimulating public debate about the future of our country.

While easing excessive ballot access restrictions is a highly desirable reform, it nonetheless remains the case that third party and independent candidates for office can already be found on ballots across the country for races at all levels of government – but only rarely are they ever elected. Even if we were to end the existing Democrat-Republican ballot access regime, we would nonetheless still have to confront the Democratic-Republican Party's monopoly on the minds of voters. The two-party state is very much a state of mind. At Pajamas Media, Ryan Mauro returns to the writings of the founding fathers to argue in favor of supporting independent candidates for elected office against the stooges of the Democratic and Republican Parties:

If Americans still have faith in the wisdom of the Founding Fathers, they should break out of this intellectual and political jail cell [that is the two-party system] by supporting, and running as, independents.

George Washington warned about “the baneful effects of the spirit of party,” calling it “truly their [Americans] worst enemy.” John Adams used especially prescient language, saying: “There is nothing I dread so much as a division of the Republic into two great parties, each arranged under its leader and converting measures into opposition to each other. This … is to be dreaded as the greatest political evil under our Constitution.”

Washington was so concerned about political parties that he devoted a major part of his Farewell Address to fighting against them . . . James Madison had similar thoughts, spending a great deal of time warning about factionalism. In Federalist Paper No. 10, he warns of a future where factionalism “inflamed them with mutual animosity, and rendered them much more disposed to vex and oppress each other than to co-operate for their common good.” If anything has come to define our current two-party system, this is it . . .

Skeptics will say it is impossible to break out of the two-party system. With the exception of Washington, the Fathers took part in political parties while vigorously warning about their potential consequences. Seeing these concerns actualized today, they likely would remain unaffiliated. In fact, they made it clear that Americans should try to resist joining political parties. “If I could not go to heaven but with a party, I would not go there at all,” Thomas Jefferson once said. . . .

Giving political independents a strong voice in all levels of government may sound like wishful thinking based more in hope and grandiose goals than reality. The Founding Fathers didn’t think so. Washington called for Americans to actively “discourage and restrain” political parties. It’s about time we followed his call.

Read the whole thing.


Anonymous said...

If they were alive why would they be rolling in their graves?

I think the two-party system is harmful, but I couldn't read the rest of this one after that terrible headline.

d.eris said...

It's called a joke, Anonymous. Jeez. Obviously, it went over your head.