From the Bottom Up: Removing the Foundations of the Two-Party State

One point that I've returned to again and again in these pages is the idea that to break the duopoly lock on our political process, we must work from the bottom up, beginning at the most intimate local levels, and resist the temptation to run before we can walk.  In The Daily Caller, James Poulos argues that it is by means of the national temptation that the ruling parties co-opt nascent political opposition movements.  Excerpt:
It seems ridiculous that the most famous utterance in living memory by a speaker of the House is that all politics is local. Those days are over.
But they don’t have to be. All that our legions of disgruntled Americans have to do is reject the animating principle of the parties: that if you’re searching for meaning, the only way you can find it through politics is to struggle for national power.
That fearsome proposition is the key to the parties’ power. It’s why, no matter how much money they raise, how much money they spend, or how much they fail in the process, voters keep coming back. And it’s why both parties work so relentlessly to co-opt the movements at their margins, laying claim to their causes to the precise extent that they don’t threaten their power . . .

All too swiftly, our protests fall in line with the hallmarks of party machines — the symbolism and the slogan-mongering, the clotting around established power centers, the divorce of political action from the places we call home. It’s not just that the targets of today’s national protects so quickly become abstractions, as Conor Friedersdorf observes at The Atlantic. That’s a symptom of the deeper problem. Even anti-establishment politics is being abstracted from real life because people are convinced at some gut level that this is the only way they can compete with the parties for attention and passion. 
[Our politics will fail] unless the mastery of our two parties over our political imaginations is broken — and along with it, the obsession with national policy that they cultivate to perpetuate control. If there’s really to be a revolution, the next act in today’s American protests will have to be going home — not just to a job (or a job search), but to the places where we really can govern ourselves again.
Some time ago, the people of the United States ceased to believe in the fiction that they are represented by the Republican and Democratic parties.  The edifice of the two-party state is built on sand.  All we need to do is dig it out and it will come tumbling down.  


Samuel Wilson said...

Part of the illusion is the notion that the President is the representative of the entire American people, an idea that only encourages the top-or-nothing attitude you criticize. Rejecting the notion of the President as a representative would seem to be a precondition of the effective localization of independent politics. Localization may take further selling for some leftists who identify decentralization with a rightist agenda of limiting government, but you'd think the prospect of winning a smaller prize would begin to look better than always swinging for the fences and always striking out.

DLW said...

Maybe once upon a time, the two major parties did do an alright job representing US_America and so we need not end duopoly to bring back a similar situation?

If we had a better designed multi-stage election then it'd be easier to swallow that the Prez represents America broadly.

This could be done along with localization...