Republican-Democrat Party Politics Is the Politics of Fear

In "The Foundation of Government," from 1776, John Adams wrote:
Fear is the foundation of most governments; but it is so sordid and brutal a passion, and renders men in whose breasts it predominates so stupid and miserable, that Americans will not be likely to approve of any political institution which is founded on it. 
Today, fear is among the primary motivations for the continued support of the ruling factions in government.  Partisans of the Democratic and Republican parties do not advocate for the candidates of their preferred party but rather call for reactive negation of the candidates of the other major party.  To vote for a Democrat is, first and foremost, a vote against the Republican.  To vote for a Republican is, first and foremost, a vote against the Democrat.  This is the fundamental basis of reactionary, negative politics in the United States today.  It is a politics based on fear.  It paralyzes voters and ensures the continued joint misrule of the Republican and Democratic parties.

Consider a recent article at PoliticsUSA laying out "A Possible Nightmare Scenario for America in 2012."  The piece takes a look at the possible outcome of a successful or semi-successful third party presidential bid by the candidates of Americans Elect as laid out in an analysis of "the pitfalls of a third party presidential candidacy" published at the Brookings Institute.

Regular readers will surely be familiar with each of the possible scenarios laid out in the paper.  A third party candidate could very well accomplish the impossible and win the presidency.  But he or she would then be politically isolated by the partisan composition of the House and Senate.  "Few in the House or Senate would feel allegiance to or affinity for the newly elected president," we read at the Brookings Institute.  Is this not the very definition of putting party before country?  This, in itself, should be reason enough to vote for alternatives to the Democrats and Republicans in the House and Senate.  If you are considering a vote for a third party or independent candidate for president, it only makes sense to consider alternatives to the Democrats and Republicans down the ballot.  

In the second scenario, the third party candidate receives a modest amount of support, but one of the major party candidates still wins a clear electoral victory but "with diminished popular support. The reduced popular support would undercut the legitimacy of the result and curtail momentum for the victor."  In a country where only around 60% of registered voters turnout for presidential elections, and only 71% of eligible voters are even registered, it is absurd to claim that any president has "popular support."  In Barack Obama's "landslide" victory in 2008, he garnered just over 50% support from 60% of 71% of eligible voters.  Less than a quarter of eligible voters cast a ballot for Barack Obama in 2008.  The partisans of the two-party state would have us believe that this equates to  "popular support."

It is the third scenario, however, that scares the author at PoliticsUSA most.  In this case, no candidate receives a majority of electoral votes and the election is decided in the US House.  From PoliticsUSA:
You see where they are headed with this? Who controls the U.S. House of Representatives? The extreme right – Tea Party fanatics, demonstrated nihilists. Who elects the president if this is no clear majority? The U.S. House of Representatives. . . . Our political system is a mess. . . . But there is real danger in monkeying with the works. People generally don’t tend to think ahead about the consequences of their actions; we find out about those later – the hard way. . . . That’s where we are with this potential fix to our ideologically driven gridlock in Washington. The gridlock is bad. But as the old saying goes, the cure might be worse than the disease.
Fear raises its ugly head.  Sure, our system is a mess, but let's not even try to clean it up.   That is the moral to this story.  It is noteworthy, given the recent discussion of centrist strategy here at Politea, that this Democratic commentator holds that Obama is the centrist candidate in 2012: "In 2012 we have a centrist president who steers from the extremes of either party. If ever there was an awkward time to attempt this [i.e. a centrist third party bid for president], it is now."  


Samuel Wilson said...

Did the author double-check to make sure the GOP controls a majority of state congressional delegations? I suspect that they do, but a scenario is possible in which a minority party in the House with disproportionate support in small states could elect their man President. This is probably no comfort to the author, but I bring it up because it didn't look as if he realized that the House votes as states, not as individuals, when electing a President.

d said...

That's a good point, and I had to double check the basic fact (i.e. voting as states not as individuals) myself today. Thinking back now on the handful of articles I've read in recent months that talk about the "chilling possibility" that the presidential election could be decided by the House in 2012 if a third or indy candidate gains enough electoral votes, it may be that this fact is often overlooked or forgotten.

Solomon Kleinsmith said...

I may have said this in the post you are quoting, but if Americans Elect gets enough electoral college votes to keep either party from a majority, then the bylaws of Americans Elect dictates that a vote of the general membership will be held to determine who those electoral college votes go to, thereby avoiding handing that over to Congress/the GOP.

DLW said...

I could see Americans Elect trying hard to get electoral college votes in "swing states" and making such states vote the opposite of what they generally would get in a two-candidate election

It's all about the money and the party-base resources to get a plurality. And, almost, any third party is going to be out-matched by the two major parties in almost any state...

Now, I could see Ron Paul threatening to try and run with Americans elect if He's not picked as the VP and/or given some victory by the other candidate, but it would take a real ugly slug-fest among the other Republican candidates for him to get the nomination....


Anonymous said...

Obama’s decision on the super PAC: Stand on principle or increase the risk of losing re-election?

February 14, 2012 by jimmycsays

Sometimes, my beloved New York Times tends to get too liberal and idealistic for my Democratic tastes.

One of the things I love about The Times is that it holds politicians to extremely high standards — as it should, of course — and seldom lowers the bar.

But in an editorial last Wednesday, The Times held President Barack Obama to an unrealistically high bar, in my opinion, when it chided him for deciding to cooperate with a super PAC called Priorities USA Action.

The Times said that Obama’s announcement “fully implicates the president, his campaign and his administration in the pollution of the political system unleashed by Citizens United and related court decisions.”

By agreeing to play ball with a super PAC, the editorial went on, Obama “gave in to the culture of the Citizens United decision that he once denounced as a ‘threat to our democracy.’ “

The editorial ran under the headline, “Another Campaign for Sale.” The subhead said, “President Obama reverses position and joins the sleazy ‘Super PAC’ money race.”