Let's say that you have a square peg, and two holes: one round hole and one triangular hole. Which hole do you put the peg into?
What is wrong with a two party system of government?
Nothing. If you really believe that all Americans can be lumped into one of only two different categories. Some talking heads now have the current political spectrum divided into two categories: liberal or left-wing, for whom the Democrats represent and conservative or right-wing, for whom the Republicans represent.
The problem with that model is that it is over-simplified. Where on this spectrum do people who consider themselves moderates fit? A new version of the political spectrum known as the Nolan chart is an attempt to redefine where people stand on the issues. A great essay (and Libertarian Party propaganda piece) entitled Hope for the Politically Homeless by Marshall Fritz is a piece that I highly recommend. You can then take the World's Smallest Political Quiz to see where you fit on this revised political spectrum. Hopefully, you can see that people do not fall so neatly into the typical political labels.
The Nolan chart may be better than the old one-dimensional model, but it is in no way a perfect model itself. Politics is a confusing and complicated cloud of issues and more and more people are finding that neither of the top two political parties is representing their views on the issues. How can the complex mix of issues and stands held by millions of Americans possibly be covered by only TWO political parties? The "big tent" philosophy of the two parties covers a myriad of different political philosophies and often caters more to single-issue voters and so-called special-interest groups. To many candidates, it is more about winning and furthering their political careers than anything else.
Well, maybe that is the problem. Too many political careers.
The candidacy of Ross Perot and his subsequent capture of 19% of the vote in 1992 should have sent a resounding message to members of the two parties that voters are fed up with politics as usual. And that voters are fed up with the system of two parties. And more importantly, that this time, people are willing to go out on a limb and vote that way!
Is there any doubt in people's minds that without Ross Perot's success, the current debate over a balanced budget may not have been pushed to the front as soon as it has?
Yet although fully one-third of registered voters do not officially call themselves Democrats or Republicans, very little seems to have changed in the movement for a third party. Current polls show the 1996 race coming down to only two candidates. Why? Why are we stuck back with only two choices?
The current political system discourages third parties and favors the top two contenders. The Democrat and Republican Parties are awarded millions of dollars in tax money to run their campaigns. Third parties are forced to raise their own money, since their poor showings in past elections does not qualify them for such large amounts of taxpayer matched funds. Only the Reform Party is entitled to these funds, based on the showing of Perot in the 1992 election
Yet, most third parties have to spend much of their budgets just trying to get on the ballots in many states. This required hard work and dedication from many party members at the local level. The two major parties have passed requirements that make it as difficult as possible for other parties to get their names on the ballots. Yet, there are people willing to work hard enough for the simple idea of having more than two choices. Obviously, these people are not well represented by either the Democrats or the Republicans.
Even when third parties finally manage to get their names on all 50 ballots, they still face an uphill climb. No longer conducted by the independent League of Women Voters, the Presidential Debate Commission has decided that Ross Perot and Harry Browne will not get the free prime-time television exposure to discuss and debate their opinions in front of 100 million voters. This is an absolute outrage. Even if Perot and Browne do not stand a realistic chance of winning the office of the President, the American people deserve to hear the viewpoints and ideas from these minor party movements.
Democrats and Republicans accuse each other of stealing one another's ideas. The fact is that many of those ideas were stolen from Ross Perot to begin with.
Which leads one to ask the question: What are the Democrats and Republicans afraid of? The answer: one-third of the voters, the independent voters. Politics is an industry now. Special interest groups, lobbyists, political commentators, political advisors, press corps, talk show hosts...all part of the machine that wants the current system to stay exactly as it is. And third party and independents are a threat to that current system. The Democrats and the Republicans may disagree on many issues, but they both reap the huge benefits from being in the middle of such a lucrative industry. Its no wonder that campaign finance reform and term limits failed to be passed.
The two party system exists simply because in a democracy, a majority leads. And a majority is defined by 50.0001% of the votes. Its so much easier to divide issues into yes or no, and the voters into 50% or the other 50%. But what happens when 50.1% of the country starts to boss around the other 49.9%? Then democracy begins to lose its true value. It creates an Us against Them type of climate, where nothing can get done and no compromises can be made.
Ask yourself this question: How many times do you find yourself in one half of the spectrum part of the time, and the other half of the spectrum the rest of the time? Which party can you truly call yourself a member of, if you support 50% of one party's platform and 50% of the other party's platform? Where is the party that represents 100% of your platform?
I'm not stating that we need 100 different political parties. But what is wrong with 3 or 4? The more people that can identify their political philosophy with a political party, the more people will participate in the process. If 2 out of 4 parties supports an issue, then it makes sense for compromises to be made to bring the third party and possibly even the fourth party in to support an issue.
In a two party system, you simple blame the other 50%, lock horns, refuse to compromise until election day, and nothing gets done. With 3 or 4 parties, a consensus must be built between more than one party to accomplish anything. Compromise is a neccesity. Political bickering will diminish, as parties that are difficult to work with will find themselves in a true minority.
Ultimately the goal of democracy is not that the majority of the people ar heard, but that ALL of the people are heard.
But why then do people continue to vote for either the Democrat or Republican candidate if many admit that neither candidate fully represents their political views? I call this the Super Bowl Syndrome. The fascination with sports in America culminates in the showdown between the top two contenders. The Super Bowl, the World Series, the Stanley Cup. You root for one of the two teams. But in all this excitement over the big game, one important thing is forgotten. What about the 28 or so other teams? At the very least the Dallas Cowboys had to beat the Green Bay Packers before going to the Super Bowl. Not so with Bob Dole and Bill Clinton taking on Perot and Browne though, huh?. And if you were a Green Bay Packers fan, you would have rooted for the Pittsburgh Steelers, simply because you hated the Dallas Cowboys.
But does that mean that the Packers still aren't your favorite team? You aren't willing to turn in that Gold and Green jersey just yet are you? And why do we root for political parties like they were some kind of sports team? The only thing missing are numbers on the back of those hundred dollar suits. And maybe two-minutes in the penalty box from time to time. But there aren't any referees in this game. Why not? Because we are supposed to be the referees, but instead of doing our job, we start rooting for one of the teams.
This was just an example using sports as a metaphor. But I'm not talking about sports. I am talking about politics. This is real. Politics is not about entertainment, although many people treat it as such. Politics is about choosing leaders to represent your views. Your most important and powerful right is the one vote that you are given as a citizen of this country. It is your right and your duty. If you so choose...you could vote for Mickey Mouse for President. Voting for Mickey Mouse at least sends more of a message than not voting at all does.
And remember what that message is. We are the boss. The politicians work for us. We do not work for them. It is their job, and we can fire them at any time.
Don't listen to the political industry that tells you that you are just wasting your vote on third parties. If you do that, then you are handing your vote over to them. Giving them two votes and giving yourself zero votes. Then you are truly wasting your vote. Continuting the current system of politics that increasingly finds ways of making sure that your voice is not represented. A candidate should earn your vote. Remember, they work for you, you do not work for them! (Think about THAT the next time you volunteer to be a campaign organizer) The only way to ensure that your voice is heard is to vote for the candidate that you feel best represents your political views. It is irrelevant whether they win or they lose. What is relevant is that you cast your vote for your candidate.
Do not let anybody tell you that you are wasting your vote. They want your vote so badly because they want their candidate to win. But what about your candidate? You might as well sell your vote to them rather than give it away like that. If voting for the lesser of two evils is your goal, than ask yourself this question? If you had voted your conscience in the past, would your only choice be just the two evils to choose from?
Vote your mind. Vote your conscience. Don't vote for a candidate that you do not support. Otherwise, you will continue to be thrown into one of two categories, whether or not you fit into either.