RIP: Two-Party “System”

The Democratic primary is beginning to descend into more or less the same hell as is the Republican primary.

Are we approaching the final act of the two party system? Isn’t it about time?

In the U.S., we’re given to enshrining arbitrary social constructs, such as capitalism=good and socialism=bad, in the pantheon of sacred truisms that simply will not be challenged. The primacy of our two party system is one of those enshrined assumptions that deserves renewed scrutiny.

This system emerged in the infancy of our nation when its population was more or less homogenous and the practical value of cooperation was pretty generally accepted.

While growth and economic expansion was the primary goal of the young nation, unbridled immigration was a way to maintain a cheap labor force and gain entrepreneurial preeminence in the modern world.

As the population inevitably grew more and more diverse, there was never any thought given to retooling the one-size fits all, conservative vs. liberal divide represented in the rigid two party system.

We limped along, giving one side and then the other control in pretty rapid succession, leaving more and more individual viewpoints out of the conversation or dissatisfied with the available parameters.

Polarization within the two parties and distrust of government has resulted in a crippled process.

The party system has come close to going off the rails on a few occasions, but the 2016 primary race has taken us to a new low, with both parties seeing meaningful challenges to the party elite from an unyielding base on the perimeter.

‘Closed’ primaries, superdelegates, coin-tosses and all the rest are reflections of how undemocratic and arbitrary the two party system is. Somehow, these two ‘clubs’ have been allowed to seize the system, and because they are autonomous unto themselves, they are allowed to make all their own rules. Anyone who wants to play must join one of the two clubs or be reviled as a spoiler.

Sometimes, as in the case of the New York primary, it’s made very difficult for independents to gain a vote in either club.

While a closed primary may protect the establishment candidate on his/her path to the nomination, in the long run, it doesn’t do the party any favors. Independents can and will vote in the general election, so taking their preference into consideration in the primary would seem to be an essential first move.

We frown on business monopolies but have surrendered our democracy to a similar scheme.

Now we have come rather abruptly to the logical conclusion of such exclusivity, with both parties moving to opposite polls and gridlock resulting in Congress.  There is no possibility of coalition, as there is in the Canadian Parliament where several parties successfully compete and collaborate in the process.

If we gain nothing more toward reforming the election process, job one should of course be  reversing the Citizens United decision. Job two? Challenge the constitutionality of closed primaries.  In a nation where the majority of voters identify as ‘independents,’ closed primaries represent good ol’ fashion voter suppression.

Aren’t we better than this?

About Sue Prent

Artist/Writer/Activist living in St. Albans, Vermont with my husband since 1983. I was born in Chicago; moved to Montreal in 1969; lived there and in Berlin, W. Germany until we finally settled in St. Albans.

9 thoughts on “RIP: Two-Party “System”

  1. Not equal distance from the center
    “[…] both parties moving to opposite polls and gridlock resulting in Congress.”

    I don’t think it can be said often enough that the Republicans have moved far,far off to the radical right wing leaving the Democrats much closer to the fabled center.

    The Republicans have gone bat-shit Trump/Cruz/Kasich crazy. The Democrats are just having a hard fought primary.

  2. Well, there can be debate about how far in one direction either party’s base has taken it, but the simple fact is that the homogenous label “Democrat” or “Republican” no longer represents the reality of all the people who are forced to unite under those labels.

    Of course I don’t think our progressive base is extreme; but I also recognize that we are pretty far to the left of Blue Dogs who still think that they have claim to the party establishment. I’m grateful to be living in Vermont where it is possible to opt for inclusion in a more suitable party identity, while still participating in the national primary process.

    And, even though they are uniformly obstructionist, crazy Ted Cruz and
    annoying Lindsey Graham have almost nothing in common except an agreement to unite against Trump and the Democrats.

    Trump is a fascistic party entirely unto himself.

    1. Yep; I think he realizes that that is where the opportunity is to see real progress…and it will take a lifetime of work.

      1. That’s a legitimate decision for Bernie.

        As far as I am concerned though, it’s time to advocate for an end to the two-party monopoly.

  3. Okay, agreeing about all the warts, if the two-party system is on life support, how come Bernie Sanders and Dave Zuckerman are running as Dems?

    The Democratic party, by and large, has been a disappointment to progressives, me included. It happens to be the structure we have to work with. I don’t see anyone putting the kind of money and organizing efforts into building another one. On the right, the Kochs have been writing the playbook: put resources in for 30+ years, work hard at the state level, and eventually you run things. I do not see a similar effort on the left. While we may not have the kind of dough the Koch brothers can throw around, there are certainly resources available. Howard Dean, Barack Obama and now Bernie Sanders have shown how a lot of money can be raised from small donors.

    My first suggestion would be to stop putting chips on a hero every four years and start running for school board, city council, planning commission and then working your way up. Pick some battles and put resources there. It’s a long slog, and it doesn’t necessarily mean turning out thousands of people for rallies (which is especially a waste of time if those people don’t vote). It means building a base to support a national structure.

    1. There was no other path available to Bernie. That is the whole point of this piece.

      If either he or David Zuckerman chose not to compete in the Democratic primary, they would open themselves to the label of “spoiler” (as was Ralph Nader) and his message would have been lost in that controversy. By running as a Democrat, attracting tens of thousands of potential voters to his rallies where they absorbed his message even if they often were not allowed to vote, he is doing all he can to build the foundation for future reform. Got any better idea?

      I am not too happy about being told by the party to hold my nose and vote for Clinton the Second.

      Progressive minded candidates are already beginning to compete for local and regional office. That dough will take some time to rise. Meanwhile, Bernie saw an opportunity to move the conversation forward exponentially. What’s wrong with that.

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