During this 2016 election year, given the disappointing choices thrown up by America’s stultified, self-satisfied and fanatical two-party system, it’s obvious to the man and woman on the street that something is terribly wrong. Recent media interviews with grass-roots Americans back this up.
Many interviewees say, with resentment, that they are being forced to choose the lesser of two evils, expressing an intention to cross political lines to make such a choice. Their self-perceived civic duty to vote is driving them to hold their noses and vote for the other party’s candidate.
Others, apparently so appalled by the products from both of this year’s political conventions, say they won’t vote at all. Any choice they might make would be equally bad, and they don’t want to feel responsible later. These particular citizens have entirely washed their hands of a process which, at one time, represented everything good about democracies in general and America in particular. They are abandoning the process that many of their ancestors spilled blood to preserve.
For some two hundred years from its advent, our two party system actually got things done by give-and-take, by compromise, and by participants usually being committed to the common good, above personal gain. In these forty years since our Bicentennial celebration things have taken a bad turn.
How did America’s political process, once a civilized way of reconciling competing needs and avoiding violence, devolve into the childish schoolyard squabble we see today? Pathetically, this infantile state of pseudo-war rages over some vital, life-and-death issues which impact not only our own future but the world’s future as well. Yes, the world’s future. There is no escaping the reality of America’s dominant position on Earth both militarily and economically.
Would that we were also still relatively dominant morally, and still fulfilling our past role as a positive argument in favor of the superiority of a civilized democratic political process. Now, our friends in other countries nervously ridicule us—at the same time, probably reluctantly wishing us well, since their immediate, collective future literally depends to some extent on our success. But how did we get to this state of seemingly irreconcilable political stalemate and a system that seems rigged on both sides, or worse—vaguely seeming to be rigged by something above both sides. The system seems to be saying, “Here is what you get, like it or lump it.”
Does today’s arguably depraved political state of affairs simply reflect our underlying culture?
Whether it’s the media’s constant struggle for the scoop—to the point of bending the facts, ignoring the truth and even goading and taunting candidates in order to provoke visceral responses (and therefore good soundbites)—or the Millennial Generation’s obsession with violent, bloody video games, movies and evermore violent sports (such as cage fighting with bare fists) the culture seems to have driven this year’s votes in both parties’ primary elections. These popular “video spectacles,” where all things boil down to a struggle between good and evil, tend to appeal to an electorate populated with immature individuals, some now only having attained their 18th birthday, some chronologically older but not so much mentally so.
Maybe it doesn’t matter how we got here. Why cry over spilt milk? Perhaps we should be thinking of a way to break up this black vs. white, good vs. evil syndrome. As hinted in the above subtitle, one way to do this would be for someone to organize a third political party large enough to credibly challenge the other two. This could not be the occasional third party springing up to support one candidate, such as a Ross Perot. It would have to be a party consciously and collaboratively created by selfless individuals, producing a platform offering a choice of a different flavor, one that thinking people would not reject out-of-hand but at least think about. If you are out there, please heed.
The reader might be amused by my earlier reductio ad absurdum piece advocating an infinitely-noded political paradigm in place of our current polarly-noded one. https://vernonmileskerr.com/2014/08/05/a-political-paradigm-for-the-gullible/