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by Adam Corwin
Thursday, Nov. 04, 2004 at 2:09 PM
Addressing the problems of the United States two party system in response to Bush winning four more years of the Presidency.
If an individual is poised to make a stand to ensure a better tomorrow on the political playing filed currently offered in the United States of America, it is of utmost importance to understand the political process and what it means to educated voters. Many of the notions regarded and currently taught in the public schools on the electoral process are misleading and in many circumstances false. The United States of America functions under a two party system that resembles one another so much on matters that would affect basic human dignity and safety, the two are indistinguishable. The “trap,” so to speak, is existing under the illusion that the individuals elected by the Democrats and the Republicans are servants of the people. In essence, believing this popular mythology blinds the voting public and alienates a large portion of the society that will ultimately choose to abstain wholly from the process or cast a ballot toward a candidate with little chance of being elected on the National level.
In the most basic political analysis, the advantage of the two party system stems from its superiority to the one party system. Obviously, a system with only one party from which to elect, doesn’t even sustain trace elements of a democracy. On the other hand, the two party systems boast a choice and champion their position in a democratic system that by design, benefits the two most powerful parties. In reality, two choices are not a significant pool in which to choose individuals that reflect voter’s interests. With only two choices, both parties ultimately become machines of moderation seeking to not alienate any portions of the populations. Compromise becomes the norm. Although compromise sounds like a positive experience, it often times becomes a machine of stagnation and inaction.
The Democrat and Republican Parties are entities that seek to keep themselves in power. Politicians wearing the badges of their respected affiliations are in fact servants of that organizations needs. This is where the illusion of representing the people is unmasked. Paramount to keeping their chosen candidates in positions of power is the virtual balancing act of the political theatre. In one circuit, a Party must be moderate enough to win the favor of the voting population over their counterparts. In the other, a Party must satisfy the needs of their sponsor adequately to ensure future monetary favors by corporations and the business elite. This accumulation of Capital is basically the “blood” of the Party. It is easiest to watch this unfold after elections, at this point; the Party can work on behalf of their corporate sponsorship and simply throw enough limited favors toward the people they are pretending to represent. If the people feel they are the center of attention and the prosperity of the wealthy elite is secured, the political Party has done its job and will likely remain in a position of power.
So long as large portions of capital are being channeled into a Party, it becomes easier to literally “buy” a better image for the population to see. With the resources secured, well developed propaganda campaigns can ensue so the future voters will succumb to overestimating the amount of attention they will receive from their respected choice in two choice systems.
In addition, two party systems work in a very rudimentary fashion. If you don’t support one, you basically vote for the other. The competition is always miniscule. The parties only have to be better than the other. In many circumstances, this doesn’t take much at all. Michael Parenti describes the fallacies of democratic election in the United States:
“…it cannot be said that democratic competition exists. In the U.S. all fifty states have laws, written and enforced by Republican and Democratic officials, regulating party access to the ballot – often in ways restrictive enough to keep smaller parties from participating, thus depriving the electorate of the freedom to choose someone other than a Democrat or Republican…In some states minor parties must pay exorbitant filing fees: ,000 Louisiana for an independent candidate. To get on the ballot in all 50 states, a third party would have to expend and estimated 0,000 in filing fees and other expenses and collect 1.2 million signatures,”
It would be likely that a Democrat or Republican would quickly point the finger toward the existence of third parties to expel criticisms of control. While the existence of a third party in the United States is not prohibited, the actions of the two parties in power can restrict the political arena so much, they are currently not a threat to their well being. As is apparent from Parenti’s figures, the process of restriction is largely one of monetary function. In a Presidential election, the public is unlikely to ever see or hear from the “best” candidate for the job. Instead, the central figures for the position will be the two best Caucasian men to represent the interests of the Democrats and the Republicans.
One cannot deny the slight differences between the two parties, but when the curtain is pulled back, the “Great Oz” is one that is guided by elite special interests that manifest in the global accumulation of capital. The Democrats and Republicans can debate about: crime, abortion, gun control, health care, social security, gay and lesbian marriage ect..but the underlying causations for social turmoil can never be addressed. Providing real solutions to the roots of social problems will only sever the proverbial umbilical cords that feed the interests of the two parties. In actuality, the public debates and limited acts of change in arenas of public concern will an always have been an afterthought and therefore not as effective as radical changes would be. When push comes to shove, both parties have proven time and time again that they will not hesitate to sacrifice the lives of an America’s children to protect the interests of imperialistic markets in other countries.
It would be an understatement to limit the human sacrifice to markets outside of the United States; one will not find the heart of Democrats or Republicans with the workers or students of their own country. The protection has always been in favor of the capital machines. While strikes empower the workers, they stop production essential to the survival of the two parties. In the history of labour disputes, a student will find bloody repression by the State in favor of their capital and not their people.
Sometimes the Democrats will blur this line. It has never been stated that the two parties are not crafty and intelligent. Historically, the Democrats will assimilate enough aspects of radical organizations or civil rights groups to ensure the votes of people that actually support people. This is most vividly seen with the labour movements and the Civil Rights Movements. The Democrat Party of today is one that many people associate with civil rights and unions. This is certainly not the case, although enough attention toward these causes may make them more appealing than the Republicans, their true aims of self preservation have not changed. When the truth is revealed, an alienation and urgency likely will follow. Malcolm X reflected this spirit in a 1964 speech he gave at the Cory Methodist Church in Cleveland, Ohio known as the “It’s the Ballot or the Bullet:”
“In this present administration they have in the House of Representatives 257 Democrats to only 177 Republicans. They control two-thirds of the House vote. Why can’t they pass something that will help you and me? In the Senate, there are 67 Senators who are of the Democratic party. Only 33 of them are Republicans. Why the Democrats have go the government sewed up, and you’re the ones that sewed it up for them. And what have they given you for it? Four years in office, and just now getting around to some civil rights legislation. Just now, after everything else is gone, out of the way, they’re going to sit down now and play with you all summer long…All those are in cahoots together…They’re playing that old con game. One of them makes believe he’s for you, and he’s got it fixed where the other one is so tight against you, he has to keep his promise.”
Malcolm X reiterates the reality of political parties in the United States as reflected through the eyes of an unrepresented member of the voting population. It is a small wonder that he and the other individuals, for whom he was speaking, were not being represented by the two dominant political parties. Only a few generations back from Malcolm X, his relatives were only counted as 3/5’s of a person. Prior to that, they were not considered any portion of a person. In fact, voting and representation in the United States was not originally intended for everyone. The privilege of even selecting the miniscule choices came only from hard fighting by African Americans, Women, Indians* and other portions of the population that were not considered human due to their inability to own property.
While it is safe to describe the tactics of the Democratic party of the United States as one of assimilation, the Republican Party is such that the illusion of morality and religion are utilized to cast notions of superiority to their counterparts while doing little to shroud the blatant solidarity with the needs of the elite. In addition to this phenomenon, a culture of fear is created to entice would be voters in their direction. In the past it was “Red Scare” of Communism, and today it is projected through perpetuating terror alerts. The party has gone as far as manifesting crime lore to rationalize military, police, and prison expenditures that far surpass any after thought of humanity as seen through the eyes of diminishing health care and social services to the actual “people” that make up the Union of the United States.
The mystique of voting has risen from the building blocks of a select few, to the juggernauts of a select few. To further illustrate the illusion of voting in the United States one only has to look toward the actual statistics of past elections. For the sake of this discourse, Presidential elections of the past two decades will be analyzed. It is important to not limit an argument to the distant past; the absence of recent history in the psyche of American voters is an issue that needs to be rectified. As mentioned in the past chapter, not understanding where the hatred for the United States by other countries originates, is a very real barrier for making sound decisions at the polls.
The following is a list of eligible voters and actual turnouts to the polls in the past 5 presidential elections:
Year Individuals of Voting Age Turn out percentage
2000 205,815,000 51.3 %
1996 196,511,000 49.1 %
1992 189,529,000 55.1 %
1988 182,778,000 50.1 %
1984 174,466,000 53.1 %
The actual number of eligible voters that come out to the polls always is slightly over or below half of the voting population. Such numbers speak magnitudes about the present political situation and necessitate analysis of the matter. The votes that are putting the two dominant parties into power are really reflecting only the majority of half the United State’s potential voters. A political candidate only is truly securing roughly 20 to 25 percent approvals of the people. Again, the illusion of candidates chosen to reflect the interests of the people are not even necessarily the individuals the majority of the population would like to see in office.
In the biggest “landslide” election of the United States, Ronald Reagan boasts the highest popular vote in history with 54,455,075 people voting for him. Unfortunately, this vast “majority” roughly counts for the will of around 32% of the United States potential voting population. Even the biggest “landslides” truly are jaded when put in the proper context.
The biggest question that remains is where the other half of the voting public is on election day. Why are they not going to the polls? Perhaps apathy may account for some of the missing portions but the essence is something much larger. Many people in the United States today feel as if their vote does not matter. They understand that Democrats and Republicans are career politicians that do not represent their own interests. Left alienated and with unanswered questions, they simply do nothing. While this seems like a logical and powerful notion, in actuality, it plays into the aims of the dominant political forces in the United States. As political prisoner and esteemed journalist Mumia Abu Jamal explains:
“People say they don’t care about politics; they’re not involved or don’t want to get involved, but they are. Their involvement just masquerades as indifference or inattention. It is the silent acquiescence of the million that support the system. When you don’t oppose as system, your silence becomes approval, for it does nothing to interrupt the system. Many people say it is insane to resist the system, it is insane not to.”
To not speak or cast a vote is to allow the aims of the Democrat and Republican Party represent your will on the home front and in the global arena. It is essential for the silent majority to voice their opposition on election day by voting outside the traditional confines of the one party system posing as two. Furthermore, it is essential to voice one’s opposition to the stipulations placed on third party candidacies by any rational means at an individual’s disposal.
For the idealistic individuals that are voting but refusing to succumb to the Democrat and Republican monopoly, their vote is cry that goes unheard. While it stands a righteous notion and a plea for candidates that actually may change the conditions of the United States, it often times can be a vote in favor of the slightly more right wing portion of the electoral process. With two choices, a vote for one candidate is a vote against the other candidate. With so many people voting on the premise of the “lesser of two evils,” to add a symbolic dynamic of an unlikely third party candidacy may actually become a vote for the “greater of two evils.”
In the 2000 election, it was estimated that the votes given for Ralph Nader’s spectacular Green Party run against the two party monopoly actually became votes against Al Gore. This thereby jettisoned in an era of the worst administration in United States history. Conversely, fear of another Bush era dissuaded many dissatisfied voters from expressing solidarity with Nader out of fear for electing an incompetant President that believes “God is not neutral.” Essentially, under the current makeup of the Party systems in the United States, a symbolic vote for a third candidate actually plays into the circularity of a chocolate or vanilla ice cream voting dichotomy. Under no current scenario is a voter faced with a choice of electing a candidate that will be best for America.
The voting battle is not a simple matter in the slightest spectrum, in fact, majority of votes still do not ensure an electorate victory. In the past, Presidents have been elected from the minority of individuals that vote. These numbers are even more disturbing when considered in the previous mentioned parameters of the Majority of votes not really reflecting the majority of the people. President’s that have been elected without receiving the majority of votes are as follows: John Adams, James Polk, Zachary Taylor, James Buchanan, Abraham Lincoln, Rutherford Hayes, James Garfield, Grover Cleveland (2x), Benjamin Harrison, Woodrow Wilson (2X), Harry Truman, John Kennedy, Richard Nixon, Bill Clinton (2X), and George W. Bush.
To further structure the power and security of the two parties, a system known as the Electoral College makes such oddities capable. Under the Electoral College, each state represents a certain amount of Electoral votes toward the Presidency. There are currently 538 possible electoral votes in the United States; of which, 270 are needed to be elected President of the United States. The number of electoral votes per state is based on population density. Election wins in Alaska and North Dakota would yield a candidate a combined total of 6 electoral votes. On the other hand, election wins in California and Texas would yield 86 electoral votes.
Basically, the approval of certain states is much more sought after by political parties than others. This further dissipates the interest of candidates representing the population. In actuality, the vote of a citizen in Alaska or North Dakota is not as important to a Political Party. Furthermore, any aspirations or aims of a third party will dissipate. Michael Parenti explains:
The party that polls a plurality of the vote, be it 40,50, or 60 percent, wins 100 percent of a districts representation, while smaller parties, regardless of their vote, receive zero representation. Proportional representation provides a party with legislation seats roughly in accordance with the percentage of votes it wins, thus assuring minor parties of some parliamentary presence. But the single-member, winner-take-all system magnifies the strength for the major parties and leaves the minor parties with a percentage of seats (if any) that is far lower than its percentage of votes The winner-take-all system deprives third parties not only of representation but eventually of voters too, since not many citizens wish to ‘waste’ their ballots on a party that seems incapable of establishing a legislative presence..”
Although the plight of a third party seems hopeless, the issue of remaining silent is a worse alternative. Frederick Douglass proclaimed that “Without struggle there is no progress.” The same holds true for the voting battle. There is a numerical hope for change that has been alluded to but not necessarily underlined yet in this discussion. If the individuals that are currently abstaining from voting combine with the population that votes Democrat or Republican simply to not “waste” a vote as Parenti outlines, a significant political entity could emerge and reflect much greater than a mere 20 – 30 % of the popular votes that are currently jettisoning cookie cutter politicians to power. The potential is existent; however, the mobilization of such a force is another matter.
For progress to occur, however, changes must be made. The reelection of George W. Bush for 4 more years under the present party system should be enough to concern all members of the thinking populous. By incorporating all parts of voting trap, the world is now turned over to a man that has globally set back human rights and foreign policy in the name of capital accumulation while simultaneously dividing the most powerful nation in the world. In a party system where minority voting on issues that are of little consequence for creating a better tomorrow, the defeat of the “lesser of two evils,” is always a possibility. In November of 2004, the worst possible candidate for humanity has emerged unscathed by four prior years of deceit, death, and suffering. We owe it to ourselves as embracers of freedom and democracy to remedy the Voting Trap, so that eight subsequent years where humanity is an afterthought will never again occur.
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