In our various postulates posted to date, from all the well-meant toils of a chronicling of boycott-movements to the careful etching out of hard stone the merit of our ballot-box, even to our idyllic first declaratory statement – we have in all this work been nothing more than dancing about our true object – in vain have we yet missed the mark. For in every assertion, every analytic-turn we have assumed in our zeal the most important point as an already agreed upon constant and begun at the second step without taking the first.
It is at this moment we must interrupt the flow built up from our previous weeks’ scattered efforts to halt, self-reflect and drag the essential question into the light: What reason, if any, do we have to abandon the current two-party system? Given the prevalence of political abuse in and out of “democratic” structures throughout the world this is no mean question. The recent apparent electoral gains in the U.S., with the meteoric rise of our 44th President only heighten the bugbear of misstep.
There are several major flaws engendered specifically within the two-party system which must be weighed in the scales of this question. We may best start with the principle aim of the self-same structure: that the two parties will always contrast each other, akin to a Hegelian dialectical process, in an adversarial mode with such challenges always yielding to the superior policy.
In practice we know this not to be the case only too well (every school child is taught of political compromise in America, while saving for adulthood the lesson of its bitter results) – yet is there a single cause in the fault of this process?
In the collapse of communism and the rise of globalization a comparable identity crisis is evident in either of the parties: Democrats deregulating markets (Fannie and Freddie Mae for instance) and otherwise espousing conservative agendas (Blue Dog Democrats) as Republicans suture the welfare state and advance liberal economics (see Mike Huckabee). Clearly we have witnessed, if not in the more subdued aspects, the excesses this system leads to (Congress’ lack of opposition to earmarks devouring public coffers; campaign finance reform), but a sole example will suffice to crystallize our meaning.
The party response to our current economic crisis may be a fitting case, not the least for its import. The original response culminated in the (first) stimulus package and the more frantic inauguration of what would be called the TARP program (all its informal weekend-vicissitudes included ad hoc fashion). With so freshly and so sweepingly a revolution in government at recent date we may seek our point in what policy shift has thereby occurred. The abundantly obvious observation is that aid continues to overwhelmingly flow in favor of the corporation. The sums granted by the Federal Reserve alone (itself unmarked by any election), to ailing banks dwarf all other efforts to date. We must conclude the pattern of response to be markedly consistent, if diverse at the margins.
The point holds all the more firmly in its negative expressions. The superficial and flaccid response of the opposition party is undoubtedly founded on its naked hypocrisy (indeed, five months is too brief an interval even for the American public’s myopic attention span). Yet more to the point – at the passing of the TARP program in Congress the issue was treated as “above politics.” What manifest itself as opposition after this pivotal moment was rightly recognized as no more than the vapid theater of opposition.
Here we insist on pressing the point: are there not deeper similarities of response between the two parties? Is there not a commonly-held framework of decision-making “above politics” ("post-politics")? At any rate we are to believe that two separate and completely distinct administrations, representing antipodal political philosophies in the U.S.(truly the only options) have come to the same conclusion objectively while still adhering to the belief in a rigid distinction between them as a fanatic would.
Money is no slight trifle to our society – and yet our two-party system suffers no debate, no discussion, only quiet acquiescence.
It would seem the response to this economic crisis when considered in vacuum is abundantly illustrative of the effects which arise from a failure to spur alternatives to policy, yet this is not the complete picture. These developments are part of a larger process under way in our world. Even as the two parties fuse into one single, factional entity – the American public is being at the same time fragmented into two irreconcilable blocks. Is there an underlying explanation that may prove a general trend in two seemingly opposite phenomenon such as the rise of polarizing discourse and a state of comedy among the political elite?
Since the 2000 U.S. election cycle a palpable rigor mortis of political thought has occurred, and grown exponentially. The expression of this trend continues the ossification in all fields: from entertainment media (documentaries as one outgrowth; 24-hour news channels as another) to Political Action Committees sprouting with such fecundity across our nation. As both parties extend to new markets in these same vehicles are there not points of convergence in their mutual myth-making efforts (points where they tell the same story?) or even a demonstrable concert of action underlying? It would seem the rise of polarization in popular discourses is the perfect device to disguise or otherwise mask the rapidly coalescing consensus forming within the halls of U.S. power.
We do not base this observance solely on the smoke and vapor of suspicion. For its aggregate may be presented with force when considering the demographics of power. We see this in the case of ethics reform in Washington, which in practice is rent with disappointment that has crystallized over the cabinet confirmation hearings and the realization that the “new” administration is staffed with longtime political insiders. As such, precisely where we demand change remains the same. We realize our total defeat only when we recognize this excess as another policy in-step with the previous administration being faithfully repeated.
Yet we continue to hurl half-a-century-old (or more) personal indictments and vindictive flourishes at each other as if we could dig out the problem with our rage: Republicans scream “socialist!” until ironically their faces turn red, as if their party hadn’t reached a modus operandi with the welfare state years ago, or that bailouts for banks (which incidentally sever the invisible hand of the free market as if these lawmakers were their own present-day Shieks of some imagined Orientalist land of their creation)are any way different as they are for unwed mothers; while Democrats cry corruption and corporate interest, as if they too hadn’t lined their pockets in the same exact way - they don the guise of moral purity only as the most effective business model. Relegated to a foot-note in all this are the investigations into political corruption actively undermined by both parties – another case for synergy of interest, no doubt also “above politics.” Never in our history has either party acted with so much impunity.
The most fatal flaw of the system may be in its most ethereal remainders – namely its authoritative influence on what is permissible in the political discourse. Amidst the constant dirge of facts, experts, views and even an unbiased no-spin zone with such hard-hitting news reports we find our own voices are all the more edged out. The perfect form of this would be to nip our own perspectives in the bud drowning out not simply speech but thought as well.
Through all of our dissent and dissatisfaction the essential structure remains untouched and overlooked. Systemic mitigation of our input and our selves appear as all the possibilities have already been tried. All the conclusions are foregone. There is nothing emancipatory about these politics. And yet we are to believe in the progress to overcoming all the ills of our world – even as they mutate and proliferate. There is in fact an inherent balance to our political system. Proscriptives read: Submit and work within the system (indeed Obama’s presidency may represent the heights of such that is attainable thru these avenues). Yet what if it is precisely the system that is our obstacle?
All of these reasons, collusion among the parties, strife among the public, and the systemic abuse that continues apace bring ones self finally to the center of our labyrinth – when do we decide to leave the two party structure? What is our standard by which to judge, our bright-line for point of reference, our trip-wire? The answer will ultimately rely on what constitutes efficacy of the political system to the individual. A tendency for fragmentary views seems inevitable. However, what the decision calculus should not consist of is an overstressing of the benefits reputed to the system. These may be attributable to the larger system of democracy and society more than they are so finely applicable to the two-party system.
There will be a point in the near future when individuals recognize the ceaseless confrontation over long dead issues accomplishes nothing but our own undoing. Either politicians such as Obama will be able to steer us from this precipice to remain within the structure or the failings of such will manifest in awful detail taking us to the breaking point. Our stance is that no reform can come from the inside of this system any more than we may find guilt or remorse in the inner-workings of a machine gun at the site of a concentration camp.
We insist that the act of voting should not be treated as so profane and unclean, undertaken with as little thought possible for fear the more we think of it the less we like what it is we are doing. Our refusal to turn away from what it is we do will be the point at which the old pass away and the new must come to light.
At the end we may rightly ask: and what is the point of these supposed failures of the two-party system? This lack of difference between the two parties develops its most pernicious form when the individual discovers their views to be at odds with her or his party… for they find themselves left with no functional alternative. What political conditions may be said to exist if oppositional forces break down and dissolve?
Perhaps now we may hold some pride of accomplishment in the sweat at our brow as we look back at our work. In as much as we have at last come to the Thing which pumps life-force to all extremities we have entered and given a provisional look around the inner chambers of the Heart of our issue.