Thursday, October 22, 2009

Two-Party System Shills

Pundit Chris Cilizza pooh-poohed the idea of the “Rise of Independents” in this Washington Post article.

Despite the reported increase of Americans self-identifying as independents according to the latest poll results Cilizza decides to throw some rain on independents’ parade by saying:
Before we get too far down that road, it's important to remember that talk of a third party and the reality of it are too far different things.

He cites a study that shows deep divisions among people who consider themselves independent, the very real institutional hurdles to building a third party, and that even if a third party candidate does emerge in the 2012 or 2016 elections, that it is highly unlikely that their candidacy will lead to the creation of a viable third party. He cites the example of Ross Perot to illustrate this point.

Cilizza’s whole angle on the rise of independents irks me. Because the entire thrust of his piece was to defend the status quo of the two major parties. His entire piece was basically an argument directed to independents saying “you are in no position and will never be in a position to really challenge the status quo. You might as well just give it up and play politics the way the two major parties want you to play it. Get with the program and STFU!”

Cilizza wasn’t that blunt but he essentially meant the exact same thing if you followed his arguments to their logical conclusion.

There are so many ways Cilizza could have handled this. He could have asked the question: why are so many people so disgusted by BOTH major parties that they are self-identifying in rejection of them in far greater numbers than in the past? What makes them stink so much that people are rejecting their label?

Then perhaps rather than piss on independents and third-party supporters and condescend to them, he could have turned the tables on the major parties and asked of them: both major parties must be doing something wrong – what can they do to get people back into the fold? What can they do to get people to support them and self-identify along their lines instead of just being compelled to play politics on their terms because two-party politics is all the system supports and is built on?

Of course, he doesn’t do that. He would much rather poke a stick at independents without acknowledging the fact that they are constituents and that declaring independence is an effective way ordinary people can and have registered their disgust with the failed policies and politicians of the status quo. Isn’t that a democratic act and which deserve a bit more respect than he is giving them?

The bottom line for people like Cilizza is to defend the two-party system. The bottom line for independents like me is that democracy is broken, the two major parties are not cutting it in terms of representing the interests of Americans in any adequate way, and we must find a way to fix this broken system. The logical extension of the independent point of view is to ask: what needs to be done to revitalize democracy? What needs to be done to promote greater participation, transparency, and to involve ordinary people in democratic practices? What needs to be done so people in positions of representing The People can have their trust and confidence?

Cilizza and those who make the same arguments that he does completely miss and dismiss these points because deep down they could care less about participatory democracy. They only care about the two major parties and preserving the status quo. They are perfectly content to serve as shills to the two major parties without challenging them or demanding that they answer all the hard questions that deserve to be posed to them.

1 comment:

The Angry Independent said...

I just had a class last night at Wash U. where a visiting scholar (Europe Expert) was talking about the differences between Europe and the U.S. in terms of political movements, Party formation, the political landscape, etc. He confirmed all that I have been saying.... that there are in fact too many barriers in the U.S. for a true multi-party system. He was really critical of the U.S. system (I felt like saying Amen). lol

Europe has a system that is much more democratic and representative of their people (and thus it's little surprise that there is more political participation across the Continent). The European political infrastructure is much healthier and much more conducive to real Democracy.

Unfortunately....although his angle or intent may have been suspect (I don't know... i'm not familiar with this pundit) he is just reflecting the ugly reality of American politics. The fact is, the system is broken here in the U.S., plain and simple.

What we essentially have is a two-party dictatorship.

How different are we from the Mullahs in Iran, in terms of the political architecture (not arguing about laws and actual freedoms...but the structure)? We are actually closer to those one-party States than we are to other Democracies around the World...in terms of the resemblance in systems that allow the same aristocrats to run the show. That's not going to change anytime soon....probably not in my lifetime. Perhaps never.

Independents will have to focus on getting organized as a group.... a group that could then gain influence through voting power, resources, etc. That's really #1. Right now you have a lot of disjointed efforts across the Country which is all well and good. But until there is some sort of unified coordinated strategy... (which will almost be impossible to achieve because of all the divergent interests), then Independents (although big in numbers) won't be very effective and won't command the respect that their numbers deserve.

What we have in the U.S. is essentially an architectural problem with the political system.... not a problem of effort or desire (the people are hungry for something new/different...at least some are). There was a poll done about a year ago that indicated that most Americans wanted another political Party...wanted more choices.

I think the problem is... they don't know how to achieve the change in the architecture. The system is so rigid...they don't feel that there is anything that could be done. And that view is probably correct.

To really change the system...it would require Federal legislation...probably a few Constitutional Amendments as well...to guarantee 3rd, and 4th Party access. None of these things are going to happen, because members of Congress and State legislators aren't about to give up the power that they enjoy. When you enjoy a position of power and advantage....it's hard to give that up. That's why dictators almost never step down willingly....even if it would be the right decision for the health of their nations.

Something could possibly be done via the Courts...but it would take some very crafty, determined and dedicated attorneys who would be willing to pour their lives into it. Those kinds of attorneys (those who aren't as worried about a big paycheck...but are more worried about an important cause) are harder to find these days.