Sunday, May 21, 2006

Let's Party!

Here's to the end of the two-party system!

Richard Viguerie, the "patriarch of US conservatives, has urged his followers to halt their financial support of the Republican Party and start an independent movement," according to AFP news agency. And it's about time!

It seems to me that honesty in politics today requires relinquishing our reliance on the "us-or-them" approach to negotiations. And that's the basis of real politics, right? That is, it's the negotiation of differing interests and opinions into a common course of action. But currently there is no reasonable articulation of *any* of the competing interests and opinions, because we're stuck in this binary political universe of Democrats/Republicans, liberals/conservatives, Bush-bashers/Bush-lovers.

People seem to take great comfort in being on a team. Maybe it's genetically encoded tribal memories. Anyway, they seem to like to pick a side and stick with it. But I submit, that's not a very useful approach right now. It encourages groupthink, loyalty oaths, litmus tests, political correctness of all stripes, to build team morale and ensure individual loyalty.

In modern American electoral politics, this translates into parties pandering to their respective bases and speaking in codes in order to inspire the faithful without frightening everyone else. Diverging interests within the party camps are whitewashed or ignored in the interest of party unity: vital matters of philosophy and practice are minimized or evaded. Small wonder the Democrats are perceived to stand for nothing, while the Republicans pretend to defend the very high-minded principles they seem bent on destroying in practice.

Isn't it time we acknowledge that there are often more than two sides to many issues, let alone only two (distinct, internally coherent) ways to run a country? More smaller parties honestly representing well-articulated interests (including but NO LONGER LIMITED TO bankers, investors, industrialists, organized labor, and lawyers) would certainly increase the chatter in the system and would probably complicate decision-making in non-trivial ways (short term, at least). But it would enable more effective decision-making long term, because it puts all the cards on the table, where everyone can see them.

No taxation without representation? How about no true representation with our current two-party money-making machine?

In another post, I'll indulge in some fantasies on what might happen if a conservative defection fractured the Republican Party. Would Viguerie get both social and fiscal conservatives? How would they get along? Would the Republicans then become the Corporate Party. Are the Democrats then the RestOfUs Party? Probably not. And would that break down? This sounds like fun...


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