A Failure To Grasp: The Two Party System

I am often ridiculed by fellow conservatives for bringing up even the idea of third parties. The continual response is basically that in concept they’re good, but in reality they’re not.

Sometimes theory doesn’t translate well into reality; case in point, Marxism/communism. A utopian ideal of pure equality and communalism is a wonderful idea, but since man is flawed, a cultural/political construct devoid of a supreme being and forced upon people will never work, period. It’s the same thing for people creating theocracies.

The fact is that there is not a single governmental/political system that will work perfectly or even completely well. The effort is to find the balance between freedom and equality, while continuing to uproot corruption. Corruption is part and parcel to the human condition because we are sinful people. Too much “equality” and you have no freedom; too much “freedom” and you have zero equality.

But back to the discussion at hand, the two party system that’s effectively become engrained into our political system pretty much since the nation’s founding; we are told that the only real choices you have are A or B and that voting for any C is a wasted vote. Balderdash.

Every election cycle, and especially running up to “big” ones people in both parties and the voters talk about reforming the parties. The underlying foundational idea of the current conservative trend and Tea Party movement is nothing new – that it has coalesced and gained a voice and momentum is new. Conservatives for the most part always want to push the Republican party a bit further right. Conversely liberals for the most part always want to push the Democrat party a bit further left. A larger percentage of the nation may describe themselves as moderates instead of conservative or liberal, but I suspect that if you ask them enough specific questions very few are true fence sitters. Since we’re told you can only vote A or B, left leaning moderates and “independants” tend to vote Democrat and vice versa.

So while every election cycle people talk about reforming the parties, kicking out the RINOs and DINOs, every cycle the same rebuttal/caveat is trotted out: If you vote for a third party candidate you create the potential of splitting the vote, potentially or automatically enabling the “other” party to win – and thus gain/keep “power”. And so, the reform minded people shuffle their feet and tow the party line because hey, “This election now is do or die for our future” (As it was in 1992, 1994, 1996, 2000, 2004, 2006, 2008 and 2010 and most certainly pretty much every election cycle prior to when I started voting). The people with conviction are told that pragmatism is necessary, that the name of the game is winning and having power.

Political power is not the answer. Politics, legislation and regulations will never provide the answer and will never fully put the nation on a completely “good” track. The pendulum will continue to swing, cycles will continue to occur. Power corrupts. There will always be citizens who do not like what is going on with the course of the nation, and there will always be people within both parties who in reality should belong to the other party since they share most or all of the ‘opposite’ ideological values.

The answer deeper down is perspective and priorities. As a Christian I believe the root is Christ and placing Him first. We are called to be in the world, not of it. Instead, we often/mostly play the political game, and at the end of the day, whether people recognize it or not and admit it or not, we make a god of this nation and an idol of politics.

The town I grew up in is largely populated by blacks and it votes predominately Democrat. A good friend of mine had talked with a local politician and expressed a passing idea of getting in government. The politician – a Democrat – said he agreed with and/or liked a lot of what my friend had to say, and then said, ‘but you’d have to be a Democrat, otherwise you’d never win’. He told my friend, ‘I’d rather have you in politics as a Democrat than not because you chose to run as a Republican’. My friend declined because he was fully aware of the potential future ramifications. Yet how many politicians do precisely that? The party label is a means to an end to them; conviction, principles and standards don’t matter. At the end of the day it boils down to pride and power.

Every election cycle, those of us who’d naturally lean towards a third party are told to hold off until next year, to continue to push for reform next year, after the election is over, once the seats are assured for another period of time. Every year with rare exception, third parties get very little votes and every year the two big parties take on some of the third party platforms. Yet for the most part the parties don’t change, they just slide back and forth a little on the scale.

1994 was supposed to be a big turning point in the Republican party. Affected by Ross Perot in 1992 and the initial presidency of Clinton, the Republican party veered a little right and capitalized on public attitudes. Yet four to six years later the Republican party was largely indistinguishable from the Democrats and by 2006 this was plainly evident to the whole nation. Watch that pendulum swing baby.

A political party should be a reflection of people who espouse a specific set or range of views and platforms. You find this in the third parties. Instead, with the two primary parties, the party is dictating to the individual a broad range of views and platforms and telling the individual that A or B is where they fit. It’s backwards. Instead of the voters running the show, you have an “establishment” who runs the show.

We have become the football when instead we are supposed to be the coaches.

A year and a half ago when the Tea Party movement began in conjunction with the nascent conservative “revival” against Obama’s hard left blitz on America, I was pretty pleased with what I saw and pretty hopeful. However, as time has passed and the movement has solidified, I have found myself stepping back. I still agree with much of what the Tea Party and conservative swell believes and is preaching, but what I see is the placement of fiscal conservatism over social conservatism, potentially to the latter’s detriment.

This isn’t to say that I don’t care about the national debt, deficit and looming collapse. However, as a Christian, social issues will always trump fiscal issues. Life is more precious than a dollar or a business. In 1994 the Republicans were promoting fiscal issues and telling the social conservatives that they wouldn’t be forgotten. While it’s true that the Republican party is more socially conservative than the Democrat party, time and again compromise and political pragmatism lessened or shunted social conservative platforms and goals.

My fear is that the Republican party will effectively see the same thing again as in 1994. The new “establishment” becoming just like the “old”. And in the end, no real, lasting reform occuring because hey, gotta vote A or B. Gotta “win”.

Two years ago I heard a radio pundit belittle many callers who said that maybe defeat would be a good thing for the Republican party. His response was, “How can you have victory/win from defeat?!” He thought many of us had a defeatist attitude. It’s not a defeatist attitude, it’s a more realistic attitude with zero faith in the political system.

Obama won on “Hope and change” and two years later many of his voters are quite upset feeling/realizing they were taken for a ride and their vote. When you boil it down, the efforts of the Tea Party and conservative swell are hope and change too. To be honest, every election, every vote we cast is based in hope. We hope that our candidate will live up to their promises or at least make the effort with consistency.

Yet time and again we hold our nose when we vote for particular people. That right there says you have doubts about that person. We still pay some lip service and effort to it, but there was a time when character counted in a candidate. Instead we often get candidates to vote on who might line up on our political beliefs, but frankly are smarmy. So we get that person in office because he’s got the platform, but then proceeds to make a mockery of himself, the seat, his constituents, etc. And if he’s not run out or resigns, he does everything he can to keep his seat because he comes to believe that only he is able to do that job.

Politics has come down to name, party and money. Instead of character, ideology and work. Here in Missouri we were told by a local radio pundit – who is a Tea Party bigwig – that we should be voting (during the primary) for the most conservative candidate who had the best chances of winning. That’s pragmatism, and it’s focusing on the idea that winning is everything, and it’s based in fear. Delaware didn’t go that route while Missouri did (Roy Blunt winning the primary). Chuck Purgason was seen as probably the most conservative guy here and with a stand-up character, but he just wasn’t electable… you see he didn’t have the money or the big names backing him. Fear of a victory by Robin Carnahan drove people to Roy Blunt because he had the big names backing him, more name recognition and more money. And so Missouri is left with the prospect of “holding their nose” for A and B.

Christine O’Donnell won the primary because people decided that conviction mattered more than pragmatism. Mike Castle no doubt would seriously be ahead of Chris Coons right now in the polls because Delaware is “Castle” country. Delaware leans “RINO” (social liberal, fiscal conservative). Money flooded into Mrs. O’Donnell’s campaign when she won the primary. You don’t vote for a candidate because they look like they have the better chance of winning. You vote for a candidate and make them winnable. And if you lose, you say, “good fight, tomorrow I start again”.

Maybe what is really needed for both parties is for people to wake up and get sick of being the football. Maybe the only real way to effectively reform and purify each party is for them to lose, and lose, and lose again.

It’s pretty much a foregone conclusion that the Democrats are going to get trounced worse than 1994 and worse than Republicans were in 2006/08. I am glad for that prospect, but I hold no long-term hopes for the party. I suspect that they’ll eventually slink back leftward and that the changing of the gaurd won’t amount to much in the end.

The overall socio/cultural trend of this nation is sliding downward, as it has for well over a century. A shift in political parties or a reformation within each party is not going to change this trend. Politics is not the answer, the Republican Party and the Tea Party will not save this nation. Getting our nation financially stable and prosperous again is laudable, but without a strong, conservative social core, we will still, eventually go the way of the Roman Empire.

The two party system is flawed, and yet we are yearly told we should prop it up because it’s the only way. Perhaps the real answer is to let the Republican party flop and create a new party. Or, conversely to watch the Democrat party implode and see all of the moderates (RINOs and DINOs) coalesce. The two-party system in this nation has seen such things occur before, though it’s been over 150 years. Maybe it’s time for that again. Maybe it’s time for people to vote for the indivual, and not the party – and to not just pay lip service to that statement as many often do.

It will not be the end of the world or this nation if the Republican party does not regain control next month or in 2012. Fight for this country with conviction and principles, not pragmatism and compromise. Fear not. Too many people give in to pragmatism over conviction out of fear for the future. If our founders had been pragmatic, we would never have become a nation.

Rush Limbaugh apparently “expects” a return to business as usual from the Republicans after the elections. If he’s “getting” it, maybe, just maybe, I’m not so off my rocker in my analysis, eh?

Crossposted at Wading Across