Most analysts and more or less everyone’s gut feeling is that the Republicans will win big in the coming election, and even the leaders of the last Congressional term may be gone. Harry Reid, the Senate majority leader, may lose his re-election bid, and while dismayed at a loss, Pelosi might retire. Yet why would voters in fact put a party back in power that they voted to throw out just a few years ago?
At first glance it would not seem as though the American public has the patience to evaluate the long term policy of those in office, and call into question everything once a given initiative goes bad, much as Americans historically have with wars lasting for over a month. Yet in reality the apparent impatience is a reaction to the fact that neither party offer long term goals and long term thinking, their initiatives become the media talking point of the month, dangling benefits to voters which, when not received, enables voters to run to the polls to elect the other party.
There is also another reason, as Pat Buchanan notes in his column Obstructionism reaps its reward:
Looking back on those Republican triumphs, and forward to Tuesday’s, what do these Republican off-year victories have in common?
In all four – 1938, 1946, 1966 and 1994 – the GOP won not because of what the party had accomplished or the hopes it had raised, but because Republicans were the only alternative on the ballot to a Democratic Party and president voters wished to punish.
So essentially the lack of choices has caused the electorate to put back into power those they recently punished, hoping for a better deal. Why do we have a lack of choices?
In the first case, we can attribute it to the Industrial Media Complex, which if it isn’t in fact run by large corporations rooted in the democratic and republican parties, it prefers to run with the image that we have only a two-party system. What was most memorable for me in the media attempt to enforce the two-party system was in 2000, when they refused to give Alan Keyes airtime and instead shut him out of the primary to focus on George W Bush and John McCain. Frankly, if Keyes had been given an equal playing field on which to run his campaign it is possible that he might have come close to winning, but no one knew who he was.
Which brings us to the second reason why Americans feel they have no choice but the Democrat and Republican parties, whose rhetoric is quite different but results often the same. Nobody knows who any non-democratic and/or republican candidates are. In the town where I grew up in there was one gentleman who always put his name on the presidential ballot, even though he had to pay to get it on there, just so he could see his name there alongside the national candidates. In different states we will sometimes see a different list of candidates from the big two, from various third parties we only hear about at election time, with candidates we only see during the elections and fade away, who have no achievements to parade but only claims about what they will do, much as the major parties. More importantly there is no media in which they are normally seen besides Youtube.
The lack of knowledge means that when it comes time to pull the lever, who resonates with what I think is a good course for the country? This guy I think is liberal or that guy I think is conservative, and what shows it to me is the D and R next to the name, respectively. Given this, how can a third party ever win? One ends up tossing from different sides of the same boat.
The answer is that we stop paying attention to national elections. If a candidate shows up when it’s time to elect the president, and he is unknown and has no means to make himself known in our current climate, he is simply not going to win by the failure to gain notoriety. Even Ross Perot winning the 20% of the vote was considered an astounding success in 1992, yet when realistically considered, that is only 20% of the vote.
This brings up another pitfall which mention of Ross Perot evokes. The 1992 election went to Bill Clinton rather than George H.W. Bush, and it is more than likely that the difference for Bush could have made up many of the votes that had gone to Ross Perot, so he gets the blame for the Republican’s loss. The same is true for Ralph Nader and the Green Party in 2000 that were blamed for Gore’s defeat (once the country was exhausted of hearing about hanging chads). This is because the third party is really still a hot potatoe [sic] in the two-party system.
Reform out of the current oligarchy of national interests, be they corporations, banks, unions, environmental activists which control their given parties, will not come from the top-down but from the bottom up. This is where Distributism comes in. In the system of economics we advocate focus is on our local communities through our spending, our employment, self-owned and small co-operative businesses, and outside companies would be welcome to fulfill a need that is currently not able to be met locally (such as growing oranges in Idaho). Yet for such a system of local economy, focusing on small ownership and production necessitates not merely a stronger local government, but a local government where the population is strongly participating in the electoral system. This local participation has two positive effects: 1) you know your local politicians and 2) they know you know them. When unpopular federal measures such as eminent domain come to town, 10,000 people picketing the mayor’s office would dissuade any elected official in a small local office from implementing the seizure of someone’s home for the sake of a mega corporation. This follows likewise for state office, legislature, etc. In a Distributist state, one might even celebrate the lack of any achievements as the reason for voting someone in and instead champion the maintaining of locally-based infrastructure and protection of local jobs.
Now if one wants to run nationally in our current system, unless he has both the inside track with those holding the cards, the major corporations and the key politicians, not to mention a fortune rivaling some third-world countries, he is not going to win. Likewise a third party is not going to win without a massive fortune, because it cannot make inroads into the industrial media complex. Even if he did win, he would be the president of an obscure party and would have few allies in Congress to help him. Now some like to tout the “success” of the TEA Party, but in reality it is only successful at electing the Republicans, who have accomplished the same goals as Bill Clinton, in many respects. The TEA Party is a loose confederation of disaffected voters who want less government. They don’t have any principles apart from that, even scoffing at the idea of making abortion an issue. The same thing happened to William Jennings Bryan’s movement at the beginning of the 20th century. Their only principles were currency alternatives to gold and land reform. They had no concept about how to advance a political plan for running the country, so they eventually were co-opted by the major parties. The TEA Party is simply becoming another outgrowth of the Republicans, and therefore subject to them, while their conservative democrats are looking for other options.
What if a third party were developed, with clear principles and clear ideas about where it wants to go, and then did the shockingly simple thing of running locally. Local mayors, state legislatures, even governors and some congressional seats. The strategy would be to work at a local and grass roots level, drumming up support, clearly laying out its philosophy and ideas, based simply on local donations, not big business or questionable social special interests. Gradually over a 10 year period they could pick up more support and more support, and then de facto, with or without the media, the party would be well known. Then a presidential candidate could run who could seriously challenge the major parties. Then more importantly than that, he might have members of his Party in congress who can help shape his policy. Without that local support, a serious challenge to the Republican and Democratic oligarchy is not likely to materialize.
The key question we must ask is this: Is there anyone with the long-term focus who is willing to work for 10 years to make it happen? The conduct of third party alternatives such as the Constitution, Libertarian, Green, or even the TEA parties seem to indicate that this is not the case and that instantaneous results are favored over long-term benefits which put one in a stronger position. Until such an attitude changes, the constant whole sale shifts in government will only get worse as time goes on, which in the end will lead to a consistent policy no one wants implemented.
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