Making Sense Of The Issues And Ideologies That Shape Politics In The United States

Monday, July 23, 2012

Two-Party Blues - Part 1

The face-off between Obama and Romney has just gotten started, and already I want to tune it out. This will be the sixth presidential election in which I will have the privilege of voting, and the fourth in which I feel trapped into voting for the lesser of two evils. So while most of the nation obsesses over the latest gaffe or embarassing photo-op, I will spend the next three and a half months lamenting that we don't have some sort of multi-candidate voting system.

Of course, there really are other people running for president besides Romney and Obama, but I challenge you to name one. (Hint: Nader's not running this time). I'm guessing that the majority of Americans cannot.

But if we do our research, each one of us is likely to find a credible candidate who matches our beliefs more closely than the major-party nominees. Being a progressive, I find more common cause with the Green Party's Jill Stein or the Justice Party's Rocky Anderson than I ever have with Obama. Folks further to the left can choose from several socialist candidates.

Libertarians can join forces with either Gary Johnson, the Libertarian Party's candidate, or Ron Paul - who is officially still a Republican but who might be the most prominent politician fighting the hegemony of the two-party system.

Even staunch conservatives who think Romney is too moderate can get into the third-party game. Virgil Goode is running from the Constitution Party, and many are calling for Sarah Palin to jump into the race - a move which would turn the campiagn on its ear. (Though not likely to happen since it would improve Obama's chances.)

In fact, the reason Palin is not running as a third-party candidate underscores the overall challenge of moving beyond the two-party system. It's the same reason Ralph Nader never got more than a few percentage points despite being preferred over Al Gore and John Kerrey by many on the left.

In the next post, I'll share some personal experiences I had while writing for a prominnent progressive blog, and what it taught me about why third-party movements are so difficult. Some of it can be explained by the laws of human nature, but some of it is the result of an intentional effort by the two major parties to stamp out any resistance to the system.

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