Tuesday, April 21, 2009
The Dangerous Demise of the U.S. Two Party System
I've always believed in having multiple political parties so no one party can achieve and keep dominance. We need two strong parties (at least) to keep a good balance towards the sane middle ground. The moment any political group obtains dominance is the moment their deep corruption begins. That's historically and invariably been true for any group.
There's a lot to Acton's famous quote, "Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely." (Lord Acton, 1887)
Therefore, I believe there is danger to all of us, and the nation as a whole when we allow the destruction, or death of one political party in favor of any other. We are seeing the beginnings of that now as we watch the political meltdown of the Republican Party. The once powerful and completely dominate party is becoming vulnerable right now almost everywhere. The voting public is indicating strong preference for Democratic candidates over Republicans, and polling numbers now show Democrats favored by large margins over Republicans generally. Though many neoconservative Republicans may loudly disagree, facts are facts. All polls show this and that's the reality.
Indeed, who can blame the voting public after 8 years of Bush, et al?
That the George W. Bush debacle played a big part in current Republican woes is a given. Over the past decade or so, Republicans allowed the far right wing fringe to capture their party, and install a bunch of inappropriate right-wing ideologues in office. A wholesale revision of national policy occurred, with the aim of moving everything right, and as far right as possible. Positions on abortion, religion, taxes, guns, regulation, etc., etc., were all shoved firmly to the right. That largely succeeded, and moved the Republicans in charge to the right of everyone else, including their own moderates.
Neoconservative Republicans are still doing this and even resorting to rewriting history to convince themselves and their base of the infallibility of their ideas and positions. For example, high level Republicans are currently stumbling all over themselves to buy Amity Shlaes' new book 'The Forgotten Man'. Shlaes has written a book on the economy of the Great Depression which argues that FDR's actions were not helpful, but harmful - even though the country - and the rest of the world - did pull out of the depression. It doesn't matter that Shlaes was never an economist, or ever even studied the subject (she claims to be a 'historian': "The finest history of the Great Depression ever written," says Steven F. Hayward of the National Review, the online neoconservative conscience), her book is fast becoming a new economic bible for neoconservatives, in Congress especially.
Shlaes, is a Senior Fellow of the Council of Foreign Relations, who's membership reads like a Who's Who of the rich and influential, and includes from Diane Feinstein on the Left to Dick Cheney on the Right.
Bizarrely, Shlaes is also a champion for the Bush administration's handling of Hurricane Katrina, which got her fired as a writer from he Financial Times. But never mind all that. She remains one of the new darlings of neoconservatives.
Republicans were and are always very successful in propagandizing their base towards their far right ideologies. And, they apparently also convinced themselves with their own rhetoric. In their zeal, the neoconservative Republicans who control the party continue to propagandize ad nauseam. There are some obvious problems with this. First of course, if the theory itself is flawed, the results are liable to disaster - and we saw just that during the eight years of the two Bush II administrations.
But secondly, and more importantly to the continued viability of the Republican Party today, is the difficulty of moderating a flawed ideology when your base is now so implacably sure of its validity. In other words, to move back to a more reasonably moderated position is now so strongly resisted by a base convinced of the more radical version that it becomes nigh impossible.
We see a lot of this in the GOP today. One prime example of Senator Roy Blunt of Missouri who is in danger of losing his seat and being challenged by his own party. His big sin? Support of the Wall Street bailout. Now, he is having lot's of trouble raising campaign funds. Another example is Norm Coleman of Minnesota who was initially recruited to run for the seat by George W. Bush and Karl Rove. Coleman just lost a squeaker of an election to Al Franken, a very liberal Democrat. Coleman's subsequent, mule headed attempts to hold on to the seat has earned him wholesale condemnation from both the left and the right.
So, many Republican officeholders today are perched directly on the horns of a dilemma, entirely of their own creation. They are in dire trouble in coming elections, but can not easily move from their far-right fringe positions to a more reasonable, and electable moderate stance. Their own now rigidly convinced whack-job right-wing nutcase bases simply won't let them. Such is the stuff that political tragedies are often made of.
While this may be very gratifying to those of us with more moderate or progressive ideas, it is not good for our country. We must continue to have a viable two-party (at least) system, in order to avoid absolute corruption by absolute power.
We must always remember: "Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely."