American political duopoly (part 1 of 3)

Much of the industrialized, democratic world relies on duopolistic political systems to maintain stable governments that address both needs and whims of their populations in some accommodating fashion. As a rule, the philosophies of the two parties, in some cases political movements, are not drastically apart on most social or economic issues. That also applies to the United States.

This political duopoly has existed for some time in the G-7 countries, even when conflictive issues of major social significance, such as policies on immigration or the environment, take center stage. At the end of the day neither the greens nor ultra-nationalistic parties have a course-altering impact on a national election. Typical example: 2002 national elections in France , where it was difficult to see much difference between the Gaullist-conservative platform of Chirac and the Socialist agenda of Jospin.

However, political duopolies vary widely in nature and degree. Our American duopoly of Republicans and Democrats is considerably different from the duopolies in the other G-7 nations. Japan , Germany , France , United Kingdom , Italy and Canada have duopolies with great similarity among them but pronounced differences from the American model. A conclusion reached after brainstorming the subject with American expatriates residing in those countries, and their counterparts living here in the United States .

There seems to be a consensus among these expatriates that the major political fronts in those six nations, even when sprouting from different socio-economic ideologies, tend to converge for the welfare of the societies they serve, regardless of ideological precepts. In contrast, both GOP and Democratic Party in the United States tend to converge most often at the udder of special interests, where they both nurse… not the public welfare.

Both parties serving the same special interests appear as a phenomenon almost exclusive to the political modus operandi in the United States . Lobbying for favors dates back to man’s recognition of formal power. In political monopolistic societies, lobbying usually involves a single “destination and purchase.” In political duopolies, lobbying is most effective, however, when politicians from both parties share such “purchase.” American organizations, most particularly large businesses, have generated the most effective political lobbying among the so-called industrialized, democratic group of nations.

Can we… or should we, pass judgment as to what type of duopoly serves a free society best? Cultural and other intervening variables that come into play make any analysis difficult, far from scientific. However, there are salient differences in key areas which seem to indicate some direct correlation between the type of political duopoly and how members of those societies are affected. The two most critical we wish to address are voting and economic class-stratification.

Again, we are looking at the other six nations in the G-7 group with definite duopolies, but drastically far more restrictive lobbying… where politicians from opposing parties seldom, if ever, receive economic support from the same source. And comparing results to those in the American duopoly model where politicians are “equal opportunity” recipients, be them Republicans or Democrats.

In the area of voting, Americans appear to be the least active. Fewer than 25% of eligible Americans tend to vote in local and State elections, and only about half do so in presidential elections. Those figures contrast with averages of 50% and 75% for the other G-7 nations.

As to distancing between the haves and have-nots, the differences are just as pronounced. In the United States , statistics for 1997 show that those households in the highest 10% of income made 16.9 times what those in the bottom 10% made. (After the two rounds of the Bush tax cuts, the number is probably closer to 25.) The figure contrasts with 4.5 for Japan, 7.0 for Germany, 8.5 for Canada, 9.0 for France, 12.0 for United Kingdom and 12.7 for Italy.

Can our duopoly be improved to create a more participatory society in both democracy and wealth? And, could Nader become a catalyst for such improvement? [Next week: Part 2]