American political duopoly (part 2 of 3)

Any claim to the existence of a two-party system in the United States is treated by my non-American cyber friends with ridicule or disdain. Republicans and Democrats are tufts, they say, of the same mane, twisted to make the perfect monopolistic braid. That is why there can be little social progress in our country or a shift in our biased foreign policy, they claim. Defining one of the parties as conservative and the other as progressive or liberal is nonsensical to them. Both parties are seen as floats marching on a consumer parade, on a one-way street… always to the Right-of-center, regardless of the politicians’ right-left preferences.

If eighty percent of our registered electorate congregate in this Right-of-center temple where our political candidates are expected to go and pray (or prey) it does leave little room for any politics of change. So what is a candidate who sees the need for social change to do in order to get elected?

For starts, it would help immensely if he insisted on playing the political card-game with a fresh, not a stacked deck. The composition of the current electorate, those who register and ultimately cast ballots, is but a stacked deck.

Of the approximate 217 million residents of voting age, 195 million would probably qualify to register by virtue of their American citizenship and other state requirements. Yet, fewer than 110 million make up the current electorate. What about the other 85 million? Truth be said, 15 million of them probably don’t care. But the other 70 million do care, although most feel marginalized, remaining on the sidelines.

These 70 million potential voters are the ones left behind: the poor, the idealists, the politically-embittered because of racial or other social issues, and the many unmotivated young. They are the ones who stare at you with incredulity when you talk about America as the land of opportunity and justice for all. Some are proud, some are meek; some are young, some are old; some live on hope, others have lost all hope… but most are, or can be, productive members of society, not just in economic but in social and political terms. That is, if we dare let them, include them in the proverbial American dream.

Any progressive candidate with both a heart and a brain would recognize a wealth of political power in this now dormant, potential vote. Until now, Democrats have done very little to tap this vote source… perhaps thinking that any all-out effort in showing a more humane face will net them a loss from those voting in the so-called center.

Since 1960, which saw a peak in voter participation during the Kennedy-Nixon election, we have seen almost a 20% participation drop, at a time when issues have actually demanded greater political involvement. Unquestionably, a great number of people feel discarded, social and economic lepers within our society.

Perhaps Nader can become the Pied Piper for 10-30 million new voters, among the marginalized 70 million, who will hitch their railcars to the Democratic train to get two things done. One: to deny Bush, for the second time, election to an office for which he is culturally, mentally and compassionately challenged… and do it convincingly this time, so that the Supreme Court need not intervene. The other, and just as important: to carve once again in the Democratic Party a much-needed social conscience.

A two-front approach, with Nader commanding one flank of the anti-Bush army, may bring America an acceptable form of duopoly that it so desperately needs. Can Nader win the trust of a few of those millions turned-off by the current American body politic? And, is the Democratic Party ready to be redefined as the party of the all-inclusive progressive center, and not continue to be a Republican affiliate, Right-of-center? Or will it be better, and more lasting, to give birth to a third party… one of hope, even at the risk of keeping Robbing Hood in the White House for another four years? [Next week: part 3]