America's One and One-half Party System

I remember vividly, and painfully, a discussion I had on Columbus Day 2002, one day after the Senate had given Bush, by a vote of 77-23, the power to conduct war as he pretty damn well pleased, thus assuring the Iraq invasion, and the inhumanity that such war would bring. The House had voted a few hours earlier, also giving the White House its vote of confidence, 296-133.

Republicans had cast their votes for empire and their Cesar… and so had about half of the Democrats, including its leadership (Daschle and Gephardt).

I was outraged by the easy surrender of a thoughtless Senate, but not my client-friend. Calmly, for my benefit, he condensed the foreign component of American politics in a simple phrase: “When it comes to international issues affecting all of us,” he said, “we expect our politicians not to vote Republican or Democrat, but to vote American.”

As stunned as I was at the horrible simplicity coming out of an otherwise intelligent and caring man, I had little choice but to accept the premise that such thinking was probably in sync with that of most Americans. Perhaps there are many and sundry reasons for this type of reasoning, but the most visible culprit in my view is our half-baked system of politics: a splendid system on paper, with checks and balances in place… yet, a system that melts down in practice, becoming one that is neither democratic nor populist; and definitely, not progressive.

Is reform needed? I believe not. It isn’t reform that is needed, but a major overhaul: one that could get this nation closer to democracy and humanity, and away from empire-building and insensitive behavior toward other nations/peoples.

For years I’ve been echoing Ralph Nader’s portrayal of the nation’s duopoly system. To me, the choices offered by Republicans and Democrats always had the percussive sounds offered by a rattle… played by either of Lewis Carroll’s characters, Tweedledum or Tweedledee. A few variant notes in domestic policy, perhaps, but not one discordant note in foreign policy. But neither Dum nor Dee was capable of pointing a way out of the woods for Alice, and neither Democrats nor Republicans can lead America away from of its flawed domestic and foreign policies; particularly after the mess that the Bush administration has placed the country in.

This week, Americans had yet another example of this ideological split in Democratic Party ranks when once again almost half of them sided with Republicans to stop the filibuster requested by the two senators from Massachusetts. A last hurrah, not just to stop a nominee to the Supreme Court, Samuel Alito, from confirmation… but something considerably more important: the irrevocable transformation of the judicial branch of government for one, perhaps two generations.

Just as it happened in 2002, when Sen. Byrd called for a filibuster to prevent dictatorial war powers for Bush, and his plans for Iraq, there was an identical 75-25 vote sending the filibuster to defeat: yet another reason to send into the confines of mythology the idea that ours is a two-party political system. The later vote by anti-filibuster Democrats against Alito’s confirmation was but face-saving demagoguery after a cowardly surrender.

Tuesday, January 31, 2006 is a day that forever will live with us in notoriety. Not only did the Democrats capitulate by helping Alito get confirmed; but also a day when America’s celebrated economics’ wizard, Greenspan, retired with full honors, and given a “20-gun salute” by Wall Street. And, this eventful day was capped by Bush delivering his annual speech, authorship unknown, of Lies and Platitudes for the Union.

Time shall prove that Americans will be ill-served by the new direction of the Supreme Court; and time shall also prove that the accolades Greenspan received were misplaced on this guru of gobbledygook, when our de-bubbled economy shows its real face.

And, as for the platitudes and lies delivered by Bush to the nation, little can be said that hasn’t already been said. Wrong on the economy! Wrong on Middle East policy! Wrong on cures and remedies proposed! And criminally wrong on the wars!

The political system in this United States is not alive and well; not when those who play the political game are dependent on alms from the corporate world, and other special interests, to get elected. Not when people are represented in Congress by politicians with slightly different shades of the same point of view. Not when political math gives the irrational inequality that one party plus one party makes one and one-half party.

Let’s not fool ourselves anymore; it’s not two parties we have, just one and one-half.