November 3rd, 2010

Me

Election 2010: Rearranging the Deck Chairs On the Titanic

Yesterday we in the U.S. had our midterm elections. At stake were several governorships, and seats in the House of Representatives and the Senate.

It should come as no surprise that a lot of Americans are in an anti-incumbent mood. It's a holdover from the 2008 elections (and, in some ways, even from the 2006 midterms). People are fed up with politicians, as much as they ever have been. (There's a paradox at work here, though, where voters demand bipartisan cooperation of their elected leaders in order to get things done, but then tend to vote out anyone they don't see as strictly loyal to their party. But that's a topic for another time.) Still, many Americans were faced with an untenable choice: Vote to keep their corrupt/disappointing/do-nothing/fill-in-the-problem incumbents, or elect someone from a political party that most voters claim to still despise for their arrogance and corruption.

That was literally the only choice a lot of people had. And so, many of them held their noses and voted for the political party they'd roundly fired from the job a mere four years ago. They essentially rearranged the deck chairs on Titanic, but everyone knows, deep down inside, the ship is still sinking.

Oddly enough, it wasn't quite the anti-Democrats landslide the pundits were hoping would drive their ratings. Sure, the Republicans took back the House, but with Democrats still in charge of the Senate and the Presidency, I would hardly call this a power majority. Nor was this the Tea Party prom some were expecting. Quite a few high profile candidates backed by the Tea Party didn't win. Christine O'Donnell was defeated handily in Delaware. Joe Miller may not take Alaska. Heck, Harry Reid even beat Sharron Angle in Nevada, in he's hardly the most popular boy at the dance. Still, with that said, the Republicans are expected to pick up 60 or more seats in the House, and that's the largest swing since 1948, so it's an historical outcome nonetheless.

But the ship is still sinking. Everyone knows it.

This is what happens when you've got a two-party system. Voters who were upset with their elected officials could only choose to keep those same officials in office or vote for someone from a party many of them still despise. There were no other viable choices. No other parties or candidates to choose from except for the usual fringe loonies we see from time to time. Hell, most of the other parties you see on your ballots are, more often than not, merely sock puppets of the Big Two. The Conservative Party usually runs the same candidate as the Republicans. The Working Families Party usually runs the same candidate as the Democrats. How is that giving us a real choice?

In New York, we were asked to vote for State Supreme Court justices. We were instructed that we could vote for any four candidates. Except there were only four names on the ballot, and each of them ran as Republican, Democrat, Conservative and Independence Party simultaneously. How the hell do you wind up the candidate for every party? Only the Working Families candidates were different from the others. Guess which ones I voted for? But still, how can this even remotely be considered giving the electorate a wide variety of political philosophies to choose from?

The way I see it, this vicious cycle of voting in one party, becoming disillusioned, voting in the other party, becoming disillusioned, returning to the first party, etc., won't end until we do one of two things. The first option is to develop a viable third party (and fourth party, and fifth...). The Green Party is the closest we've come so far, but no one's going to truly consider them a viable party until they stop running ridiculous candidates. (Reverend Billy for Mayor? He's a great performance artist, but seriously, no.) The other option is to eliminate political parties altogether in the hopes that politicians may actually start doing the work of the people instead of the work of the party. Our Founders were against political parties from the start because they knew that strict party loyalty is a cancer on the vital organs of democracy. It turns democracy into little more than a team sport where it doesn't matter how heinous, ignorant, corrupt or hypocritical the candidate is, all that matters is whether he's one of "our guys." Take a look at today's political climate. Turns out our Founders were spot on.

Anyway, my congrats to those who won yesterday and my condolences to those who lost. The good thing about abolishing one-party majority rule is that more tends to get accomplished when all the elected officials feel their voices are being heard. I'm not holding my breath for bipartisan cooperation in this political climate, but I'm always open to being pleasantly surprised.