A Two Party System – Two Horse Race
The United States’ political scenario is dominated by two “major” parties, the Democratic Party and the Republican Party. Our political environments is a duopoly (monopoly of two). Many voters will go to the polls in November believing they only have two choices. Our history show us that the overwhelming majority of the Presidential elections have been a two horse race. Why two?
The Democratic Party and the Republican Party secured their position as the duopoly by the mid 1800’s and further solidified it in the 1900’s. The Republican Party’s first presidential candidate was Abraham Lincoln, in 1860. The Democratic Party was founded in 1828 and held it’s first convention in 1832.
In 2016, the Democratic “horse” and the Republican “horse” will be the survivors of a too long, too expensive, too superficial and yet too overexposed process. The media’s coverage of the Presidential Primary is all the proof we need to confirm their dominance.
The media moderates and host the debates. They put world and national news behind their primary coverage, polls and results. The media’s coverage is for just two of the Political Parties. Why is our choice, for arguable the most powerful person in the world, “limited” to just two?
It may be helpful to understand the evolution of Presidential Party Politics. The Party is not a part of the government, it is a private corporation. Parties are not mentioned in the Constitution. A Party, faction, is contrary to the ideals of free independent thinking individuals that the Constitution promotes.
The Party has a political purpose. It’s purpose is to advance it’s ideals and the brand. The office of the President is the most visable and most powerful position to accomplish this goal. Why else would it cost billions of dollars?
The Songs of the Sirens – The Convention and The Primary
The Convention is a necessity. It acts as a gathering for the party members to nominate a candidate. It is the venue to declare it’s latest political policies, the Party’s platform. Finally ,the convention is a pregame pep rally to inspire the members to unite behind it’s chosen candidate
The primary is a tool used by only the two “major” parties. It is a measuring instrument used to determine the voter’s preference.
National Party leaders and the states political bosses were the only players in the early conventions. State party bosses controlled the party’s delegate selections. In the 1800’s the conventions were used to select the candidate and to unite the party members support behind it’s candidate. A lot of deal making took place behind closed doors and rank-and-file members had little say in the process.
During the Progressive movement in the early 1900s, several politicians began making demands for change. The voting members of the party became disenchanted with the Convention system. They felt left out and were not involved. They demanded more influence in determining it’s Presidential candidate.
In the late 1800’s a push for a primary process, popular vote, started and quickly expanded. The idea was that popular vote would determine it’s state delegates for the Convention. It was an attempt to promote popular opinion over the Party’s political machine.
In 1912, the muscle of the party bosses were flexed when former president Theodore Roosevelt challenged incumbent William Howard Taft. There were 10 states that held primaries. Roosevelt won nine primaries compared to Taft’s one and he captured over 40 percent of the delegates. Despite this, Taft won the nod of the party bosses and got the nomination.
In response to the bosses power move, more states began to adopt primaries and caucuses. The Primary system did empower the voters with a voice but the bosses still held the trump card. The state primaries were viewed as an “advisory,” a “beauty contest,” or, in the case of many caucuses, “a straw polls”. They were to gauge the candidates popularity, but were not necessarily key to getting a nomination.
As much as the process changed it remained the same. The political elite were still in control when it came to selecting the “Party Nominee”. This became very clear in 1952 when the Republican Party nominated Eisenhower over Taft. Then again, in 1968 when Humphrey was nominated by the Democrate Party.
At the 1968 Democratic National Convention Vice President Hubert Humphrey won the nomination over Eugene McCarthy after not running in a single state primary. The call for reform came and the Democratic Party lead the way. The Republicans also did their version of this dance.
Reform of 1974 and the 1980’s
The reform of 1974 was aimed to bring uniformity to the delegate selection process and to give greater influence to the “marginal voice”. The reform was aimed at more representation of women, minorities and young people. This they felt would limit the power of the bosses.
The 1972 Democratic primary was the first campaign of the “modern” era. The results of the reform was the nomination of US Senator McGovern as the Democratic Candidate. McGovern lost in a landslide to Nixon, 49 state to one. Then 1976, in the wake of Nixon’s Watergate scandal, when any Democrat could have been elected, the Democrats nominated Jimmy Carter.
Both McGovern and Carter were not the favorite of the bosses. Carter did not do well as President and in 1980 he was steamrolled by Ronald Reagan. Reagan won 44 states to Carter’s six. This time the bosses called out for reform.
The 1984 reforms brought on the age of the superdelegate. The influence of the Party elite was fortified. The superdelagate was just the remedy for the political bosses. The Republican party has their own version of delegate control.
Reform gave the Party leverage to create a more stable and predictable nominating process that favors the mainstream candidates that endorses Party policies. In reality, they exist “to make sure that party leaders and elected officials don’t have to be in a position where they are running against grass-roots activists.”
Battleground Cleveland and Philadelphia
Sometimes the unexpected happens. The Party is caught by surprise. Outsiders like Trump and Sanders sudden appear. They are able to sneak in adroitly and dodge the Party’s barriers. Trump mainly due to his personal financing and Sanders mainly due to a void left to oppose a dishonest and unlikable Party favorite, a grass-roots candidate.
Both Trump and Sanders are in conflict with the political “mainsteam”. Their conflict may culminate with an outright battle for power at this years convention. The political elite and the party’s candidates, versus the outsider and their supporters. The outcome will most likely generate more cries for reform.
More Reform! – “You can’t shine shit”
When I as a younger man I worked for a mason as a laborer. One day we were short a bricklayer. I was put on the line to help build a wall, to lay brick. I struggled and lost a lot of production time by redoing and trying to fix my work.
The foreman noticed my lack of production. As I was trying to make my section of wall look good, he approached. “What I was doing?”. I told him I was trying to make it look good. His response is a saying that has stuck with me for over 40 years.”Son, you can’t shine shit!”
Reform is not the answer to a corrupted two party system. The solutions is to expand the number of choices.
Most casual observers have been persuaded to believe that only two parties offer a viable vote for the Presidency. For 62 years I have been a victim of this propaganda. Our political field needs to be expanded to a third party, a forth party and maybe even a fifth party candidate. Wait they exist!. Why are we unaware of the other parties, the “minor” parties? Why do we feel it would be throwing a vote away?
One major advantage in a monopolistic system is that the Duopoly owns the promoters, the media. The promoters ensure that the customers are not aware that they can go elsewhere.
There is a need for more diversity in political ideals. The Duopoly does not offer a choice. Both parties promote a large hostile government, with an out of control spending habit and employ worldwide imperialistic intervention. These are policies, as a Patriot, I can not support. Quite frankly, they embarrass me.
It’s a difficult task to battle a two-headed monster. There are many embedded obstacles to hurdle just to get to the battlefield. In the next blog these obsticles will be examined.