Thursday, November 11, 2010
Politics, Part II
Conservative vs Liberal, Or Why the Two Party System Blows
In essence, my problem boils down to the fact that our two main parties, Democrats and Republicans, are inconsistent in their interpretation of accepted philosophies. I've examined many, many political spectrum charts and definitions in an attempt to place myself somewhere on the political map. I always end up in the middle, agreeing half with one side and half with the other. Thus I don't feel at home in either camp.
What I really wish is that I could vote on issues rather than candidates. I love the last part of the ballot where all the referendum questions and amendments are given to the public for their consideration. It's the only part of the ballot where I feel my voice is truly heard.
I don't have that option, though. The parties choose how they feel about a given issue, which forces me to support things I don't support. Democrats, for example, are supposed to favor government regulation of the economy, but allow for a range of personal freedoms. Except that they don't allow for freedom of religion, consistently regulating and monitoring what religious groups are able to say/do and where they are able to say/do it, and they spend a great deal of effort trying to regulate the social aspects of the economy, such as how many minorities a business has to hire, whether they must provide health insurance, etc etc. They also willfully ignore the medical evidence that shows a developing fetus is a person, and deny the unborn their most basic freedom: life.
Republicans are supposed to favor a smaller government, except when it comes to law enforcement and moral order. They do plenty of regulation, though, especially when it comes to protecting business and the market from pesky things like justice or transparency. What this does, in effect, is to create a system where as long as you have enough money, you are above the law. To me, that doesn't create a very moral social order, nor does it allow for much movement or interaction between the classes, which is the key to equality, opportunity, and prosperity.
I can't put a Republican in charge without worrying what they're going to enact to hurt our country, and I can't put a Democrat in charge without worrying the same thing. Every now and then we get an option to vote for a third party candidate, but instead of bringing us a new option, they tend to be more extreme versions of the Republican or Democratic candidate. When they do present a different tactic, it's never the one that fits with my beliefs. Libertarians, for example, favor NO government regulation of anything. That's not what I want! And while I have proudly voted for a third party candidate whose philosophies and character I believed in, that wasn't an option for me on this last ballot because there weren't any third party candidates in most of the races.
The thing is, most of the US is like me: committed to neither party, vacillating back and forth, making their final decision based on one or two major issues facing the country in that particular election. Because so many of us change our party vote with each election, and because there is no overlap between the philosophies of the two parties, every two to four years the entire philosophy of the country's government gets turned on its head. Why does every politician talk about the importance of bi-partisanship, and then refuse to make the compromises necessary to achieve it? Party politics. I read once that the two party system is ideal because when you have two extremes, they fight it out and arrive somewhere in the middle, which is probably where the truth lies. I personally disagree with that assessment. What seems to happen is that one side imposes laws, and the other side refuses to fund them. Or one side pushes something through, and the other side enacts a bunch of restrictions to strangle it. Perhaps our Founding Fathers meant for discussion and compromise to be the order of government, but it has not worked out that way. Like a kid shunted between divorced parents, we are treated to a confusing mix of rules and standards that leave us not knowing what works, and with all our problems only partially addressed.
It's hard to know what the answer is. Those countries who have had the most success are those countries that are the most homogenous, like Japan and Finland, whose governments impose a single identity upon all the people. America is a melting pot of diverse races, religions, and cultures. Each State is radically different in climate, resources and character. Trying to unify this mass of individual preferences into a codified philosophy is a Sisyphean task. I honestly don't know if it can be done, or even if it should. I wouldn't want to live beneath the yoke of unrelenting nationalism. Although our current system doesn't exactly offer me a voice, either. After all, 51% makes a majority, even though that leaves an almost equal number of people completely pissed off and disenfranchised.
I care very deeply about politics and the role of government in our lives. I'm not happy with what we currently have going on in this society. We have an entrenched two party system, neither of whom offers me what I consider a workable option to make it better. So how am I supposed to vote?