Map of life expectancy at birth from Global Education Project.

Friday, August 07, 2009

The two-party system

Modern democracies typically have parties organized around various interest groups and/or principles. Parliamentary systems tend to have more than two parties with substantial representation. Parliamentary electoral systems that explicitly provide for proportional representation may have a dozen or more. In the U.S., however, because of the winner-take-all presidency, we're pretty much doomed to have two major parties struggling to get the bigger half of the wishbone.

Because political interests and beliefs aren't organized along a single dimension, however, the major parties are generally coalitions. For example, the Democratic Party for much of the 20th Century was an awkward coalition that included northern labor unions, northern and Pacific coast urban constituencies including what we today call African Americans and white ethnic voters, "enlightened" capitalists who believed a secure working class provided the most fertile ground for profit, and southern white supremacists. That coalition obviously fell apart in the 60s when Lyndon Johnson endorsed the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

From there the Republicans -- formerly the party of less enlightened capitalists, the petite bourgeois, and their dupes -- happily offered a new home to southern racists, and soon became the chosen vessel for an ascendant Christian extremist political movement. The unenlightened capitalists and petite bourgeois were happy to have the company since their own numbers are obviously too small to be competitive electorally. They need one or more scams to get people to vote against their own economic interest, and they found some good ones in the cultural divides that emerged so sharply in the '60s.

But it has gotten to the point now that the fundamental division between the parties in this country is the nature of reality. The Republican Party is the party of delusion and lies. There are real interest groups that finance it, but the powers behind the Republican party don't encourage public discussion of their true objectives and political beliefs, for the obvious reason that it would cause most people to vote against them.

Instead they encourage the fantasies of religious fanatics (see the previous post), they incite racist passions, and they spew outrageous lies, "the true goal of health care reform legislation is to murder your grandmother" being a particularly droll example. The denial of anthropogenic global warming, basic scientific facts concerning biology and cosmology, and simple stuff such as the depletion of U.S. oil reserves are the very foundation of their system of delusion. Since it would obviously be counterproductive to allow a reasoned discussion based on these "principles," they send howling, violent mobs to civic events to prevent any rational discourse from taking place, among other tactics.

The Fair and Balanced corporate media treat this antidemocratic, anti-rational movement that is trying to lead the country into the 13th Century with profound deference and total seriousness. That is because the wealthy people who own the corporate media are among the small clique that is behind the whole scam in the first place. To be honest, I never would have believed such a stew of idiocy and madness could possibly become a threat to the democratic order, such as it has been in this country, but there it is. This is truly dangerous. What are we going to do about it?


steph h. said...

It seems that people are getting wise to the Republican vitriol to a degree. Today I heard of a poll saying that while 29 states are solidly Democratic, only 4 can be considered solidly Republican (Utah, Wyoming, Idaho and Alaska). But as you said, the evil financial empire is calling the shots in the background (read Matt Taibbi's article on Goldman Sachs - the giant vampire squid wrapping its tentacles around the face of humanity) so the voices of reason are going to have to work hard to keep the truth alive.

Cervantes said...

It's true that they are a minority, but as you note, the insanity is well-financed and they aren't all that few in number either -- in nearly half the states, according to that polling, they are at least electorally competitive. And since they vote en bloc, turn out, and oh yeah, own the company that makes the electronic voting machines, they can still stay very close to state power.