In Reponse to “BET Founder …” – the Nature of the Two Party State

“Good points…perhaps blacks would vote other than democrat if the alternative wasn’t republican.” – Jefe

The above was a comment to our earlier post “BET Founder Decries High Unemployment, Lacks Basic Understanding of Civics” by an old friend, Jefe. Normally I’d just respond in the comments section, but I think Jefe’s point opens up to a discussion of the nature of our two party system and it’s various “successes” – a term I use very tongue-in-cheek. The system is successful at meeting its own goals.

Just to recap, BET founder Bob Johnson recently lamented high unemployment amongst blacks in America (understandable). He noted (rightly, I think) that the country would vote people out of office if nationwide unemployment were 15%, but then then failed to grasp that politicians have little incentive to address 15% unemployment amongst blacks because there is no doubt about which way they will vote in the next election.

To this, Jefe notes that the “other” choice is not good either, a point with which I certainly agree. What then shall we do?

In modern democratic systems (and I suppose those from antiquity too) one needs to form a coalition to get to a majority. Sometimes this means cobbling together a couple of big groups (social conservatives and fiscal conservatives), and sometimes it means cobbling together a whole bunch of small groups (various minorities, animal rights activists and other crusaders, and college kids that don’t know any better). For a while it can all hold together on the “feel good” sensation of being in power. But eventually, these special interest groups want to have their way, so you have to start bribing them. The trouble is, it gets hard to bribe that many people at the same time without making a total mess – there’s only so much to go around.

If you can’t possibly dole out enough goodies in the form of favorable legislation, the next obvious step is fear. You have to promote the lesser-of-two-evils argument … with the other guy being an unrelenting terror. Don’t get me wrong, there is logic to the lesser-of-two-evils argument. We have yet to find a perfect candidate. But the point of this argument is misdirection. If I can get you focused on the flaws (real or perceived)  of my opponent, you will be less focused on my flaws (mostly real).

From the Right, the argument tends to go like this: “Democrats want to legalize everything that’s immoral, outlaw religious dissent, confiscate all firearms, end free elections, indoctrinate your kids, and subjugate us all to the United Nations.” From the Left it takes a slightly different form: “Republicans want to end civil rights, put blacks back in slavery, imprison homosexuals, start a war every three years, and take all the money and give it to the wealthy.” Now, I suspect you can find people Left and Right who actually agree with just about any of these individual statements, but you’d be hard-pressed to find anybody who agrees with them all. Regardless, the lesser-of-two-evils argument often removes any possibility of crossover voting, especially for the political fringes.

What shall we do then? How do we get beyond the current dysfunctional government? Principled people of all walks who want to see positive change are stuck voting for politicians that they don’t like, because the other guy might be worse (and he might be).

For their part, conservatives have already started to respond. When George W. Bush “sacrificed free market principles to save the free market” conservatives began a revolt, most commonly know as the Tea Party. Tired of Republicans governing like big-government liberals, the conservatives said “enough is enough” and started scuttling the establishment. Along the way they have taken down quite a few establishment incumbents. To be sure, they have also lost otherwise winnable elections to the Democrats. But a line had to be drawn and the Tea Party has done so.

Is there a counterpart to this movement on the left? When Barack Obama hands hundreds of billions of dollars to the banking class, is there opposition from the Left? When inner cities languish with horrible education systems for decades is there any opposition from the Left? (When Bill Clinton seduces a nineteen-year-old intern is there opposition from the Left?) Or are the coalition partners on the Left so fearful that dissent might give an opening to the “other guy” (that despicable band of miscreants from the other side of the aisle) that they will tolerate any violation of principle to keep power?

The Right has answered this challenge in some small part. No, the conservatives are not yet enough to overwhelm the Republican establishment – but they are getting closer. (Rand Paul 2016!) Is there a similar move from the Left? Is there a revolt from the inner cities demanding change from the Democrats, demanding outcomes (and throwing the bums out when it doesn’t happen)? Not yet, from what I can tell. No, thus far the diversionary tactics of “the other guy is the devil” has been sufficient to keep the masses in line. But there is always hope. These things take time.

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