Democracy is the greatest political system in the world, but sometimes we need to be reminded to use it responsibly. It is a system where every person gets the opportunity to cast a ballot to decide some of the most complex and multi-faceted issues in our society. And although the issues behind the ballots are complex and multi-faceted, the decisions we face in the voting booth are fairly black and white. We are usually only given two choices.
Like, should I vote ‘yes’ or ‘no’ on Proposition X? Or, would candidate A or B be a better choice?
The reason that our country has been stuck with two choices and two parties for so long is inherent in the way that our constitution was set up. Although the founding fathers seemed to have hated the notion of political parties, they didn’t really do a hell of a lot to stop them. The system they set up to elect Congressional representatives is called a single-member district plurality system. That means the candidate in each district who receives the most votes becomes the representative, and everyone else gets nothing (duh, I know). And even if one particular party could gets 15% of the entire nation’s vote, yet didn’t win a plurality in any single district, they would win 0% of the seats. This phenomena, known in the Political Science field as Duverger’s Law, is the reason why third parties fail to succeed in our country, and that we seem to be doomed to a two-party system.
But why is a two-party system bad?
Apart from the whole “lack of choices” thing, the real reason that a two party system is bad is that it seems to create a very strong “Us vs. Them” vibe. Think about it like this: Pretend you live in a magical country called Democramerica, full of rainbows and healthy multi-party competition in which six equally strong parties fought for power in every election. At a political debate between each of six parties’ candidates, Candidate A takes a slanderous jab at candidate B. Although he succeeds in making Candidate B look bad, he also takes a hit to his public image for resorting to negative tactics. This is a problem for Candidate A because, although B is out of the picture, he still has to worry about looking better the other four.
Gosh, but what if Candidate A didn’t have to worry about being better than four other candidates? What if the country he lived in had a two-party dominant system?!? Would these tactics produce better results, and eventually become the norm in political discourse?
They can, and they do. The main point here is that in any form of political discourse involving a two-party system, whether it be from TV talking heads, electoral debates, or casual conversations, discrediting the opposition party becomes as effective a strategy as validating your own.
Are you saying we can’t point out flaws in the opposition party? Isn’t that one half of what discourse is?
Yes, but usually it is the only “half” we examine. People naturally feel the need to justify and rationalize most of the choices they make in their lives, and naturally we do so with voting. And thanks to our two-party system, the best way for someone to rationalize their ballot choices is either to point out the good aspects of their side, or the bad aspects of the other. We seem to ignore rational ideas when they point out how our position could be negative and how the other side’s could be positive.
But there is nothing negative about my political beliefs. The policies I advocate for will only do the most good for all of the people. The only reason that some people support the opposing party is because they are ignorant fools who have been indoctrinated or are unable to see the truth. I am always right and no other opinions have validity.
No, not really.
So- there are valid and invalid parts to every side’s arguments, and, due to each individual’s different valuation of certain morals and beliefs, opposition to my own beliefs does not in any way imply ignorance or irrationality.
So should we all just sit in a circle, hold hands, and pretend all of the world’s problems will just dissolve into nothingness during the last chorus of “Kumbaya”?
No, but we should stop being such jerks to one another.
Washington is in the midst of horrible gridlock, and its resonating across the nation. We need our government to get their act together as soon as possible and it starts with the people. If we keep using vitriolic and one-sided dialogue in chatrooms and newsrooms, and turn to ideology instead of common sense, the parties will continue to be more and more polarized.
The idea of being Radically Moderate is one that truly is radical because it requires one to do something completely contrary to our nature: to acknowledge rationality in your opponent’s reasoning and admit any irrationalities in your own. The world is way too complicated for one’s person’s perspective to be the “right” one, and oftentimes we miss things along the way.
The point of this blog is to explore and explain a multitude of social and political issues that polarize our world every day. These could be recent/important events and decisions or issues that have been discussed and debated for years. I will attempt to be completely impartial, and while my opinion will definitely shine through, so will the other side’s. I encourage anyone and everyone to challenge or expand on anything discussed here, and hope this serves to expand my understanding as much as anyone else’s.
- Michael Clauw