The Not Quite Adventures of a Professional Archaeologist and Aspiring Curmudgeon

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Street Corner Politics

I was out on my usual lunch-time walk when a kid (well, he was in his early 20’s, anyway) with bad teeth approached me, and said “…….”

“Huh?” I inquired.


I stood, puzzled for a moment, wondering what he was trying to say. And then I had an idea, “Wait, let me remove my earphones.”

“Hi. CanIhaveamomentofyourtimetotalkwithyouabouttheDemocraticNationalCommitteeandtheirplantogetthiscountrybackontherighttrack?”

I stared at him blankly for a moment, and then suavely responded “The whatwiththewhowiththehow?”

“The Democratic National Committee – you can help them put the country back on the right track!”

Now, I am not a Republican. In fact, I will likely vote against the Republicans in the upcoming election (not specifically against McCain, though I suppose that that will be what the ballot looks like, but against the Republican party). But the fact that I am lucid enough to see the Republican party for the pack of imbeciles that they are doesn’t mean that I think that the Democrats are much better. Ironically, the only thing that makes the Democrats even marginally better is that they don’t have a strong enough leadership to make a large portion of them capable of the partisan denial of reality in unison the way that the Republican party does – instead, you get a cacophony of smaller semi-partisan denials of reality, meaning a less cohesive set of delusions that does a little bit less harm than a more coherent set of delusions. In other words, their one saving grace is their inept leadership, not exactly where you want to pin your hopes for the future.

So, while I don’t dislike the Democratic party as much as the Republican party, it seems to me that the notion that they are somehow going to get us on the “right track” is wholly laughable. In fact, anyone who thinks that any political party will get the country on the right track really oughta’ up their medications. The very nature of political parties seems to draw people who are more interested in reinforcing their own pre-existing notions (or in buying wholesale into someone else’s) and getting “one of our own” into a position of power by whatever means necessary than in actually, you know, solving problems by actually looking dispassionately at potential solutions. Yeah, I know, this isn’t always how it works out, or even always how it has been, but it sure seems to be the way they function in the contemporary U.S.

So, I looked at the fellow, and I asked “what makes you think that the Democratic National Committee is going to help matters?”

“Well, they can’t do any worse than the current administration.”

“Agreed. However, aren’t both parties screwing matters up, aren’t they both part of the problem? I mean, think about it, don’t they both tend to serve as little more than echo chambers that result in the same partisan rants ricocheting about and never really seeing solutions? Hell, isn’t that also what happens in the smaller parties – I mean, have you ever tried having a discussion with a Green or Libertarian about economics and the environment?” Or at least, I remember that being what I said. In reality it was probably less articulate, and may have involved me drooling on myself.

“Well, all that we have now is two parties, so that’s where we need to solve out problems.”

Okay, this attitude irritates me no end. The reason why we only have two parties is because large numbers of people, including large numbers of people who like neither of them, will only vote for these two because they don’t want to “waste a vote” – and as a result, two parties that are far more interested in partisan bickering and pushing agendas that have more to do with beating the other party than serving the nation are locked into place as the ruling parties in a country that is supposed to have no ruling party. In other words, these parties will not solve our problems – they ARE our problems. Actually, no, we the voters are the problem, because we put these people into power.

It’s really the prisoner’s dilemma writ large. Do you vote for the lesser evil (or, as I tend to think of it, AGAINST the greater evil) hoping to keep the worst possible scenario from happening? Or do you vote for someone else, knowing full well that they won’t get elected because everyone else is either voting for the lesser evil or delusional enough to think that their party is not a mess? Regardless, the solution is not to be found in the two parties, it is to be found by breaking free from the two party system. However, the fact that many people, including this young yutz, have resigned themselves to the two party system means that we probably won’t break free. We are, in all likelihood, thoroughly screwed in the long-term because our reliance on partisanship rather than critical thinking is spiraling us farther and farther away from reality*.

I just looked at him and said, “kid, the fact that we have only the two parties IS the problem, and that being the case, I fail to see how either party is going to solve the problem.”

He gave me his best you’re part of the problem, apathetic voter look, and said “well, have a good day” with as much venom as could be put into those words.

But I am not an apathetic voter. I am a very concerned citizen, I try to be aware of what is going on around me and around the world, and I try to vote as best I can based on this information. In fact, it seems to me to be the height of apathy to simply trust in a party and assume that they will solve everything. Passion riding on apathy’s back, who’d have thought?

*yes, yes, I tend to over-use the word “reality”, but whatcha’gonna’do?

1 comment:

Procrustes said...


I've been griping to no end about this for years. I despise the fact that we've purported to polarize every potential issue into two mutually spiteful parties, and then expect anything to get done.

What do you, in all honesty, think that a 5-party system would look like? Would something like that be feasible? Perhaps a 3-party system? Let me backtrack. Why does anyone even think we have a "two-party system"? We don't. There's nothing in the Constitution that says "Thou shalt have Republicans and Democrats in office only." And those parties have shifted significantly in their own platforms over the years.

I think we need to remove ourselves from this false perception that our system of government is a two-party system. It's a three-branched system with currently two primary political factions, neither of which have been particularly adept at running this country.

I sympathize. Your encounter shows that the prevalent mindset is polar, or, in rare cases of "independence," aggressively deviant (from the status quo of the same two parties, but not from the day-to-day political bs). And it shows that such people in that mindset are opposed to or afraid of critical analysis of all participants (not just the opposition).