Joyce L. Arnold: Liberal, lesbian, Independent, equality activist, writer.
This will be a bit different from earlier posts in this series, in that I’m mostly going to provide excerpts from a few recent articles and essays. Two reasons: one, real life responsibilities are requiring some extra time. And two, because I think it can be helpful, to consider the thoughts of a few of the many people writing about our two party system: it gives us an idea of the bigger context within which 2012 is unfolding.
A Washington Post, September 26 article by Greg Sargent has received a lot of attention. He writes “The bogus ‘third party’ dodge”:
Calling for a third party is a quick and easy way to get yourself booked for a round of cable TV appearances. But many of those calling for a third party are refusing to reckon with an inconvenient fact: One of the two parties already occupies the approximate ideological space that these commentators themselves are describing as the dream middle ground that allegedly can only be staked out by a third party.
That party is known as the ‘Democratic Party,’ and it already holds many of the positions these commentators want a third party to espouse.
I’m open to the claim that the Democratic Party has failed to do a few of the things these commentators would like to see a major party undertake. But I’d argue it’s still incumbent on them to at least acknowledge and reckon with the fact that Dems are far closer than the GOP to filling the fabled ideological middle – as they themselves define it – that supposedly necessitates the need for a brave third party candidate to articulate a third way.
Quick thought: straw man argument.
Next, a September 25 post from Matt Miller, also at the Washington Post, “Why we need a third party”:
So here’s where we are. Our president calls himself ‘a warrior for the middle class’ because he’s campaigning for a plan that might add 2 million new jobs next year at a time when 25 million Americans who want full-time work can’t find it.
If that’s war, what would surrender look like?
Meanwhile, Republican zealots apparently feel that if they can’t cut 0.04 percent of the budget in the next few days they’d rather shut down the government. The party’s presidential candidates boast that a 10-to-1 ratio of spending cuts to tax increases isn’t good enough on a long-term debt deal – even though we’re about to double the number of seniors on Social Security and Medicare.
Why should we have to choose between timid half-measures and anti-tax fanaticism? Why doesn’t the president propose measures equal to the scale of our challenges? Why can’t Republicans acknowledge demography or math?
Three reasons, mainly. First, both parties’ chief aim is to win elections, not solve problems. Second, both parties are prisoner to interest groups and ideological litmus tests that prevent them from blending the best of liberal and conservative thinking. Finally, neither party trusts us enough to lay out the facts and explain the steps we need to take to truly fix things.
Quick thought: he actually addresses the failures of both parties, the contributions each make to our current status quo system. He makes a similar point in a September 9 article, “The third-party stump speech we need”:
This is one columnist’s stab at what a candidate might sound like if he or she were trying to appeal to the majority of voters in the middle of the electorate who feel both parties are failing us.
My fellow alienated Americans: …
I’m running for president as an independent because we need to change the debate if we’re going to change the country. Neither of our two major parties has a strategy for solving our biggest problems; they have strategies for winning elections, which isn’t the same thing.
Finally, a non-third party focus, from David Atkins, in a Hullabaloo, September 26 post, “Rewarding Good Rhetoric”:
I’ve written before about the need for serious political activists to use reward-and-punishment models for the behavior of Democratic politicians … .
But the reality is that from now until November 2012, the President is not going to be able to accomplish much of anything in the legislative arena. The Republicans simply won’t allow him to claim any sort of legislative victory, no matter how small.
Which means that all the President really has at his disposal is rhetoric. And thankfully, that rhetoric has been far more aggressive as of late.
Is that a political ploy to win back the progressive base? Probably. But what of it? First of all, rhetoric matters. When the President speaks, the people listen. And if the President is telling the progressive story in an aggressive way, that itself constitutes action in its own way.
But more importantly, at this point, rhetoric is almost all we have to judge the President by. When it comes to direct action, the Republican House is essentially tying his hands.
Quick thought, or two: First. the “it’s the Republican’s fault” argument is getting very old. Yes, they’ve expended great efforts to make Obama a one-termer, and should be held accountable, but Obama’s decisions and strategies are his responsibility.
Second, the “wait until after this election” argument is getting even older. Tied to the “lesser evil” and “you have nowhere else to go” spins, it helps keep us where the Two Party Front for the Oligarchy, that tiny little group at the top and in charge, is most comfortable – at their mercy. Such as it is.
Your thoughts, quick or extended?
( Photo via ThinkProgress )