The headline is simple: 2016 is the beginning of the end of the two party duopoly in the United States.
As stated in an earlier column, when a duopoly brings to market the two least respected and liked “products” in history, it is no longer functional and responsive. More on what 2020 might look like a bit later.
We continue a look into the future through the outcome of the presidential election. Last column I discussed the first piece of low hanging fruit, main- stream media. In this column we look at the other low hanging fruit, the Republican and Democratic parties.
In a tip of the hat to Paul Simon, the Democrats are having their “where have you gone Joe Dimaggio, our nation turns it lonely eyes to you” moment. Lefty grandpa had a brilliant, uplifting moment in the sun, but he didn’t make it. The veracity challenged woman with a resume is gone, done in by her inability to get out of her own way, and good old Joe is just that, old. The average age of the Democratic Washington leaders is around 76, the average age of the retirement homes in Florida, where I live.
The party has become tone deaf to people across the country, listening to only people espousing political correctness within the east coast west coast bubble. The election results clearly show that increasingly the majority of elected party officials are bi-coastal. Midwest, working class whites were forgotten, or worse, dismissed. Regardless of his intellect or policy positions, to have progressives lobby for a black Muslim man to lead the party continues this tone deafness to optics at a time when the Trump victory can be solidly attributed to white, working class, formerly Democratic voters. Being policy pure and politically correct takes precedence over winning.
The party needs two things to right itself: a cohesive, uplifting vision for America with an emphasis on economic revitalization, and charismatic leaders. There seems to be a number of emerging figures in California but, again, the Democratic Party is where it is today because they have lost the flyover states and left local and state organized effort to the Republican Party.
The Republican Party, thinking they are united and in control are having a kumbaya moment. That will not last. The targets that candidate Trump raged against in many cases are entities that have their hands deep into the pockets of congressional Republicans. The read of the president-elect from this viewer is that he cares more about himself than toeing the line of the party. After all, he annihilated all comers who toed the party line. He has set up the contradiction of being the change agent for all the angry ‘throw the bums out’ voters and being the head of the party in power in D.C., the bums he railed against. He will either create discord within the party or with the voters whose votes he rode to power. Expect conflict.
The End of the Two Party System
2016 was the year when the two party system showed up broken, out of touch, visionless and drunk with money. The duopoly gave us the two least liked products in its history. Whenever a duopoly fails customers, it opens the door to new competitors.
Americans are fed up, with poll after poll showing the public’s disgust with the two parties. Increasingly the words of the founding fathers are being quoted. Here is John Adams:
There is nothing which I dread so much as a division of the republic into two great parties, each arranged under its leader, and concerting measures in opposition to each other. This, in my humble apprehension, is to be dreaded as the greatest political evil under our Constitution.
The United States is the oldest major democracy in the world and the only one with just two parties. This two party system is so entrenched that a newly elected congressman or senator must declare whether they will caucus with the Republicans or Democrats if they want to get on any committees. This is the foundation of political partisanship. It corrupts democracy and the voice of the people by insisting on an us or them choice.
People wanted change in 1980, 2008 and 2016 so they voted out the party in power. No matter what you want as a voter, your choice is a binary one.
Would we have had the recent government shut downs if 10% of the House and Senate seats had been held by a third party? I don’t think so.
For years I have opined that the United States has not yet had a woman president because of the two party system. Every woman leader in recent times has been elected in a multi-party democracy. Golda Meir, Margaret Thatcher, Angela Merkel, Indira Gandhi, Benazir Bhutto all came to power in multi-party democracies.
So many of the ills of American Democracy in the 21st century can be laid at the feet of the two party system.
What Might the Election Landscape look like in 2020?
Logic suggests that there will be three parties. A progressive party, a right wing party and a party of the middle. Reality in the world today suggests four parties, the three just mentioned plus a smaller single -issue party such as an environmental party or a nativism party. This is the most common democratic reality around the world today.
The words left and right, liberal and conservative are 20th century words that seem to have no meaning in this century. So even our language limits us to a false duality. The huge issues of today; climate change, racism, immigration, wealth inequality, transformative technological breakthroughs and extreme poverty cannot be truly solved by looking through the lens an out of date duality.
The universe is infinite, so any duality to describe it- right or wrong, good or bad, ying or yang, left or right -are just constructs to help the human mind grope for meaning and identity. That is reality in the largest sense. Between now and 2020 it will begin to be reflected in the creation of a multi-party democracy in America. It will be difficult, but it will come to pass.