What is wrong with our two-party system? A better question would be, “What is right with it?” November 4th is just around the corner, after which, according to the experts of punditry, both houses of Congress will be firmly in the hands of Republicans. This prospect makes the Restless Knight still more restless, and has, in fact, driven him back to this blog after a several month absence.
Most of the electorate is either too blind to notice our elected leaders in action (or should I say, inaction), too ignorant or too apathetic. Either excuse for allowing the status quo is, frankly, inexcusable.
For the upcoming election I’ve been practicing the craft of filling in a ballot and holding my nose at the same time. The differences between the party mascotted by an elephant and the one represented by an ass are too few to tally. Because of American election finance laws, unique among democracies, taking money from special interests is the only chance a candidate has of keeping up with the negative campaigning of his or her opponent. In my state of Florida, the airwaves are deluged with a constant barrage of campaign nastiness, although the words, “Governor Scott – too shady for the Sunshine State”, do have resonance.
I wish I could remember the name of the skeptic who said, and I’m paraphrasing, “the only difference between a dictatorship and American democracy is that we get one more ballot choice the than they do.”
Others have asked, “Why vote? It only encourages the bastards.”
A minority of Americans vote in so-called ‘off year elections’; a few more in Presidential contests. One reason for the shameful turnout vs. other democracies is our failure to become involved in the primary process, where the really important decisions are made. This lack of public participation lets the vested interests dictate those narrow choices that will appear on your ballot.
You have seen Nascar events where the participants display the logos of their supporters emblazoned on their uniforms. This leaves no doubt in the viewer’s mind which corporation is backing which driver. I know I’ve said this before, but elected officials should be forced to don similar patches on their clothing to indicate the special interests that want to see them succeed. Do you think it’s the spirit of democracy that makes them contribute? Or is it the donation of cash for the specific purpose of having that elected official support that corporation’s (or individual’s) agenda?
Both parties expend much energy narrowing the field of those participating in debates. You won’t see independents on the debate stage. Candidates must toe the line of their party’s ideology, or be excluded from the process. This allows you to hear what the parties want you to, and not what might be in our best interests. The process further damages the democratic process by limiting running choices. Candidates need lots of cash to be viable, and without party backing the odds of being competitive with the chosen ones are Slim and None, and Slim has already left town.
A Proposed Solution
Kickstarter is a funding platform to raise money for a specific cause, such as starting a business. As its name suggests, it ‘kickstarts’ a project by raising cash needed to launch whatever your project happens to be. The projectee “partners” with individuals and all benefit from the results IF the project succeeds. What if you knew of a potential candidate for political office, whose principles you share, but hasn’t the faintest chance of getting on a ballot due to what I mentioned above? Or if your ideals call out to you to run for office yourself, but you see the futility of attempting to be accepted by a major party, couldn’t ‘kickstarting’ be an obvious choice?
Why not kickstart a political campaign? If Growlerwerks can raise enough money to place fresh, cold, carbonated beer on the market, why can’t we launch the Presidential Campaign of a Bernie Saunders (one of the rare honest politicians), who has no chance to get party backing?
My thanks to Dan Carlin and his Common Sense podcast for planting this idea in my head.
If you have a better solution, the Restless Knight would love to hear from you.