Friday, November 18, 2011

What happens to the people in the middle?

I don’t consider myself to be either a republican or a democrat because both of these parties have become radical in their own ways.  You can’t be conservative and think that some social programs have merit, nor can you be liberal and think that the US needs a strong military.  If you believe that humans have had an effect on the environment, you are a pariah to the loot/pillage/rape party.  You can either want to explore alternate energy options, or you can believe that oil will last forever.  You either have to be hard right or left; there is no middle ground anymore.

Even though everyone knows that there are only two political parties in the US, on paper there are a surprising number – approximately 48 are registered in some way.  Here is the best list I could find.

Now, some of these are just completely whacko, but you be the judge:
  • World Socialist Party of the USA – based on utopian Marxism
  • Revolutionary Communist Party USA – based on the teachings of Chairman Mao
  • Pansexual Peace Party – based on Wiccanism
  • Canary Party – based on healthcare reform
  • Prohibition Party – based on ultra-conservative Christianity
  • Objectivist Party – based on Ayn Rand’s philosophy
  • American Nazi Party – based on, well you know, Naziism

Of the current 112th congress, out of the 100 senators 51 are Dems, 47 are Reps, and 2 are Independent (that’s 2% for the math challenged).  In the house, of the 435 seats 242 are R, 192 are D, and one seat is vacant which means there are zero other parties (0%, keep up!).

So what is a middle-of-the-roader to do?  You can believe, if you want, that your (hopefully) moderate representative will vote moderately, but it usually doesn’t work that way.  If they want to get reelected they have to stay in good standing with the party, and the only way to do that is to vote the party line.  I can’t believe that everyone in the country is divided along the party lines.  Where are those of you that are in the middle?

I, personally, am against having only two significant parties.  At the very least there should be some way of breaking a tie, other than having the Speaker or President-pro-tem cast a vote.  If only there was a reasonable third party that could keep both sides honest, or as honest as possible, or at least not criminal.

Have there always been problems with American political parties?  I suspect so as shown by this quote from George, Washington not Bush (either of them).

Much indeed to be regretted, party disputes are now carried to such a length, and truth is so enveloped in mist and false representation, that it is extremely difficult to know through what channel to seek it. This difficulty to one, who is of no party, and whose sole wish is to pursue with undeviating steps a path which would lead this country to respectability, wealth, and happiness, is exceedingly to be lamented. But such, for wise purposes, it is presumed, is the turbulence of human passions in party disputes, when victory more than truth is the palm contended for.

--- George Washington, letter to Timothy Pickering, Jul. 27, 1795

There are other alternatives to our two-party, representative democratic system.  Some, like anarchism, are no-starters – who would want to live in complete anarchy?  Others, socialism is one example, have been tried before and shown not to work.  This site has some information on the alternatives. 

Since it seems unlikely that we will suddenly change our form of government, it behooves us, we the people of the United States, to be as informed as possible on how our chosen government works and how we can work within its rules.  As always, Wikipedia is a good place to start becoming educated.  Read about the history of, and description about democracy here

[Note:  Wikipedia articles are written by anyone who feels like writing one.  They are checked by others, but there is no formal method to ensure accuracy.  The best articles will have notes and external links describing the sources used.  Check these sources to see if: A) they are real sites; and B) the information there DOES support the Wiki article.  It is also useful to Google the subject and any associated terms to find other related information.  To sum up this paragraph, and to paraphrase Ronald Reagan, trust Wiki, but verify.]

You might note that I have a fondness for quoting the Founding Fathers, not strictly the signers of the Declaration and Constitution, but all of those early government thinkers.  Some of those men were not only good, critical thinkers, but were also eloquent writers.  Below are some quotes from some of them on the subject of government.  Ponder these quotes remembering that nothing is new under the sun.

The Constitution is not an instrument for the government to restrain the people, it is an instrument for the people to restrain the government."
--- Patrick Henry

"If the present (Continental) Congress errs in too much talking, how can it be otherwise, in a body to which the people send one hundred and fifty lawyers, whose trade it is to question everything, yield nothing, and talk by the hour?"
--- Thomas Jefferson – 1821

If men of wisdom and knowledge, of moderation and temperance, of patience, fortitude and perseverance, of sobriety and true republican simplicity of manners, of zeal for the honour of the Supreme Being and the welfare of the commonwealth; if men possessed of these other excellent qualities are chosen to fill the seats of government, we may expect that our affairs will rest on a solid and permanent foundation.

--- Samuel Adams, letter to Elbridge Gerry, November 27, 1780

Nothing so strongly impels a man to regard the interest of his constituents, as the certainty of returning to the general mass of the people, from whence he was taken, where he must participate in their burdens.

--- George Mason, speech in the Virginia Ratifying Convention, June 14, 1778

Republics are created by the virtue, public spirit, and intelligence of the citizens. They fall, when the wise are banished from the public councils, because they dare to be honest, and the profligate are rewarded, because they flatter the people, in order to betray them.

--- Joseph Story, Commentaries on the Constitution, 1833

[The President] is the dignified, but accountable magistrate of a free and great people. The tenure of his office, it is true, is not hereditary; nor is it for life: but still it is a tenure of the noblest kind: by being the man of the people, he is invested; by continuing to be the man of the people, his investiture will be voluntarily, and cheerfully, and honourably renewed.

--- James Wilson, Lectures on Law, 1791

I think that one of the reasons so few people vote is that they feel that the choices don’t represent what they want.  OK, some of it is laziness or apathy, but feeling disenfranchised has to be a part of it.

1 comment:

  1. Here's the problem with centrism, it's when the two parties actually agree that the absolute worst laws are passed against the interests of the average person. Look no further than the TARP law bailing out the big banks and Wall Street plus all of the "free" trade agreements (which are "free" to the elites but have cost tens of millions of working and middle class Americans their good paying jobs).

    On every issue of importance to Wall Street and the big corporations (globalization, bank bailouts, military spending) there is essentially NO difference between the two parties. If you oppose those things you essentially have no one to vote for unless you are lucky enough to live in Ron Paul or Dennis Kucinich's congressional districts.

    The problem is not that there are only two parties. The problem is that the big money controls the system. That's the sad reality in modern day America.