Saturday, October 30, 2010

The American Duopoly

In this post Fabius Maximus sees a problem with Obama's leadership:
In many ways Obama resembles Carter, both unable to function effectively due to lack of experience in politics and national affairs. Obama has accomplished little in his first two years; with a Republican House, he’ll accomplish little in his last two. His major significance in history might be to spark the long-expected reconfiguration of the US party structure.
This leads him to ruminate in a later post on the need to restructure the American political parties. Here is a bit from an excellent posting on the eponymous blog Fabius Maximus:
America no longer functions well, but our self-esteem remains untouched. Therefore the problems must lie elsewhere than ourselves. The most popular candidates for blame are our rulers (unworthy of our greatness) and our institutions. Examples are legion; here are a two.

(1) America needs leaders suitable to our wonderfulness

For a clear statement of America’s delusional beliefs we go to a master: “Third Party Rising” by Tom Freidman, op-ed in the New York Times, 21 October 2010:
We have to rip open this two-party duopoly and have it challenged by a serious third party that will talk about education reform, without worrying about offending unions; financial reform, without worrying about losing donations from Wall Street; corporate tax reductions to stimulate jobs, without worrying about offending the far left; energy and climate reform, without worrying about offending the far right and coal-state Democrats; and proper health care reform, without worrying about offending insurers and drug companies.

… We need a third party on the stage of the next presidential debate to look Americans in the eye and say: “These two parties are lying to you. They can’t tell you the truth because they are each trapped in decades of special interests. I am not going to tell you what you want to hear. I am going to tell you what you need to hear if we want to be the world’s leaders, not the new Romans.”
Friedman quotes Stanford University political scientist Larry Diamond: “We basically have two bankrupt parties bankrupting the country. … They cannot think about the overall public good and the longer term anymore because both parties are trapped in short-term, zero-sum calculations.” Bill Gross, the world’s top bond manager (in dollars), expresses similar sentiments:
American politics resemble an airline terminal with a huckster’s bowl waiting to be filled every two years. And the paramount problem is not that we contribute so willingly or even so cluelessly, but that there are only two bowls to choose from.
All very flattering to our ego. Now for another perspective: our institutions are efficient engines giving us what we want (not what we say we want). No party offers reforms because we don’t want to pay the price, because reforms tend to be painful and expensive. We might as complain about why McDonalds and Burger King have not been bankrupted by fast food chains selling low-cal meals of organic veggies and small portions of lean meat.

Where is the evidence that Americans want bold actions? Not in the polls. We want more services from the government, but we prefer not to pay for them. Cuts to other people’s benefits are OK. Having someone else pay more is also OK. Regulations on others may be necessary, but not on us. Strict enforcement of the laws is great, but when on us it’s oppression.
“Every nation has the government it deserves.”
— Joseph de Maistre (lawyer, diplomat, philosopher), Letter 76 dated 13 August 1811) published in Lettres et Opuscules
Go read the original post to get the embedded links.

My personal view is that hopefully the Republican Party by aligning itself with the fanatical fringe of the TEA party will fade away as a national party. I would then like to see the Democratic Party split between its left and right to create the two national parties that would bring sanity back to US politics.

The idea of a "new party" is seductive, but you have to go back to 1854 to find a national party that successfully started from scratch: the Republican Party. Most third party attempts fail after a few short years.

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