(also posted at VOTS)

I suppose the silliness of the whole thing was captured back in 1996 in an episode of the Simpsons’ Treehouse of Horrors:


So there it is — you can vote for Kang or Kodos, or you can just “throw your vote away.” The “intelligent” response to such a system is represented in this episode by Homer Simpson’s repartee at the end:


“I voted for Kodos.”

I’m sure that, any day soon now, and especially if Romney wins next month, we will see a reprise of an old argument from Democratic Party circles: “Think of how much better off we’d be if Al Gore had been elected in 2000 (and blame Nader again for spoiling the election for Gore).” Maybe this will happen after Obama’s Grand Bargain is passed. That difference, that critical difference, between (D) and (R) must be fervently promoted, for all of what substance to it is actually there.

Something, after all, needs to reinforce the Tea Party lunacy that requires Presidential candidate Mitt Romney to be so non-serious. The predominant Democrat pitch this year, “the Republicans are worse,” is aimed at pre-empting an examination of what the average Jane is actually going to get out of the political process. Ian Welsh’s sage comment about the economy seems rather apropos of the state of politics in America today:

The US economy, if you are an ordinary person, is trash. It has never recovered. Given Obama’s policies, it will not recover. The same is true of Romney, who is promising an economic apocalypse, but people already know that Obama is a failure. Romney might be worse, but they might decide to take a chance on him anyway, knowing that the status quo is permanent stagnation.

So is it that people are totally helpless before the “two-party system”? The Gore vs. Bush election of 2000 is, without doubt, going to appear as the last election when the differences between (D) and (R) were stark and obvious. The mainstream media has already started to speculate on Obama as Bush’s third term, so the notion of Barack Obama as another conservative has pierced through the fog of his own comparisons between himself and other, not-so-right-wing heroes:

Now, one recalls all sorts of things going on with the 2000 election. Like massive and illegal purges of the voter rolls. We got to read about it through Greg Palast, a journalist whose job connections appear to be entirely UK now even though he went to a Los Angeles high school with a number of famous alumni. Here’s Palast on voter suppression in this (the 2012) election:

Ready for this? Over 22 million names were purged from voter rolls in the last two years. Those figures are from the US Election Assistance Commission – hidden in plain sight. And who gets purged?

Black voters, Latinos, Native Americans. In Colorado, the Republican secretary of state purged 19.4 percent of voters – that’s one in five! In the book, she’s the Purge’n General. Obama took Colorado in ’08. He can kiss it goodbye.

Gee, wouldn’t it be nice if the Democrats decided to get behind some popular outrage about this stuff, you know, like they did in 2000 and 2004 (NOT)? Oh, that’s right, they’re there to keep public dissent to a minimum too! Matt Stoller:

And that is how elections operate in authoritarian America. The secondary goal is to win the election, the primary goal is to keep the public out of the deal-making.

When the Republican charade around the Florida vote count was going on in November of 2000, Al Gore was in Washington DC asking all his elite buddies what he should do. I’m sure they said all the right things: let the Republicans have the White House and so on. Maybe Jesse Jackson said something bad about it before withdrawing his protest plans. In the end, the Supreme Court decided the whole matter in a decision that appears to have established no precedent of importance. This is how an election is taken away from the public.

One thing you can say about the elites is that they have creativity. They’ve discovered numerous ways of stifling the public will to get government to do things they don’t want to do, and the real suspense about elections now is the matter of what new, creative twist will be used to domesticate the public will once again.


In 1856 the Presidential election was a contest between three parties: the Democratic Party, the Republican Party, and the Know-Nothing Party. There was still in actual existence America’s former second party — the Whig Party, that had carried four states in 1852. In short, there was a new second party.

This may be what it takes to take down the two-party system — one or both of the parties disintegrates and a different two-party system comes into being. I would put money on the Republicans disintegrating first — eventually their participants will realize how insane they are, and desert them for the Democratic Party and the Libertarian Party while the Democrats join the new party, whatever its name happens to be. It will require a single, intense issue for this to happen — in 1856 it was slavery, in the 21st century it will be austerity.

Neither of the existing political parties deserves your allegiance. The Democratic Party, as I have pointed out in my review of Lance Selfa’s history, is the grounds upon which social movements in the US are co-opted. Its next offering will be Obama’s “Grand Bargain,” under which Social Security and a whole host of other social services will be cut.

The Republicans are “even worse,” tho’ the Republican record is so full of garbage and lies it’s difficult to predict what will happen once they are in power again. Part of the problem lies in one’s estimate of the blowback from pigheaded Republicanism. The Republicans make enemies with what they do. This is what gives me confidence Obama will win the Presidency and the Republicans Congress — the better for the elites that nobody complain about the policies they really want.

Maybe we should just call it a Zero-Party System — there are no parties, just collusion at the top and acquiescence at the bottom. Two acts of Kabuki theater: the (D) at 1pm, the (R) at 3:30, and tea in between, punctuated occasionally between violent election spats based on who said what when.

I don’t think the existing system will transform itself this year. Maybe it will happen in a decade or so, after things become significantly worse.



Ph.D., Communication, The Ohio State University, 1998
M.A., English, Sonoma State University, 1992
B.A., Literature, University of California, Santa Cruz, 1984