by Jeff Munroe
Today, we welcome (back) Jeff Munroe who blogged regularly at The Twelve for several years. Jeff is the Vice President of Operations and Advancement at Western Theological Seminary in Holland, Michigan. Thanks, Jeff!
Pluralism and choice have won the cultural day. I need look no further than my television set to know this is true. I’m old enough to remember black and white, rabbit ears, and three channels. I remember a monstrous aerial antenna that was on a tower next to our house and had a control dial that sat on the TV and I remember how the desired channel would come into focus with each kerchunk as the antenna rotated to aim at the city where the broadcast was coming from. Today’s cable or satellite system with hundreds of High Definition channels is a far cry from that. We love having a lot of choices.
Which is why I’m so puzzled by the US Presidential election.
As we live with the prospect of the two most disliked candidates in history, I can’t figure out why the public doesn’t demand more choices. The US two-party system is binary in a pluralistic world. Why do we accept that?
All we’d need to do is go back to the last five candidates standing: Cruz, Kasich, Trump, Clinton, and Sanders. If those five names were on the ballot this November, the majority of Americans would find someone they could support with enthusiasm. Cruz should never have been trying to gain the Republican nomination, because he’s not a Republican. His party is the Tea Party. Republicans can’t stand him. On the other end of the spectrum, Sanders is still vying for the Democratic nomination, but he’s not a Democrat. He is a Socialist, and should be the Socialist Party candidate.
Like Cruz, Donald Trump isn’t a Republican either. He defies labels, so maybe we need to find something from history that fits. It’s too easy (and Trumpesque) to say he should run as a Whig, but there was a party in the mid-1800s called the “Know-Nothing” party that was a strong anti-immigration group advocating purifying America through white supremacy (Ironically, they called themselves “native Americans,” proving the accuracy of the Know-Nothing name). The Know-Nothings brought Millard Fillmore, one of the worst Presidents ever, out of retirement to run as their candidate in 1856. It seems logical that Millard Fillmore’s successor would be Donald Trump.
Paul Ryan can’t bring himself to endorse Trump, because Paul Ryan has principles. Eventually he’s going to cave and some sort of tepid endorsement will happen before November. But Paul Ryan shouldn’t be forced to endorse Trump. Give him a choice! Imagine if Cruz were the presumptive Republican nominee. Ryan would be in the same position he’s in today with Trump. He couldn’t support Cruz, either, because Cruz isn’t a Republican. Let’s stop pretending. It’s a dangerous sign when we assign names to things that aren’t true. Totalitarian governments throughout history have adopted that practice. Let’s call things what they are.
The rest of the world operates this way. Several parties are a sign of a vigorous democracy. (How many political parties operate in North Korea?) What happens in a several party system is something the American electorate desperately wants. Because no one has a majority, the parties have to build coalitions to govern. Compromise is the only way. Want to break the gridlock in Washington? Break up the two party system. Give us choices.