Beyond Two Parties

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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?Clinton-Trump

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.

Comments 3

  1. How do we do this at this stage of the ”game’? I can’t vote for either of the two prospective candidates, so maybe all I have left to do (honorably) is to write in a name, like Colin Powel, even though I know my vote won’t count. But I can’t, with good conscience, vote for either of those two proposed candidates.

  2. Thanks Jeff. Most would agree that we don’t like the choices available to us. Of course, we do have to rely on the press to paint a picture of the different candidates running. So whether you’re watching Fox or NBC you might get a different picture. Are any really accurate?

    I think one of the big failures of American politics (maybe other countries, as well), is that we keep looking to the individual as our possible Savior. I think perhaps we should be looking at the parties involved, whether Democrat or Republican (face it, we’re really a two party system). We should evaluate the basic platform for each party, it’s founding principles, and the principles that each party stands for today. Which party do I feel most comfortable with and then vote for the candidate that will most likely support that party. The presidents power to veto or approve bills, alone, is almost always in support of his party. The presidents power nearly always stands alongside and with his party. So always remember, in an election (in the U.S.), you are voting primarily for a party rather than for an individual.

    You may dislike Trump or Clinton, but ask which candidate will support my party’s platform? Campaign promises mean very little (except to tell you how well they align with their party), and few of those promised items will be accomplished. They are simply wish lists, but are unlikely to get accomplished without the party’s support (and then only if your party holds a majority in congress). So as the campaign season is getting into full swing, I wouldn’t break out in a sweat over the individual candidates (that’s just a popularity contest), but consider which party best represents a kingdom perspective in your mind and then vote along party lines. That’s how to make your vote count in the U.S.

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