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Sinister Forces

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After the events of September 11, 2001, the Bush Administration orchestrated a campaign to encourage fear, using colored alerts to guide the population as to how fearful they should be on any given day.  With the anthrax attacks, the alert turned orange, only to resume its yellow color a few days later.  Whenever a Democrat got some favorable press, the alerts would turn orange again or maybe even red. 

As foolish as all of this may sound today, we all remember that it was quite effective and even today there is a sizeable minority of the U.S. population that retains the fear, still walking about trembling about the possibility of another terrorist attack, still ready to surrender their personal liberties if someone promises a bit of security in return.

The fact is, there actually is a sinister force in the U.S. which people need to take seriously and to fear.  This sinister force is called the Republican Party.  This is the party that has illegally tapped our telephones, has voided habeas corpus,  trampled First Amendment rights to assembly and speech and the Fourth Amendment right to privacy of personal records.  It has disrespected the constitutional mechanisms for forming laws by a thorough abuse of signing statements; it has upset the proud tradition that Americans never torture prisoners.  It has engaged in corruption of such a massive scale that it will take decades to recover. It has lied in order to initiate a war of aggression and it has come close to breaking the U.S. Army in an effort to continue fighting that war.  It has neglected domestic needs for disaster relief, for maintenance of infrastructure, and most remarkably, for protection against terrorist attack.

The political agenda that has to be our focus this year and in future years, so long as the Republican Party remains such a danger to this country is to keep the Republican Party from retaining power.  This will not be easy, in part because the Republican Party has, in many places, taken at least partial control of counting our votes, but it is an absolutely vital objective.  It is a secondary issue which politicians take office in the place of the discredited Republicans, but as a practical matter we can expect most to be Democrats.  Once the Republican Party goes the way of the old Federalist Party (which shared many of the characteristics of today's Republican Party) there will be a vacuum to be filled by a new party, perhaps the Green Party and perhaps some other entirely new party. 

Looking at the political agenda in this way puts a different light on a debate that gone on recently here on OpEdNews.  Members of one faction are promoting one or another third-party candidate and this faction activly promotes the notion that both major parties have let us down and so we should all withhold our votes for these major parties. No doubt they have in mind some particular minor candidate that will benefit from this mass defection.

I suspect that most people share some sympathy for this idea (though many do not discount the possibility that any one of the third parties would also let us down).  The emotion is understandable, however; we all somehow share the hope that a knight in shining armor to come out of nowhere and save us all.  But really, how realistic is that hope?

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There is a practical problem with the third-party approach and that is that our electoral system is rigged to force the existence of at most two viable political parties.  It is well recognized that when a third party gains significant support, it draws support away and splits the vote from the most similar major party.  The result is that the election often goes to the less favored major party. 

Put simply, when you vote for a third party candidate you are increasing the likelihood that the candidate you like least will be the one that wins.  This is a problem that is nearly unique to the electoral system of the U.S., so arguing that other countries have multiple parties ignores this unique and somewhat absurd character of the U.S. system. 

The third-party argument rests on the positive agenda of finding Mr. or Mrs. Right to lead the way.  As suggested above, however, it would be much more realistic to first focus on negative agenda of keeping the very Wrong Party of the right out of power.  Once that party is thoroughly defeated we can turn to the building of a new and better party to replace it.  History shows that this can happen; the Republican Party began as a quite progressive force to replace the Federalist Party.   

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A concerned citizen and former mathematician/engineer now retired and living in rural Maine.

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