It's time to face the music. There is no hope for real change as long as politics in America is stuck in the two-party groove.
Most Americans recognize that the Democratic and Republican parties have failed to serve the public interest. According to a September 17 Gallup poll, 58% of Americans said a "third major party was needed" while only 35% believe that the Democrats and Republicans adequately represent the public.
Maybe the 58% have concluded that they've been ignored by a pair of political parties awash in corporate money and influence, and that the gap between the wealthy and the rest of us will keep growing regardless of which of the two parties is in power. Maybe they've realized that a country with a population as large and diverse as the US should have more than just two parties.
In the 2010 election, Democrats have offered no credible message about "change we can believe in," about helping Americans regain control of their lives, restoring accountability and the rule of constitutional law, or ending the wars. Meanwhile, Republicans repackaged disastrous Bush-Cheney ideas as Tea Party populism and appealed to the worst prejudices of some voters about Barack Obama.
GOP intimidation pushed Dems into further compromises and betrayals of their own voting base. The only consistent reason to vote for many Democrats on Election Day 2010 is "We're not as awful as the Republicans." Or as Jon Stewart said on The Daily Show, "Democrats this year seem to be running on, 'Please baby, one more chance.'"
It's dishonest to claim there's no difference between Democrat and Republican. But the parties stand for a very narrow range of ideas, with positions on important issues of the day that often coincide.
Sometimes, Democrats and Republicans seem to disagree sharply, but the premises underlying their respective arguments are the same. Consider the health care reform debate. Although Dems passed a health care bill over the objections of anti-reform Republicans, both parties agreed that our health care should remain under the control of the for-profit insurance industry, which flooded both parties' congressional and presidential candidates with generous campaign checks.
Obamacare imposes mandates, requiring Americans to purchase insurance from for-profit insurers, a legally questionable idea first proposed by Republicans during the mid 1990s, and does nothing to hold down medical costs. The debate was rigged from the start. Whether Democrats passed their bill or the GOP succeeded in blocking it, the real winners would be the insurance and pharmaceutical cartels.
Democratic presidents during the past two decades have used their power to fulfill much of the GOP's agenda, accomplishing what Republican presidents left unfinished.
Which Democratic president enacted NAFTA, the 1996 Welfare Reform Act, the antigay 1996 Defense of Marriage Act and 'don't ask, don't tell', the 1996 Effective Antiterrorism and Death Penalty Act, and the 1998 Telecommunications Act (allowing ownership of media by a tiny number of conglomerates); expanded the war on drugs and for-profit prison system (incarcerating record numbers of Americans, especially young black and brown men); signed the repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act (setting the stage for the recent economic crisis); and began talks with Republicans on cutting and privatizing Social Security? Bill Clinton, completer of the Reagan Revolution.
Which Democratic president escalated the Afghanistan War, protected Bush officials who okayed torture and other abuses of the US Constitution and international law, maintained warrantless spying on US citizens, hired Wall Street front men like Tim Geithner and Larry Summers, authorized more taxpayer-funded Wall Street bailouts and new taxpayer-funded nuclear plants, appointed a 'Catfood Commission' to explore Social Security reductions, opened up more coastal waters to offshore drilling, promoted the myth of 'clean coal' and permitted more mountaintop removal mining, and left a substantial residual occupation force, including military contractors, in Iraq? You know who.
By retreating from their stated values and traditional constituencies, Dems have opened up the space for ever greater Republican extremes. If you were appalled by Bush-Cheney, imagine the next Republican White House. Sarah Palin gives us hint of what to expect, even if she has no hope of winning the nomination. (Fascism is an ugly word -- let's call it Foxism.) And think about how quickly Democratic leaders will adopt the next GOP administration's worst ideas.
This pattern is long overdue for an interruption. The drift of bipartisan politics towards repressive and belligerent extremes, towards more corporate power and less accountability to the public and to the law, will continue until the two established parties -- let's call them the Titanic Parties (coined by 2010 California Green gubernatorial candidate Laura Wells) -- lose their stranglehold.
What we need is a voters' revolt. We'll see a real change for the better when voters stop voting exclusively for Titanic Party politicians declared acceptable by the major media, and instead vote for candidates they actually agree with.
In many races, there are already Green, Libertarian, Socialist, and other alternative party and independent candidates on the ballot. But voters often don't get to learn about these candidates. Or they assume that such candidates are unelectable and therefore not worth voting for.
The revolt will occur when a critical mass of voters becomes frustrated enough to abandon the Titanic Parties.