Nice Party versus Tough Party: is this fight real?
Stephen H. Unger
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In this essay I revisit the question of why our political system is in such a mess, and what might be done about it. (If you are happy with the way things are going, you might as well stop reading now.) I looked at this situation not long ago, from a somewhat different angle .
We Americans live in a country dominated by the super-rich, who are steadily tightening their grip on the levers of power. They are served by low level managers, police and military commanders, and higher level government officials. The system is democratic in form. There are legislators, mayors, governors, the president, etc. all elected by the general population.
There are two major political parties: the Nice Party, and the Tough Party. Wealthy people are the major funders of both of them. The Nice Party purports to serve middle and lower class people, its leaders making speeches generally advocating good things for those people. The Tough Party advocates a minimal role for government except for the military and police functions. It opposes help for the poor, tries to pare down, or phase out, social security, opposes government roles in health care, and advocates privatization of many government functions, including schools and prisons.
Both parties advocate financial policies beneficial to large corporations and to wealthy people, the Tough Party to a somewhat greater extent than the Nice Party. Similarly, both parties favor an aggressive foreign policy backed by a very powerful, lavishly funded, military establishment, with hundreds of military bases all over the world, and massive internal security agencies (NSA, CIA, FBI, etc.). Again the Tough Party is somewhat more aggressive in these matters. Where they differ significantly is on issues that wealthy people are not generally united on, such as abortion, gun control, the death penalty, and gay marriage.
Nice Party politicians often make speeches, or issue statements, favoring progressive causes such as energy conservation, improving schools at all levels, strengthening labor unions, reducing the military budget, improving medical care for all, and eliminating poverty. But, when in office, they don't seem to be able to accomplish anything significant in these areas. They blame their failure on Tough Party opposition.
When election time comes, the Tough Party nominates candidates strongly espousing the party's views as sketched above. Their rhetoric is strong--they pull no punches. The Nice Party candidates speak more softly, stating all sorts of nice intentions.
There are a number of small parties espousing a wide range of views, but none of them represent real threats to acquire significant power in the short term. They are largely ignored by the media, which is firmly under the control of the super-rich. The media seldom mention parties other than the Nice or Tough.
Those who advocate supporting a minor party that opposes militarism, and favors civil liberties, medicare, and the economic interests of the vast majority of Americans are warned that, if they persist in voting along those lines, rather than voting for Nice Party candidates, the Tough Party will gain more power with terrible consequences.
But, when the Nice Party is in office, somehow things don't get any better. In fact, in many respects, things get worse, because, when bad measures are proposed by a Nice government that would have outraged most Nice supporters if proposed by a Tough government, there is much less popular opposition, since Nice Party voters are reluctant to criticize those that they voted for.