“When, as now, concerns become sufficiently serious, those with bad ideas will always win out over those with no ideas.” Larry Summers
“….if you’re going to worship me you’d better know who you are worshiping.” Joni Mitchell
Entitlement, the human kind, is so often the underlying story—men and sometimes women believing their own publicists. The gathering hubris is often tragic.
The early death of a rock star from a drug overdose. The divorce of seemingly inseparable celebrities. The wealthy who prey on the weak to become even more wealthy. The Machiavellian politician who eventually turns on all but the sycophantic.
Creatives of all sorts—do not find material in short supply. And we can’t help ourselves—acts of betrayal make compelling stories. But what is the effect on society as a whole?
Our democratically led and capitalist supplied nation depends on us. We get to form political parties to help us organize and make choices. And we get to decide which suppliers will make our household goods or the automobiles we drive.
But all is not well in paradise. We, as consumers, fight back when a failure to do so hurts us directly. We have a broad and deep set of laws that protect us from shoddy goods or tainted food or failed banks or concentration of power.
Yet, if we look at how we organize our public affairs (politics), we have not only yielded to concentration of power we have abetted it. We have a duopoly (only two providers). The last new political party was the Republican; it replaced the Whigs in 1855.
Now, the last thing you want to read or I want to write is a treatise on America’s political organizations and the waxing and waning of the two-party construct. So let me cut to the chase.
America is weakened by its reliance on two political parties and 21st Century political tactics and their costs have overwhelmed the prospects of gifted candidates and the convergence of good ideas. Political parties and candidates protect themselves from more independent-minded people by making it hard for a new Party to get on the ballot while kissing-up to the wealthy. Campaigns today are outrageously expensive and without seven figure donations a run for the presidency is Quixotic.
While early polling is often misleading, it is nonetheless taken as prophetic by many in the media and the donor class. Today’s early polling says we will be confronted in 2024 with a replay of 2020. We will be forced to choose between a diminished incumbent with an unpopular running mate and a former President whose principal campaign tactic is to sow political and societal division. This, pollsters tell us, will be our choice to lead the most complex and consequential nation in the world. Really? Do we know who we have put on a pedestal? What people or ideas we are worshipping?
Yet, the self-intoxicated whose daily occupation is politics are incredulous at the prospect of a third-party candidate for President. Democrats in particular recoil at the thought believing such a candidacy would bleed votes from Joe Biden electing Donald Trump. I will spare you the calculations other than to point out that in a recent Gallup poll 49% self-identified as Independent. No wonder!
I am in that number. I don’t favor ice cream shops that only serve two flavors. And if Biden and Trump are my only choices, it is as if I am offered only licorice or bubblegum flavors.
How long do you think the two-flavor ice cream shop would remain in business? Americans favor competition and know that both the reality and threat of competition promises quality goods and services for reasonable prices.
While there are a few niche parties with some ballot access (Libertarian and Green Parties, for example), there is some movement toward ballot access by an organization called No Labels. It has now qualified for the Presidential ballot in 2024 in four states. When asked whether it has national ambitions its spokesperson was coy:
According to an NPR news report, quoting its lead strategist Ryan Clancy: “No Labels says it’s “too early to know” whether a Biden-Trump rematch would lead the group to nominate a so-called “unity ticket.” No Labels says it will rely on “rigorously analyzed polling data” to determine whether most Americans “want an alternative to the major party presidential nominees,” and whether the group sees “a viable path” to winning election.”
Well, that is something but not much. Political movements are led by people of passion not “rigorously analyzed polling data.” Yet, it is still early. Indeed, it is early enough that there is still time for the 51% who identify in one of the political parties to awaken. Are Biden and Trump the best your talent pool has to offer? If so, bankruptcy is in order.
Al Sikes is the former Chair of the Federal Communications Commission under George H.W. Bush. Al writes on themes from his book, Culture Leads Leaders Follow published by Koehler Books.