“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.
Letters to Editor
Deirdre LaMotte says
Sounds lovely but that is not how it works. We have a two-party system. A Third party candidate will only
split the Anti-Trump people, not his cult members. This candidate will never have enough electoral votes to
win, but will certainly put Donald Trump back in the WH. And just because 44% of Americans say they are “Independent”,
they usually have a partisan leaning and it does not indicate that a voter is in search of an “Independent” candidate. This Third party
candidate will be a spoiler, always has been. We can thank Jill Stein for the Supreme Court we now have, also
helped by FBI James Comey.
So, we had Trump who can never utter a coherent sentence, VP Pence who was a one-track church mouse and now everyone is dumping on Kamila. I will say one thing: She is 100 miles ahead of ANY Republican candidate.
marian murphy says
So what’s my solution? I want to be within a party of young, motivated people who want to be part of our political system. I voted, many years ago, for Ross Perot because I wanted someone different and I was critized by family because I was taking votes away from the Democrats, our chosen party. And I’m here again wanting to get away from the two-party system but told it will destroy the party I respect. Vote “no labels” or the green party? What are my choices?
Deirdre LaMotte says
If you want to elect Donald Trump again, vote for him or a third party. These are your choices, same as all of us.
Sorry, your vote for Ross Perot took away votes for the Republican, GHWBush.
William Dalton says
Al’s party is in disarray so his answer is to tear down the competing party. We have had some experience with third parties and it has not been good. The two party system has worked well and is a strength of our democracy. We should be wary of those who urge throwing out the baby with the bath water. There is still time for the Republican Party to clean up its act. As for the Democratic Party accomplishments trump age and experience matters. The only perfect person without fault lived 2000 years ago.