Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Time to Abandon the Republicans and the Democrats

Is it time to abandon the Republican and Democratic Parties? For those who believe in We The People, the question is a no-brainer. The two-party duopoly has not been serving the interests of We The People for probably almost as long as I have been alive and walking this veil of tears. The problems to be confronted include, at one level, the battery of rules that favor the two major parties combined with the fact that those in the two major parties probably aren't going to pass legislation that could end their lock on power. At the second level, "third parties" have a credibility problem, not because of their ideas but because of the public perception that "they can't win," a perception borne out by recent history. Of course, it's a classic collective action problem. People (most of whom are followers) will not vote for a candidate unless they have a reasonable expectation that large numbers of others will be voting for the same candidate. Ultimately, this has worked against the Libertarian Party and it is working against the Constitution Party. It would work against any new party such as the Unity '08 that Peggy Noonen mentions, whoever they are.

The real problem, however, is at a higher level. Carroll Quigley, in Tragedy & Hope: A History of the World In Our Time, gave it the best expression I have yet seen:

"The chief problem of American political life for a long time has been how to make the two Congressional parties more national and international. The argument that the two parties should represent opposed ideals and policies, one, perhaps, of the Right and the other of the Left, is a foolish idea acceptable only to doctrinaire and academic thinkers. Instead, the two parties should be almost identical, so that the American people can 'throw the rascals out' at any election without leading to any profound or extensive shifts in policy. The policies that are vital and necessary for America are no longer subjects of significant disagreement, but are disputable only in details of procedure, priority, or method... [E]ither party in office becomes in time corrupt, tired, unenterprising, and vigorless. Then it should be possible to replace it, every four years if necessary, by the other party, which will be none of these things but will still pursue, with new vigor, approximately the same basic policies" (pp. 1247-48).

This is a description of super-elite control over the two major parties, which is only one aspect of super-elite control over the machinery of the country--and indeed, of much of the world--via control over the various nations' finances and hence over their economies. It is this that must be broken if we ever wish to live in a free society again. Noonen seems aware of that first level above, but not the second level. Aaron Russo's film America: From Freedom to Fascism is probably the best opportunity to come along in some time to expose the mechinations of the super-elite and how it has spent the past century swindling We The People out of their savings, undermining our freedoms, dumbing down government schools, and getting us involved in foreign wars where no vital American interests were at stake. The ideal would be a coalition of Sovereign States (or groups within them) to oppose the super-elite, in full consciousness of who and what we are opposing. If either the Russo film or the array of talk radio programs (I was on one based in Salt Lake City yesterday) and Internet-based commentary websites does not do more to wake up the sleeping American masses, then we can probably forget about living in a free society. The full-fledged police state will have arrived in 2008, when the Real ID Act goes into effect.

Quigley, and Spengler before him, both believed that civilizations have life-cycles just as individual human beings do. Spengler was a kind of fatalist who believed that when a civilization's time was up, nothing could be done to reverse its inevitable decline. Quigley thought it possible for a civilization to confront its problems and make choices. It is interesting that he leaves this door open--he also believed that eventually establishing "global governance" was the only means by which our technological civilization, with its weapons of mass destruction, could avoid eventually destroying itself. As believers in freedom, We The People respectfully disagree. We need to identify our foundational principles and begin re-instituting them. The rest of the world is free to watch, and free to adopt the same principles: of freedom for the individual (as opposed to collectivism), of free enterprise and private property rights (as opposed to public-private partnerships), of the republican idea of rule of law (as opposed to democracy, rule by the majority, which would evolve back into oligarchy and leave us right back where we started), and common morality, theologically-grounded, as a necessary condition for controlling both the urges within government for power and the urges of the common people (sexual, etc.). Were we to promote a "third party" that embraced every bit of this and was able to package it and sell it to voters, I am right there on the front lines!

The Wall Street Journal


Third Time
America may be ready for a new political party.

Thursday, June 1, 2006 12:01 a.m. EDT

Something's happening. I have a feeling we're at some new beginning, that a big breakup's coming, and that though it isn't and will not be immediately apparent, we'll someday look back on this era as the time when a shift began.

All my adult life, people have been saying that the two-party system is ending, that the Democrats' and Republicans' control of political power in America is winding down. According to the traditional critique, the two parties no longer offer the people the choice they want and deserve. Sometimes it's said they are too much alike--Tweedledum and Tweedledee. Sometimes it's said they're too polarizing--too red and too blue for a nation in which many see things through purple glasses.

In 1992 Ross Perot looked like the breakthrough, the man who would make third parties a reality. He destabilized the Republicans and then destabilized himself. By the end of his campaign he seemed to be the crazy old aunt in the attic.

The Perot experience seemed to put an end to third-party fever. But I think it's coming back, I think it's going to grow, and I think the force behind it is unique in our history.

This week there was a small boomlet of talk about a new internet entity called Unity '08--a small collection of party veterans including moderate Democrats (former Carter aide Hamilton Jordan) and liberal-leaning Republicans (former Ford hand Doug Bailey) trying to join together with college students and broaden the options in the 2008 election. In terms of composition, Unity seems like the Concord Coalition, the bipartisan group (Warren Rudman, Bob Kerrey) that warns against high spending and deficits.

Unity seems to me to have America's growing desire for more political options right. But I think they've got the description of the problem wrong.

Their idea is that the two parties are too polarized to govern well. It is certainly true that the level of partisanship in Washington seems high. (Such things, admittedly, ebb, flow and are hard to judge. We look back at the post-World War II years and see a political climate of relative amity and moderation. But Alger Hiss and Dick Nixon didn't see it that way.) Nancy Pelosi seems to be pretty much in favor of anything that hurts Republicans, and Ken Mehlman is in favor of anything that works against Democrats. They both want their teams to win. Part of winning is making sure the other guy loses, and part of the fun of politics, of any contest, of life, can be the dance in the end zone.

But the dance has gotten dark.

Partisanship is fine when it's an expression of the high animal spirits produced by real political contention based on true political belief. But the current partisanship seems sour, not joyous. The partisanship has gotten deeper as less separates the governing parties in Washington. It is like what has been said of academic infighting: that it's so vicious because the stakes are so low.

The problem is not that the two parties are polarized. In many ways they're closer than ever. The problem is that the parties in Washington, and the people on the ground in America, are polarized. There is an increasing and profound distance between the rulers of both parties and the people--between the elites and the grunts, between those in power and those who put them there.

On the ground in America, people worry terribly--really, there are people who actually worry about it every day--about endless, weird, gushing government spending. But in Washington, those in power--Republicans and Democrats--stand arm in arm as they spend and spend. (Part of the reason is that they think they can buy off your unhappiness one way or another. After all, it's worked in the past. A hunch: It's not going to work forever or much longer. They've really run that trick into the ground.)

On the ground in America, regular people worry about the changes wrought by the biggest wave of immigration in our history, much of it illegal and therefore wholly connected to the needs of the immigrant and wholly unconnected to the agreed-upon needs of our nation. Americans worry about the myriad implications of the collapse of the American border. But Washington doesn't. Democrat Ted Kennedy and Republican George W. Bush see things pretty much eye to eye. They are going to educate the American people out of their low concerns.

There is a widespread sense in America--a conviction, actually--that we are not safe in the age of terror. That the port, the local power plant, even the local school, are not protected. Is Washington worried about this? Not so you'd notice. They're only worried about seeming unconcerned.

More to the point, people see the Republicans as incapable of managing the monster they've helped create--this big Homeland Security/Intelligence apparatus that is like some huge buffed guy at the gym who looks strong but can't even put on his T-shirt without help because he's so muscle-bound. As for the Democrats, who co-created Homeland Security, no one--no one--thinks they would be more managerially competent. Nor does anyone expect the Democrats to be more visionary as to what needs to be done. The best they can hope is the Democrats competently serve their interest groups and let the benefits trickle down.

Right now the Republicans and Democrats in Washington seem, from the outside, to be an elite colluding against the voter. They're in agreement: immigration should not be controlled but increased, spending will increase, etc.

Are there some dramatic differences? Yes. But both parties act as if they see them not as important questions (gay marriage, for instance) but as wedge issues. Which is, actually, abusive of people on both sides of the question. If it's a serious issue, face it. Don't play with it.

I don't see any potential party, or potential candidate, on the scene right now who can harness the disaffection of growing portions of the electorate. But a new group or entity that could define the problem correctly--that sees the big divide not as something between the parties but between America's ruling elite and its people--would be making long strides in putting third party ideas in play in America again.

Ms. Noonan is a contributing editor of The Wall Street Journal and author of "John Paul the Great: Remembering a Spiritual Father," (Penguin, 2005), which you can order from the OpinionJournal bookstore. Her column appears Thursdays.

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