Wednesday, March 16, 2011

In Which I Whine About Our Political Parties

Pres. Obama is certainly a better president that Pres. W. Bush was, and is certainly better than Sen. McCain would have been, not to mention the mediocre crop of hopefuls lining up to challenge him next year.  He's done some good things such as at least making an effort to end our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, not starting any new wars (. . . yet, but we're keeping our eyes on you, Libya), making an effort to reform the health care and financial systems, and, importantly, changing the tone of discourse in the White House.  But it hasn't really been that great, overall.  Where he has tried to make some progress in areas of war and regulation reform, they have been meager and more or less disappointing.  I went over some of the failures before here.

Now we learn that Pres. Obama will not be shutting down Guantanamo Bay any time soon, like he promised, will reinstate military tribunals and not use our world-class criminal justice system, and will continue indefinite detentions without hearings.  He also fired the State Dept. spokesperson for criticizing the brutal detention of Bradley Manning, the Wikileaks leaker.  His record on civil liberties is no better than Bush's, which make me sick.

As a result of this frustration, and general political malaise, I've felt like I've been wandering a political desert for a while.  I've spent some time looking at the Green Party, which has a lot to offer, especially for someone like me with strong environmental and pacifist leanings.  I feel pretty strongly about social democracy.  When it's really time to think outside the box there is nothing like libertarian socialism.

The point is, the basic political struggle we all have is reconciling that space between what we really believe and our choices in the ballot box.  Many people, most I suspect, instead of embracing this problem do their best erase the distinction and become party loyalists, buying the party line and giving up critical thought.  I admit to falling into this trap from time to time.  This is where you find absurd contradictions like states' rights conservatives being pro-federal government when it comes to abortion and marriage laws, or anti-death penalty and anti-war liberals being extremely pro-choice.  To paraphrase John Stewart's book, America, (because I don't have it in front of me right now):  You believe in protecting the environment?  Congratulations you are also anti-gun.  You oppose gay marriage?  Great, you are also anti-amnesty for illegal immigrants.  The current political party system in America clearly doesn't add up to intellectual consistency.

Many other people simply choose to become one-issue voters, which is more dangerous than the party loyalists.  At least the party loyalists are vaguely aware of most of the issues that the candidates espouse, whereas a single-issue voter doesn't care.

So what is the correct response?  Continue to enable the bloated and intellectually dissonant existing political parties by choosing "the lesser of two evils"?  Reform from within?  Vote for the third party candidate and give the election to your ideological opposite instead of your ideological near miss?  Fight the beasts who will out-spend and out-everything you to try to create a multi-party system?  I feel like there aren't any good, practical solutions because of the power the two parties hold.

There is really no point here except to whine about how the two parties are failing us, which is a complaint as old as the nation, I presume.  But we worship in a religion that urges us to stay true to our convictions and zealously maintain and cherish our agency, and I feel like modern day American politics forces us, to some degree at least, to sacrifice both.

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