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Solidification of the 2-party political system

posted Oct 5, 2013, 10:22 AM by Brian Hall   [ updated Oct 6, 2013, 7:57 AM ]
Perspective: Go into this reading knowing that my worldview is a balanced mix between post-positivism, social constructivism, and pragmatism. The result is that I do not identify with any single political party, as each has something to offer. The modern party that I probably align with the closest is the Modern Whig Party, but like any party their perspective is incomplete. Anyone want to start a Commingle Party?
If you want to know how the United States ended up with such a solidified two-party political system then you have to go back 100 years in our nation's history. There was one era in which we had a thriving and meaningful four-party system in the U.S. (The Progressive Era, 1890-1920). For example, in the 1912 Presidential election Wilson of the Democratic party won with a little over 40% of the popular vote. About 27% went to T. Roosevelt of the Progressive party, 23% to Taft of the Republican party, and 6% to Debs of the Socialist party. Such numbers have been extinct since. 
Note: The closest a third party has been to Teddy's number was Ross Perot in the 1992 election with about 19% of the popular vote, but with no serious 4th party contenders. I use the popular vote because it's the one that should matter. My personal opinion is that the electoral college is one of the most troubling political artifacts in existence.

Why don't we have such choices today? Why are we realistically limited to Democrat and Republican? You can thank the U.S. Supreme Court mostly, but also the U.S. Government, local governments, and a portion of the general populace during the progressive era. Note: I am not alleging a conspiracy, just that these were players in the scenario.

In 1919, there were a number of Supreme Court cases that turned the First Amendment into nothing more than a scrap of paper. Reasons were political, career oriented, or merely products of the time. Rulings in cases such as Schenck v United States and Debs v United States squelched the 1st Amendment, but perhaps even more importantly crushed the avenue for ideological reasoning and debate.

Socialism, for example, was a thriving politically democratic ideology. That is until the Government used the 1917 Espionage Act (a prophetical predecessor to the Patriot Act), to silence any non-capitalist ideology (speaking of economic as opposed to political systems). The litigation against members of non-traditional parties, while showing a lack of respect for the 1st Amendment, silenced non-traditional ideologies, extinguished political parties, and removed choice. The result for the rest of the 20th Century and into the 21st Century is the two-party political system we have grown to hate.

I write this for several reasons. 1. To get it off my chest. 2. To remind those who read it of the importance of the 1st Amendment. 3. To state the importance of ideological debate, as it is the only way out of the mire of the two-party system. 4. To encourage education of our nation's history. 5. To encourage "the people" to really educate themselves on other ideologies (how many people really understand that socialism is democratic by nature, and that its real beef is with capitalism?). 6. To remind people of the effects that court decisions, particularly those of the U.S. Supreme Court, can have on our lives. 7. AND MOST IMPORTANTLY, to post the pamphlet for which U.S. Citizens were imprisoned in the Schenck v. U.S. case. Read it. It might open your eyes to the absurdity of the Court (and Government) at that time and one reason you have little choice at the polls. The question is...can we change it?

Warning: Watch out for the U.S.Patriot Act, and the Court's (and government) interpretation of it, we've seen what similar circumstances led to in our history...
Brian Hall,
Oct 5, 2013, 10:29 AM