The Pathos of Politics (88) United States

United States

Washington DC is 12 square miles bordered by reality. ~ American President Andrew Johnson in 1868

The United States (US) was the earliest presidential democracy. Its electoral liveliness belies political stagnation, caused by voters bifurcated into 2 camps of roughly equal size. That politics in the US is effectively confined to 2 stalemated parties is the root of a nasty weed in American democracy.

Too bad all the people who know how to run the country are busy driving taxi cabs and cutting hair. ~ American comedian George Burns

Political Parties

The US Constitution made no mention of political parties. Several of the founding fathers disapproved of “party spirit,” fearing that divisiveness would weaken the new nation.

Despite the misgivings of political sages, the 1st parties surfaced during President George Washington’s 2nd administration. The seeds had already been planted. Delegates to the 1787 constitutional convention disagreed on slavery, public debt, and the power balance between state and federal governments: all issues related to the northern and southern states, which formed loose political blocks based upon their economies.

These disparate positions were reflected in the 1st major parties: the Federalists and the Antifederalists, which were not party organizations so much as groups with shared beliefs about the proper role of government.

American political parties encouraged popular participation in politics from their onset, unlike the early parties in Great Britain.

The US now has 2 dominant political parties: Democrat and Republican. Republicans are reactionary, with conflicted authoritarian and libertarian leanings. Democrats are now moderate conservatives, albeit with some social conscience and sheepish progressive inclinations.

These capitalists generally act harmoniously, and in concert, to fleece the people. ~ Republican President Abraham Lincoln

The Republican party was formed by anti-slavery activists and other liberals in 1854. The last progressive Republican president was Teddy Roosevelt in the 1st decade of the 20th century. From then, the party of Lincoln evolved into a reactionary pro-business cabal.

Republicans have been the part of the corporate elite since the Gilded Age (late 19th century). ~ American political election researcher Robert Mutch

In the 1st decade of the 21st century, Republicans became the antithesis of their moral beginning. The party was temporarily hijacked by a faction who called themselves the “Tea Party,” in reference to the 1773 Boston protest. Their agenda promoted a strong military, gutting the welfare system, mercilessly detaining and deporting illegal aliens, and private gun ownership as sacrosanct. Though not under the Tea Party banner, President Donald Trump carried their water.

I am a compassionate conservative. ~ President Bush Jr. in 2000; Bush was a warmonger whose administration practiced torture as a matter of policy while denying suspects the right to trial.

The fundamentalist Christian fringe of the Tea Party would doubtlessly prefer a theocracy. By contrast, more moderate Republicans still sing corporate exaltation as their main hymn.

With the huge exceptions of law enforcement and allowing women’s control over their own bodies (abortion), Republicans of all stripes today generally agree on minimal government interference in people’s lives, especially regulating business. Despite support for an outsized military, Republicans pimp themselves the small-government party.

The lineage of the Democratic party traces to Jefferson and Madison. From its cradle of classical liberalism, the party matured in the 1930s into a social-liberal creature, with FDR as its godhead.

After the 2nd World War, Democrats embraced social justice and welfarism. Once the small-government party, Democrats now favor a nanny state.

Though both parties effusively nurse at the teat of corporate benefaction, the Democratic party is slightly more circumspect in its support of unfettered big business than its rabid Republican counterpart. Nonetheless, as money is the universal language in the land of ‘free’ enterprise, Democrats are equal to Republicans in currying favor with the financial sector.

Democrats favor a kinder, gentler police state. Their taste for social engineering remains unsated.

Hypocrites to the hilt, Republicans have a thick authoritarian streak while fronting a libertarian mouthpiece. Their disdain for the democratic process has them doing their best to take away the voting rights of minorities, especially blacks, who are rationally repulsed by Republican racism. Partisan jurists, including those on the supreme court, have succored these endeavors. Republicans have migrated to a polar region farthest from the party of Lincoln.

The triumph of Donald Trump in 2016 was a culmination of the conflicting elements within the Republican party. Trump was an ignorant authoritarian in love with the idea of a corporate fascist state but spouting rabble-rousing populism. Party stalwarts were aghast at voters picking this Republican Frankenstein as presidential candidate.

In the finale, Trump pulled off an upset win, thanks to America’s rigged electoral system. Republican party leaders became pliant sycophants, fearful that Trump’s hard-core supporters would abandon them at the polls if they did not do Trump’s bidding.

When Republicans are in power, it seems there is no conservative party. The hypocrisy hangs in the air and chokes anyone with a sense of decency or intellectual honesty. ~ Republican US Senator Rand Paul

 3rd Parties

The US has had 2 dominant parties through almost all of its history. Fringe parties have come and gone. The dominance of the 2 parties is underlined by these transitory groups invariably being referred to as “3rd parties.”

The 2 largest peripheral parties of present day are the Libertarians and Greens. These parties are essentially discontented offshoots of Republicans and Democrats, respectively. Each has around 300,000 registered members, in a country with a voter base of ~146 million. Neither has any representation at the national level.

Touting individual freedom in the extreme, Libertarians are a meager inch away from anarchism. In proselytizing social equality, nonviolence, and environmental goodness, Greens would save humanity from self-immolation if only they had the power.

The American electoral system is systematically rigged against 3rd parties via single-member districting, campaign financing laws, automatic ballot access for major party candidates, and the electoral college system. 3rd parties rarely make a notable impact longer than a single election cycle, as the issues that propel them are coopted by one or both of the major parties if those issues resonate well in polls.

In the political sphere: scandals, corruption and the general decline in standards have no decisive effects in a split society, where responsibility is no longer part of the game. ~ French political commentator Jean Baudrillard

 Party Organization

American political parties are a cadre type, in contrast to mass-membership parties, such as the Chinese Communist Party. The term cadre refers to the small group of active members who do most of the campaign work.

Though there are permanent national committees for each American party, parties are decentralized on a statewide basis, reflecting the state-based federalist history of the country. The decentralized nature of American political parties results in a lack of connectivity between the executive and legislative branches of the federal government. Parties do not discipline the votes of legislators to the extent that political parties do in parliamentary democracies, such as Britain.