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-- Meriah Doty, USC Adjunct Professor

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Political Slide Show

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"This is a pull quote" Meriah

Monday, January 21, 2008

It's not easy being gray

RomneyHuckabeeObamaClinton! Oh no, oh my! News coverage of elections become literal sports commentary: big, bold flashing graphics, easy numbers, little interpretation. Who’s ahead? What do the polls say? We want facts, not discussion. With everyone fluttering around numbers, it’s easy to get lost in the plot. But what about the electoral college system itself?

With over 2,000 political parties in the world, it's a shame the United States champions only two of them. Travel to Germany and you'll see five major parties listed on the ballot with more than 20 smaller ones. Travel to India and you'll find people voting for the Bahujan Samaj Party, the Nationalist Congress, the Bharatiya Janata.

A glaring difference between how the government works in the United States in comparison to nearly all those democracies abroad is its heavy reliance on an uncomplicated two-party political system. With one side naturally pitted against another like a team sport, much of American philosophy and thought has become polarized into diametric frames of thinking as a result.

This divided system has inadvertently perpetuated a left vs. right, Democrat vs. Republican, liberal vs. conservative, "us vs. them" political mentality. Think about it - are you a proponent of national health care? You're labeled a liberal, a Democrat, a blue-stater. Against abortion? You're automatically considered a conservative, a Republican, red as a stop sign. The labels are easy, they're quick, they're convenient.

They're also incorrect.

It is not human nature to think in pure terms of black and white and it's not natural to polarize people's belief systems in completely opposing blocs that are so large its members cannot agree on the same issue.

Without a proportional voting method, however, minority parties will never be counted as whole votes unless they win an entire constituency. The system must be reformed if we ever want a country that is more than two simple, stale and staid political parties whose standpoints often bleed into one another, and more often than not, cannot be distinguished from one another.

Perhaps it has to do with the fact that it's much simpler to throw people into two opposing sides. It takes less thought and less brainpower. But the truth is humans are meant to think without concrete party labels obstructing their view. They shouldn't have to deal with flashing words and absolute ideas. At least they should have more options. They cannot think, "I really don't believe in this, but I think I'm supposed to since apparently I'm liberal/conservative/red/blue/bleeding heart."

Indeed, most people, myself included, find themselves frequently thinking outside party lines on certain issues, stuck in the gray area between the two extremes. This is why the centrist members of a particular party can so easily gain control. Because in a form of government that is neatly divided along the middle, the moderates always win since parties' leaders are too afraid of delving into either extreme. Yet, as a result, the raw political flame of change has blown out and the end product is compromise, concession, moderation, flip-flops, apathy and disregard.

An old senator once said, "Saying we should keep the two-party system simply because it is working is like saying the Titanic voyage was a success because a few people survived on life rafts."

I like that. And perhaps poor Dennis Kucinich does too. Read about his exclusion from the Las Vegas debates here.

1 comment:

Meriah said...

Good point: It's a like choosing between Coke and Pepsi -- what if you don't like either?