Okay, we all know by now that the American two-party system is a brain-eating virus, right? Well, if you didn’t know that, sorry about your brain. Here’s an example: have you been in an argument where the other person was complaining about something your party did, and you destroyed them by turning into a 5-year-old and saying ,”Well, your side did that too, and I didn’t hear you complaining then!“?
This argument illustrates an important point that has to be recognized: both parties, Democrats and Republicans, are basically the same. They have different goals and values, but in terms of the larger operation of the country, things stay the same regardless of who’s in power. No matter which side wins, poor people are poor as fuck and don’t have resources, we’re in an eternal existential war, minorities have to help themselves instead of relying on anybody, and America is a post-colonial globalist empire.
You make a choice when you vote, but if it’s for either of the two main parties, you’re essentially casting a vote to keep things the way they are. And, of course, if you vote for a third party, you’re throwing out your vote. There are differences between the parties, which we’re all aware of. People within the party, and the politicians representing them do (often) actually have a moral stance. And the things they fight over are meaningful. Gay marriage, abortion, gun control, etc., are all important issues.
However, they don’t really affect America as an entity. America will change depending on how things go, but look at it from a global perspective (the perspective in which the US operates). On that level, what does it matter which way those value issues go? Now, what does it mean, on a global or international perspective, for corporations to have a fairly applied marginal tax rate? What does it mean for everyone in the country to be provided for? What does it mean for racist criminal policy to be eliminated? These are things that are fought over, generally over party lines, but never change in any real way. They must not change, in order to keep this country running the way it is, because they support hidden (though widely discussed) structures, such as the prison industrial complex, maintaining a store of cheap labor, and the general blood plague of money that flows through the country’s veins.
The genuine differences between the parties are accentuated and played up, the conflicts brought up again and again, because it presents an illusion of choice. A politician can take a stance following their heart. It’s certainly possible. Then again, though, how often do you hear about a political candidate taking on new positions or changing their mind to suit their party? By building an identity around the image of their chosen party, politicians help to make the two sides look like the only relevant perspectives.
It’s beneficial to both parties to have this pronounced rivalry, but not beneficial in the least to their constituents, who buy into the illusion and limit their own political power to the rigidly-defined two-party feud. Voters like a fight, and the clashing viewpoints of the two parties are easy to glom onto. They’re throwing their lot in with titans, because their battle over value issues is so large and public. Even politicians that more fully and genuinely support a party voter’s values and interests are derided and pushed to the side, as they are seen as an obstacle to the party they hew closest to.
Democrats and Republicans can count on one or the other side being in power, which is certainly good for their agenda, as they can account for historical strategy and issues, and have a handle on politicians they’ll be dealing with. This setup is necessary for a party to survive and be effective in our winner-take-all, first-past-the-post voting system, which in turn supports itself by culling or neutering smaller parties. The two party system is a mechanism that maintains the status quo via rooting two conservative parties in a power struggle.
We’re left in a position where, yeah, if you live in a battleground state, you probably SHOULD vote for the major party that best represents your interests. The upsetting thing is that through perpetuating the idea that only two parties matter, it’s become the truth. Under this system, voting means choosing the person who is going to be the least bad for you. Which is really lost on a lot of people. Even the reality of voting is hidden away from the average person, who, while they may crack jokes about crook politicians, will still engage in the bullshit partisanship that got us here in the first place.
During George W. Bush’s administration, it came out that the NSA was utilizing unwarranted wiretaps within this country. People were pretty ticked off! Especially democrats. For their concern over the surveillance state, they were ridiculed, called anti-patriotic, and, you know, basically everything that’s happening to people now who are overly concerned about the NSA’s electronic surveillance suite under Obama.
Partisanship has so poisoned the thought processes of voters that the issue of our own country spying on us has been spun into a party rivalry. Some people on the internet see Edward Snowden not just as a traitor, but a traitor who hates Obama and democrats so much, he decided to uncover the NSA programs solely to hurt them. And if that is why he chose to leak the documents? Well, maybe they deserve to be hurt. The more important question is why someone would consider Snowden’s motives more pertinent than the fact that any one of us can be tracked, analyzed, spied upon, thrown in a secret prison, tortured, or assassinated, for reasons that nobody will ever have security clearance to know.
So we return to the “your side” argument. What’s being said here? Taking the NSA example, the retort that their side did it too just means that your parties are equally bad. That’s a good baseline, I guess. But to use that as a counter, and then go back to cheering for Obama, suggests something pretty goddamn different. You can’t deny that your side did it, and you can’t deny that it’s bad, and you can’t admit you were wrong. The person you’re arguing with is on the losing side, politically, but they’re also at an advantage. Their party isn’t in power and they see the truth. Whether they’re arguing it for partisan reasons or not, they’re finally right, and you’ve taken their place as the wrong asshole who’s blindly protecting their side.