Sep 8, 2011

Democrats, Republicans, and the Other Guys

With the United States exceeding record levels of national debt, civil liberties diminishing, and a growing military power around the world, government’s power appears to be increasing at exponential levels. But as these policies continue, citizen’s trust and faith in government’s ability to fix the current situation also seem to be on the fall. America’s two great parties (I should probably specify that I am referring to the Democrats and Republicans as many would yield from using the adjective “great”) have again and again made promises to fix at least one of the major problems stated above, but failed to deliver. From these observations it can be concluded that a change is needed from the same two parties. However, not everyone would agree to that conclusion. These people are those that either remain loyal to their party (yes, these people still exist) or believe the only way a new ideology can come to power is through change from within the party.

In this article we will take a look at some of the political ideologies and views that people have towards a change (or stagnation) in the political system. Then I will offer a critique of their platform. First, however, let’s quickly glance at the policies of our two current leading political parties. But even before that, please note that when I discuss a particular group I am not referring to everyone that holds that label, but to a majority of those who do. Finding a 1.00 correlation is difficult at best (please view your Statistics 101 textbook to review the concept of correlations).

Democrats: This is how we “say” we will restore the nation.
Democrats believe that the current debt issue is not as much about spending as it is a revenue issue. Their belief is that if government is allowed to increase taxes, especially on the rich, the US can afford to pay for our current system and even fund new government run programs. When it comes to civil liberties, they believe in laws that allow people the ability to make their own choices on issues such as who they will marry and whether they will smoke marijuana or not. As for foreign policy, Democrats believe we should maintain peace and avoid wars.

What Democrats really mean.
When it comes to wanting to raise taxes, or change current taxes to fit a progressive tax model, Democrats tell the truth. Democrats were able to push through the removal of “Don’t ask, don’t tell,” but no other major strides have been made in restoring civil liberties. Our country continues to keep large number of troops in Iraq and Afghanistan and a new unconstitutional war has been declared in Libya, thus debunking the anti-war rhetoric.

Republicans: This how we “say” we will restore the nation.
Republicans think debt problems are caused by too much spending. Cutting programs to reduce spending is their plan to solve the debt issue. They believe social issues should be dictated by the government as to keep us safe from ourselves. They also believe that the current wars the Unite States are fighting are necessary for the security of the nation.

What Republicans really mean.
Republicans speak a lot about spending cuts, but this about all we get from them: talk. The cuts are usually unspecified and include a 20 year plan before any (if any at all) progress is made towards reducing spending. In the categories of civil liberties they have been successful at continuing the War on Drugs and introducing the PATRIOT Act to protect us (I feel so much safer). And we cannot forget about those defensive wars that they launched during the past decade against two nations that threatened our existence.

For two parties that are supposed to be total opposites of one another there is not much difference between them at all. Libertarianly speaking, it seems that the only policies that get pushed through are the worst ideals of the Democrat’s and Republican’s platforms. I will further compare and contrast, if there is anything to contrast, their platforms and actions in more detail in a separate post. Until then, if you believe that big government is what we need to preserve society, then a typical Democrat or Republican is the perfect candidate for you.

If you happen to disagree with the status quo Democrats and Republicans, but see all other candidates as “unelectable,” I ask you to reconsider that thought for a moment. Below I will list some solutions to working around America’s two-party system that specific individuals or groups are advertising. I will spend little time on ideology, except where necessary, in this section and focus more on changes to the election process.

The Tea Party Approach
The Tea Party movement began in 2009 in opposition to big government, specifically in the economic sphere. The Tea Party belief is that career politicians have lost touch with the majority of Americans. These politicians should be voted out and replaced by someone who usually fits the two conditions of 1) not giving into special interest groups and 2) believing in term limits. Both conditions are thought to keep politicians more honest and loyal to their campaign promises. They do not wish to start their own political party, nor is there a single Tea Party, but many small Tea Party groups that, for the most part, share similar ideas. However, since most run as Republicans, it seems to be a way changing the Republican Party from within.

Sticking with their belief that government is too big, many, if not all, Tea Party candidates have run on the belief that taxes are too high and spending needs to be cut. My problem with the Tea Party is that many contradict their belief in small government by taking a social conservative stance. They believe that people should be free to make their own economic decisions, but government is needed to regulate people’s personal lives. Also, many are pro-war, making them the equivalent of a slightly more fiscally conservative status quo Republican.

The Gary Johnson Approach
Gary Johnson is the former two-term Republican Governor from New Mexico. He believes that the Republican Party is the only party that can restore America. His beliefs currently align more with libertarian ideology than the run of the mill Republican. However, he believes historically that Republicans have been the ones to balance the check book and wants to bring back and expand that belief. Johnson also believes that by having the Republican Party focus more on finical rather than social issues more people would be willing to vote Republican.

The Ron Paul Approach
Known as the grandfather of the Tea Party movement, 12-term Republican Texas Congressman Ron Paul has held favorable beliefs for third party candidates for many years. Why then is he running as a Republican? Paul tried running as a Libertarian back in 1988 election, but because of America’s two-party powerhouse he received little attention. He ran every election since as a Republican finding it is an easier way to obtain ballot access and receive media attention. Paul is more concerned with spreading the idea of liberty to people rather than linking it to a specific party.

Both Johnson’s and Paul’s choice to maintain Republican status could also cost them votes, however. Those that believe the Republican Party is too corrupt to be changed or to hold viable candidates would not end up voting for one of the two. The next two approaches work towards moving away from the two-party system.

The Libertarian Party (and probably other third parties) Approach
I bring up the Libertarian Party because it is the primary third party that I follow (I bet you would have never guessed that). Other third parties probably have similar beliefs. The Libertarian approach is that the two-party system is completely broken. That means there is no way of saving either of the parties through an internal fix. Third parties would need to make a name for them, thus they would run candidates that hold true to their positions. There would also be a growth in crisp platforms that break away from the traditional Democrat and Republican extremes. Libertarianly speaking, political parties would enter a free market atmosphere forcing the parties into competition to produce the candidate that most aligns with the party’s beliefs.

The Jesse Ventura Approach
Yes, that’s right. I am referring to the (former) Governor himself. Jesse Ventura served as the governor of Minnesota from 1999-2003. Initially he had strong faith in third parties. He even won his position as governor on the Reform Party ticket. More recently, however, Ventura has stated that for any third party to rise to power it must become as corrupt as the Republicans or Democrats. He now advocates the independent approach to running. His belief is that if one runs as an independent, voters will be forced to learn what the person is running for and not vote simply because the person belongs to a certain party.

As with the other approaches, both the Libertarian and Ventura approaches come with their setbacks. In practice, both approaches prove difficult to run a successful campaign. The candidates are usually given less, if any, air time to get their messages across to the public. This causes them to lose several votes that they could gain just by people knowing who they are. The best candidate to run in either situation is one that is well known, rich, or a combination of the two.

Ideally, I agree most with Ventura’s approach, which could also be known as Washington’s approach, as it is the most free market idea offered. When looking at reality, however, Paul’s approach seems the most practical. Although, I do see two conditions that could spark a revolution in favor of the rise of third parties and independents. The first is the growing mistrust in government that I mentioned at the beginning of the article. As more people become disgruntled by the two-party system, third parties and independents will become a more viable choice. The second condition is the growth of internet communication. If these non two-partiers start taking advantage of social networking sites they can communicate more directly with people and build a larger audience. If they chose to use these conditions to their advantage, independents and third parties could start building up a new base of supporters now and become a more prominent force in near future elections.