OPINION: Two-party system days numbered
Mar 04, 2013 (Lebanon Daily News - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
While the Republicans were wearing funny hats and working themselves into an unthinking frenzy about their candidate, John McCain, and his Chosen One, Sarah Palin -- this was a week after the Democrats were wearing funny hats and working themselves into an unthinking frenzy about their Chosen One, Barack Obama, and his vice-presidential pick, Joe Biden -- a gathering occurred that represented the apotheosis of outsider politics in the early 21st century.
This collection of independents and independent thinkers was headed up by Ron Paul and Ralph Nader -- and if there could be two more dissimilar individuals caught up in the idea of politics making strange bedfellows (an image we're passing without another solitary thought) -- we can't think of one. The gathering included Green Party presidential hopeful Rep. Cynthia McKinney, Constitution Party candidate Chuck Baldwin and others. Candidate Bob Barr of the Libertarian Party was heard from but not present. There were others as well.
The purpose of the gathering was not to find common ground between the beliefs of the disparate parties. There aren't many to be found. Except for one, and it was on this single plank that the meeting stood -- and it should stand forever.
The idea isn't a new one -- that the two-party system as it exists in this country disenfranchises far more voters than it encompasses. Voters are forced to make a choice -- bad or perhaps a little less bad -- rather than voting for a candidate in whom they
Paul, Nader and the others were exhorting the voting public not necessarily to vote for the Constitution, Green or Libertarian candidates, but to vote for anyone other than the candidates put forth by the establishment parties -- not as a wasted vote but as a vote to demand change.
In an interview with McClatchey Newspapers that appeared on Sept. 10, Paul said, "Presidential elections turn out to be more of a charade than anything else," adding there was no difference between McCain and Obama.
"We represent the majority of the American people," Paul said, referring to the 60 percent of eligible voters who don't cast a ballot.
I said this while Paul was running his race for the Republican nomination: The time is not now, but it is coming soon. Paul is laying a foundation on which others will build, not at some nebulous time in an unforeseeable future but within the next couple decades.
Paul harnessed the immense power of the Internet to build his campaign and to raise the money for it. He was enormously successful, but that new way of doing things is still too alien to the hidebound world of American politics and the majority of American voters.
But in another decade, and no more than two, we will see the coming of voting generations who have grown up with the Internet from birth, for whom the technology is a tool as familiar as a telephone or a flushing toilet to those who have come before.
And then, we will see a change in American politics. We will see the end to two-party domination, because the Internet does not rely so greatly on money. It is driven by users -- by bloggers and YouTube and flash mobs and other denizens of the Web Age -- and those users, when motivated, can represent a nation-changing force.
Paul couldn't translate his Internet backing into votes. He wasn't able to break the barriers that prevent what the mainstream views as "fringe" candidates from coming into that mainstream and rocking the boat. Paul and Nader have strong views about breaking the bonds of the two-party system in this country, and those views are shared by others.
It will take time; it will take action by Democrat and Republican nonthinkers to arise and finally determine that their parties are not really providing them with the representation that they seek -- that the chosen candidates are only the slightly less distasteful choices rather than choices about which to be motivated.
But it will happen.
Forney is the editorial-page editor for the Lebanon Daily News. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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