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  Bipartisanship Is Not The Answer
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COMMENTARY:

Bipartisanship Is Not The Answer

by Joel S. Hirschhorn
Getting two moderates from both parties to run on the Unity08 ticket cannot erase the greater truth about the loyalties those moderates have had to their parties and their complicity in the destructive actions by those parties.
The recent mainstream media attention given to the new Unity08 group, formed to offer an alternative in the 2008 presidential election, provides the opportunity to rethink the popular belief that somehow bipartisanship offers a solution to what ails our political system.

There are inherent inconsistencies in the ideas of Unity08. It says that “neither of today’s major parties reflects the aspirations, fears or will of the majority of Americans.” Moreover, “both are dominated by money.” Nevertheless, Unity08 wants a ticket based on a Republican and a Democrat for president and vice-president, or vice-versa—politicians who have been loyal to their party but who presumably are too moderate to win the nomination from their own party and are willing to abandon their party (though Unity08 maintains that its candidates would not be asked to leave their party) and run against its candidate. Does this bipartisan ticket offer a real alternative? Even a poll by the group found that “a majority doubt that even a unity team would be able to clear out the corruption and favoritism in Washington.” As to what is really needed, the group explicitly says, “We are not looking to build a new and permanent party.” Never mind the practical aspects of Unity08 succeeding; what matters is their implicit acceptance of the two-party duopoly. Indeed, without challenging the intentions of the founders of Unity08, their effort is the height of destructive political distraction that can be tolerated and even welcomed by the two major parties.

Here is my gut reaction to Unity08’s basic approach. It’s as if I am shopping for a suit and the store has just two that fit me well, but I don’t like the color of each and the compromise solution offered by the salesperson is that I buy both and at any time wear the jacket of one and the pants of the other.

The core problem is that bipartisanship is sheer nonsense. Bipartisanship is not a solution to bitter and destructive partisanship. Bipartisanship inherently accepts the dominance of the Democratic and Republican parties in American politics and protects the two-party duopoly. It’s as if blending two poisons offers a solution. In truth, as Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. observed, “The Republicans are 95 percent corrupt and the Democrats are 75 percent corrupt.” Any rational American who sees the longstanding defects of both major parties should reject bipartisanship in any form. What the nation needs is a new competitive third party.

Bipartisanship inherently accepts the dominance of the Democratic and Republican parties in American politics and protects the two-party duopoly. It’s as if blending two poisons offers a solution.
Bipartisanship creates the illusion of choice. At a deep level of reality the two major parties are not all that different. In 2004, Nader called the two presidential candidates “corporate politicians with the choice being between heart disease and cancer” and that we have “one corporate party with two heads.” Those two heads lie to each other and citizens; in secret conversations they work together to keep out third-party competition and split the riches. The system offers the choice of which party gets which corporate dollars. What differs is the set of private, special interests that the Democrats and Republicans are indebted to and then favor when in office. Both major parties sacrifice the public interest through equal opportunity corruption. Bipartisanship betrays American democracy.

The dirty little secret is that bipartisanship is just a mutual protection pact against third parties and greater political freedom for the majority of Americans abandoned by both major parties.
Too few Americans appreciate that historically third parties have brought about real social and political change. A third party called the Republicans helped end slavery. The Greenback-Labor Party helped give women the right to vote. The Socialist Party helped create the Social Security system. The Progressive Party helped bring about direct election of U.S. Senators and spearheaded the use of ballot initiatives, referenda and recalls. So much of the time when the term “nonpartisan” is used, it is a lie, because the correct term should be bipartisan—or better yet “buypartisan.” The dirty little secret is that bipartisanship is just a mutual protection pact against third parties and greater political freedom for the majority of Americans abandoned by both major parties.

A trap that too many people fall into is the belief that on many important issues there are critical differences between the two major parties and especially between Democratic and Republican presidential candidates. The wisdom of Ralph Nader deserves attention: “The parties are polarized on certain social issues. But on the fundamental issues affecting the future of democracy, they’re on the same page. They sell elections to the highest bidder. They are unwilling to challenge John Corporation. To me that’s on the same page of hypocrisy, instead of democracy.”

Interestingly, while Unity08 has identified two tiers of issues—crucial and important, it has not taken any substantive positions on exactly how to address them. In googling for views similar to mine I found only one on the Hammer of Truth web site. Devious David said “This thing is probably financed by the majors in order to get the people to chase their tails and think that they are doing something. Nothing worthwhile would come from this. And that’s what the powers that be want!”

Getting two moderates from both parties to run on the Unity08 ticket cannot erase the greater truth about the loyalties those moderates have had to their parties and their complicity in the destructive actions by those parties. This is what must always be remembered: Republicans are more open than Democrats about being corporate whores—as they practice compassionate corporatism. At most, the two major parties offer near-term incremental change to tweak things, rather than more radical, systemic and status quo-busting change. And that is also the inevitable problem with the Unity08 approach to providing a safety valve for the high blood pressure of many millions of Americans who are angry as hell about the current political system.

We desperately need a new third party, and until a kosher competitive one is created to appeal to Americans across the entire left-right political spectrum, based primarily on restoring American democracy, the best action for angry Americans is to withdraw their votes and support from both Democrats and Republicans. What may do more to bring about necessary fundamental change in our system is reducing the fraction of eligible voters participating in elections in which clearly a Democrat or Republican will win. When a president of the United States wins with, say, just 20 percent of eligible voters, the legitimacy of America’s delusional democracy will finally vanish.

Now is not the time for frustrated Americans to compromise. The nation is increasingly ready for a new third party. Just say No! to both Democrats and Republicans—all of them, even the moderates. Yes, we need unity, but unity for restoring American democracy.
Joel S. Hirschhorn is the author of Delusional Democracy—Fixing the Republic Without Overthrowing the Government, to be released soon by Common Courage Press. He can be reached through his web site, sprawlkills.com.


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This story was published on June 14, 2006.
 

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