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No two people are alike.

As it turns out, this is a major problem for a representative Democracy, and an even more noticable problem when that democracy embraces a 2-party system. In such a large community with so many independent viewpoints, having only 2 candidates per election means that a vast majority of voters will always be forced to accept what is, in their minds, a "lesser of two evils."

But, of course, that's what we've come to expect from politics. Vote for this guy because he isn't as bad as the other guy.

The fact of the matter is, as the population grows, as the sample size increases, it becomes much more difficult to find a viewpoint that most people agree with. Obviously the Presidency is the ultimate example of this - a position that is supposed to somehow represent the best interests of an entire country. In the end, the President is by necessity far removed from any direct "will of the people." Most issues blur into background, with a few spikes of powerful interest that large segments of the population are willing to agree upon - the distinctions between the two big parties are defined by those spikes, which means that at any given time most issues are relegated to the realm of static. What's worse is that, through the media, the parties can actually manufacture spikes, rallying people to support a certain cause by making them freak out (prime example - the war on terror).

Of course, the President can't represent the majority, because there really isn't a single "majority platform" among millions of discreet sets of viewpoints. All a Presidential candidate can really do is tell the people what he believes in and let the people decide collectively if that's reasonable. The people then decide whether or not to place the burden on his shoulders to do what he feels is right for the country.

The President will always be in that position, and it's not necessarily bad - sometimes you need a single individual willing to stand up for what he believes is right, even if it's not the most popular course. It's our job to find a person we trust with that responsibility, and then we have to rely on Congress and the Judiciary to keep him straight. The breakdown occurs when the President starts pandering to financial contributors and special interests, losing track of the greater interests of the country and instead focusing on re-election and profit for his allies.

Congress, on the other hand, should theoretically have a diverse enough sampling to represent more distinct viewpoints. The House, though it maintains some level of diversity due to its size and creative districting, is still dominated by the two big parties - and the much smaller Senate has it even worse. Two Senators per state made sense back when states had a tenth of their current populations - but as the population per state has increased, the number of Senators per state has not, which means that even at the Senate level you'll find least-common-denominator politicians far removed from the local issues.

Such uniformity will ultimately equate to mediocrity. With national decisions made by a few people who can't possibly understand local needs, we seem to end up with policies that are merely tolerable to a majority of people. This is why nobody loves Bush or Kerry, and everybody wishes they had a better option they would agree with more.

What the country needs is a strong third party, and fourth, and fifth, and it needs the size of the Senate doubled at least to accomodate more viewpoints. We need options beyond A and B, and the minority viewpoints (which will be majority viewpoints in certain communities) need some way to be represented, to at least be heard among the tide of middle-of-the-road politics. Without more options, we'll always be doomed to mediocrity.

But how can you encourage new parties to become engaged in such an entrenched political process? How do you encourage the voting public to accept new options? Is our system inherently designed to impose mediocrity, and is there anything we can do to fix it?

I wish I knew.


Bad Mojo @ Wed Jul 07 11:09:18 -0400 2004

If you have more than two parties, though, you begin to move the "watering down" effect farther up the chain. With 10 parties in the senate and house, no single party will have any mandate to move anything forward. And every party will still spend more time trying to get the most votes and not having a platform. It won't actually solve anything. Being a politician is supposed to be like a priest, not a prom queen.

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