Friday, October 16, 2009

Obama and Duopoly

"I believe in a two-party system where ideas are tested and assumptions are challenged."

--Pres. Barack Obama on October 15

The problem is, that is not what a two-party system (duopoly) does. It preserves the status quo; it protects the basic assumptions on which that status quo rests.

Which might be okay if things were working well. The times, however, require a politics that allows us to re-examine some of the assumptions on which our social order rests.

Just to run off a quick list: it's time to retire the "trickle-down" economic fantasy and work on "bubble up" systems, putting more democracy into economic policy (we never voted, after all, on the murderous health care system that is currently lording over us, or on industrial agriculture getting to patent seeds, or any of a host of life-altering economic policy decisions), and it is time for serious conversations about the reality of petroleum prices, and how much of our daily lives and budgets are tied to it, because there will be lifestyle-changing events related to petroleum in my lifetime.

There are many more for that list, but I think that's enough to make the point.

Our two-party dictatorship does not allow for testing those ideas or challenging any of our unconsidered assumptions about how to order our lives and communities. It can't even deliver some simple and sensible regulations of the private health insurance industry -- the corporations are, in fact, more powerful than our Congress. This is not our government; it is not accountable to us in any meaningful way. Vote out a Democrat, you'll either get a Republican or some other Democrat.

The duopoly is effective at one thing: preserving power for these two parties alone, and keeping other political parties that might test their ideas and challenge their way of conducting business -- the libertarians, the socialists, the greens -- out of power and sidelined in elections.

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