The false dichotomy of American politics

As the Republican primaries continue their slow crawl toward Tampa, and President Barack Obama is oiling up his re-election campaign, I believe now is a good time to take stock of the current condition of politics in America.

Turn on the 24-hour news cycle and it will demonstrate what I believe to be the fundamental problem with our political system. Namely, the mentality of the electorate that there are only two viable possibilities: Republican or Democrat; left or right.

How can only two choices adequately represent all the beliefs and principles of this great and diverse nation? Therein lies the false dichotomy that is our two-party system; as a voter it would seem that you are either one or the other, with no gray area or alternative positions to be had.

Green Party. Image from Charlestongreenparty.org.

However, this idea that there is only red and blue is simply false; you can be yellow, green, purple, pink, aqua and even mauve! The truth is that people can believe anything that they want to and if they can find like-minded people and organize into a group, more power to them.

Groups such as the Green Party, Libertarian Party, Constitution Party and even the United States Marijuana Party exist, but they are often chastised and dismissed for being a waste of votes since their platforms are too radical or their candidates are unelectable.

Arguing in favor of things like less government, responsible ecological policy, fiscal responsibility, or legalizing marijuana seems reasonable enough. Especially if the people who believe these things can offer strong arguments and real solutions to national problems, then why should they be excluded from the political conversation solely because their positions are different from the two major parties?

Libertarian Party. Image from Wikia.com.

As a result of this exclusionary mentality, the two major political parties have a monopoly over American politics and ideology in general. They no longer have any pressing need to validate their positions. Their conquests for power have become less about platform disputes and more about hurling insults or sabotaging each other’s legislation under the guise of “politics.”

I think a fresh ideology or two entering the mainstream fray would bring the political landscape down from its present war-torn state to a more substantive debate over principles and platforms. Instead of Republicans and Democrats simply demolishing each other with vitriolic attack ads, they would have to have scholarly debates with the likes of Libertarians or True Socialists on concepts like what the nature of government ought to be.

To disregard people with opposing viewpoints without even considering the merits of their positions, or taking the time to evaluate their arguments is an affront to the concept of politics. This is what we have been enduring under the two-party system; I believe the time is ripe for Americans to consider the viability of other points of view.

Despite what the media or tradition may dictate to us, there are more than two ways to run a government. Instead of allowing convention to decide what government policies ought to be, I think we ought to broaden our electoral horizons to include candidates who have solutions and not just those who have the backing of one of the major parties.