The Bipolar Nature of US Politics: Pros and Cons
Previously published on May 12, 2010
As an independent voter, a primary means little more than a longer time period to get to know a candidate while he, or she interacts with a multitude of presidential hopefuls, each disappearing from the national scene one by one. I choose to be an independent because I feel political parties hinder democracy; after all, Senators and Congressmen tend to vote with their parties and the party system pushes agendas which leads to less independence in the political arena. Furthermore, compounding my dislike of the political system is that we are essentially only a two-party system with each party espousing increasingly polarized ideologies. I simply feel the lack of diverse representation created by only having two parties leads to limited representation of our very diverse people; in addition, it causes the polarization of America on key issues. On the other hand, the two-party system can be beneficial as it gives the Country the ability to nationally shift our world views within less than one election cycle.
A realist perspective classically views a state as a single rational actor even though there are many times when a nation engages in detrimental policies involving conflict, economy, or poor diplomatic relationships. Much of the time, government is slow in responding to the consequences of these detrimental behaviors; in fact, nations like Cuba and Israel see decades of conflict because the ideologies of their leaders change little and, thus, shifts in their policies are limited. On the other hand, the United States does have the ability to respond as quickly as half an election cycle with our bipolar two-party system by simply ending the other party's rule.
With regard to the 2004 presidential election, one might point to the poorly managed war in Iraq, the weak world diplomatic relationships, and the neo-liberal economic policies of the George W. Bush Administration. In this case, the dipolar nature of America could have had a significant effect on the Nation. On the other hand, because we failed to unseat the Bush government, we chose to hold onto detrimental policies for an additional two years, these hurting our Nation greatly. Had we elected a Democrat, our Nation would have taken on a completely different face which probably would have diminished many of the ill-effects we are currently experiencing in the economy, the military, and abroad. Since the UN rejection of the Bush Administration's resolution to invade Iraq and the actual invasion, diplomatic fallout has shadowed the United States. The election of 2004 could have given our nation the chance to reject the policies and ideals that the world has come to scorn so greatly. Quite frankly, the polarized states of our political majority give our country the ability to act as two separate nations to the point that changing the majority party gives foreign nations the ability to deal with an almost different country.
On the other hand, the greatest downside, from a policy standpoint, is that it makes the United States fickle and inconsistent in dealing with other nations and in domestic policy. Of course, this is somewhat true of any democracy and the relatively small shifts over decades in Congress help mitigate extreme policy shifts while the Supreme Court ensures laws consistently adhere to nearly the same Constitutional standards generation after generation. The fickleness of the US in foreign policy turns negative when administers have been engaging in questionable or unethical activities and the next administration is unwilling to continue such activities. Furthermore, one of the biggest issues comes from the economy as a lack of vision and consistent economic policy leads to differing beliefs in economic theory causing the government to manipulate the economy inconsistently such that there are bound to be ripple effects. Additionally, the military and policing agencies may experience weakness when leaders are not consistent in budget and direction.
In the 2006 election, America changed the polarized tone of our nation, but with the same President in power the shift was weak, not quite sending a clear message to the world; however, our bipolar system is ever evolving so even minor shifts help political parties reorganized themselves with improved policies. The Republican Party currently has three options as they are in the minority; they can change their party so it is more inline with the views of Americans, develop a political strategy focusing on obtaining votes without any significant change in political substance thus adding to the shortcomings of politics, or die out. In the short term, a combination of the first two options will be tried. It is important to note when the Democrats were locked into the minority, they eventually were able to pull themselves up, but it is important to remember, they tent to be the party of change. Quite frankly, the polarization of the parties has left the GOP with the old; today's liberals will be tomorrow's conservatives but today's conservatives will die out; so like the Whigs, we may see a decline of the Republican Party followed by a splitting of the Democratic Party with one wing replacing the GOP as the conservative party. Unfortunately, we have only seen one full life cycle of the political party system in our nation and this is only the beginning of what could be the end.