The United States has 328 million people. We have some of the most educated and creative minds in the world. But in 2020, amid numerous crises, the two major political parties appear to be nominating for president, individuals so exceptionally flawed, that all one can ask is – can’t we find someone better than these two?
Has the U.S. transitioned into a Kakistocracy – rule by the least able or least principled citizens?
The Democrats are about to nominate a man referred to as “Sleepy Joe Biden.” He is gaffe prone; decades of gaffes insulting blacks, Indians, women, disabled, to name a few. He also has a lifetime of plagiarism starting with law school papers and continuing onto Senate floor speeches and presidential campaigns.
The Republicans are about to re-nominate a man described by behavioral scientists as a perfect example of a “narcissist,” “ A grandiose self-image. A very inflated ego. A continuous need for attention. A big urge to be admired. And if that admiration is lacking or the narcissist is criticized, which is even worse, he lashes out recklessly.”
Americans know the system does not work for them!
Only 1 in 10 adults believe the two-party system works. Gallup finds 57% of Americans say a new major political party is needed. The Pew Research Center report finds: “Public trust in the government remains near historic lows. Only 17% of Americans today say they can trust the government in Washington to do what is right “just about always” (3%) or “most of the time” (14%).”
A Real Clear average of polls for April 2020 finds only 35.1% of Americans believe the country is on the “right-track” whereas 57.7 % believe it is on the “wrong-track.”
How did two political parties limit political competition to such an extent that they secured complete control of the government of the United States?
The Republican and Democratic parties manipulate election laws to ensure one of their loyalists almost always wins the election. Controlling who wins directly translates into what laws are enacted, which citizens or corporations receive subsidies, who is taxed more or taxed less, how commerce is regulated and who will judge us should we violate any command.
According to David Nir, in an article in the Daily Kos that references Becoming a Candidate, a book by Jennifer Lawless, there are 519,682 elected officeholders in the United States. Of this total the Libertarian Party, in 2017, claims 168 of these officeholders; the Green Party in 2016 held 143 offices, and the Constitution Party holds 12 offices. Many of these positions are non-partisan offices. There are also, at least 26 Independent office holders, including 2 U.S. Senators who caucus with the Democrats, and 26 Democratic Vermont Progressives. A basic calculation places the third-party competitors’ share of the political market at 0.0007215%.
What makes the power of the two major parties so baffling is that political parties are not mentioned in our Constitution. In fact, for the first several years of our Republic, there were no political parties.
A political party is merely a corporation designed to take control of government
Political parties are nothing more than highly organized, demographically diverse, nonprofit associations of individuals, arranged in a corporate structure, for the sole purpose of controlling all government in the United States and by extension, us. This duopoly, through its many affiliates, has officers in every nook and cranny in the nation to ensure that a member of one of two major parties occupies every seat in government.
Beyond excluding citizens, with different political viewpoints, from participating in the governing of the nation, Republicans and Democrats turn representative government on its head. Instead of allowing citizens to vote for a person who will serve as a fiduciary loyal to the Constitution and citizens; the two major parties use their massive power to force us to vote for one of two individuals whose loyalty is primarily to a Republican or Democrat party.
This limiting of political ideas has led to decades of policy failures. On the most important issues, the two major parties are identical. Both parties have contributed to our massive national debt; tolerate the abuse of war powers by the president; and ignore a haphazard health system costing twice as much an any industrialized nation but leaving 30 million people uninsured or under-insured. These are only a few of government’s failed policies.
How did we allow this to happen?
Professor Brian Porto, in his law review “The Constitution and the Ballot Box” explains that while political parties organized a few years after the founding of our country, it was not until the 1912 elections, when Teddy Roosevelt’s Bull Moose party received more votes than the Republican, and the Socialist Party received six percent of the presidential vote and won several congressional seats, 79 mayoralties and over 1,200 local offices, that the two major parties feared they needed protection.
As fear gripped the Republican & Democratic parties; state legislatures began making access to the ballot more difficult for third-party candidates than for Republican & Democratic candidates, by:
- Requiring a significant number of signatures, e.g. 3% of the vote in the last Gubernatorial race, while waving or substantially reducing the number of signatures needed by Republican & Democratic candidates;
- Providing shorter time periods for third-party candidates to gather signatures than for Republican & Democratic party candidates;
- Requiring third-party presidential nominees to file nominating petitions 8 months before the election and months before the Republican & Democratic candidates had to file;
- Imposing signature distribution requirements on third-party candidates, e.g. a certain number of signatures from each county or congressional district; and
- Requiring new third-parties to nominate candidates for each office up for election in that cycle.
Each obstacle acted to limit political competition and to ensure perpetual control of government in the U.S. by the two major parties.
The Commission on Presidential Debates – the ultimate slap in democracy’s face
An October 11, 2019 press release from the Commission on Presidential Debates (“CPD”) announcing its 2020 debate schedule, and a March, 2019 court opinion, provide a glimpse into who controls our government?
The CPD, a private organization, operating under FEC regulations, has government authorization to set standards that prevent third-party candidates from participating in presidential debates. The CPD has this power as long it does not directly endorse, support, or oppose a candidate, and selects at least two debate candidates. Moreover, those with the most to gain from the major parties, corporations and media, can fund the debates with tax-deductible contributions.
Notwithstanding assertions of “impartiality,” CPD officials wear many hats, e.g. CPD board member and Chair of a political party. These officials can also take positions contrary to CPD when speaking in their “individual capacity.” Such looseness of structure allows the CPD to satisfy FEC requirements while setting “objective” standards not achievable by third-parties.
This controversy started immediately after the major parties formed the CPD in 1987. Prior to the CPD, The League of Women Voters (“The League”), sponsored the debates. When The League discovered the two major political parties secretly gave the campaigns control over questioners, composition of audience, and press access, it withdrew its support.
The League president, Nancy Neuman, characterized these actions as “campaign-trail charades devoid of substance…that would perpetrate a fraud on the American voter.”
From the inception of the CPD, only one candidate, not a Republican or Democrat, was invited to debate, Ross Perot, in 1992; at the request of the other participants. His debate performance helpd him garner 18.91% of the popular vote.
Before the 2000 election the CPD amended its criteria to require participants to secure at least 15% support in selected polls. This requirement is rarely achieved by a third-party candidate, and is much higher than required for state ballot qualification or public financing. Ralph Nader, Green party candidate on the ballot in 43 states, was so angry, the CPD had to physically bar him from the debates.
The real action however, was in the courts. Level the Playing Field and Gary Johnson, Libertarian Party, litigated against the 15% poll criteria alleging FEC and CPD regulatory non-compliance and violations of First Amendment rights and the anti-trust laws. The FEC and the federal courts, in derogatory fashion, dismissed all complaints leaving the two major parties in complete control of the debates.
An appeals court noted: “Every four years, we suffer through the celebration of democracy (and national nightmare) that is a presidential election.”
The trial court dismissed as “old news” statements by the Republican chair of the CPD, that the Commission “was not likely to look with favor on including third-party candidates in the debates” and the Democratic chair saying he “personally believed the panel should exclude third-party candidates from the debates.” Also, the “CPD director asserted CPD officials are “permitted to wear multiple hats and can speak freely … in [their] … personal capacity.”
The two major parties rig the system, so they win! They have established a Kakistocracy. Who represents the citizens of the U.S.?
This article was first published in medium.com on May 4, 2020. Ideas for challenging the two party system include civil rights and antitrust lawsuits.