Question: Has our two-party political system failed?

by Dee Fulton on December 3, 2012

Ethics of disclosure require that I tell you up front that I don’t have the answer to the question which serves as the title of this post.  I

Illustration by Joe Sacco from Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt.

invite debate on the topic here in the Comment section.

Personally, I would like to think that there is still hope for the current system. But I have a friend, Mark,who tells me, in the same sad and quiet tone that a parent uses with a child when the goldfish has died, “Dee, it’s too late.” He  and others who label themselves ‘critical thinkers’ believe that the two-party system has failed, that the global corporate oligarchy is omnipotent, and that efforts at resistance are useless.  (Of course, “resistance is futile” is what the Borg told Jean Luc Picard. But I digress.)

Certainly the stats show us that we’ve moved in an unhealthy direction in the last 30 years.  The deregulation of banks in the 80′s opened the door for the  Savings and Loan crisis and the Subprime Loan Crisis. The rich have gotten richer, the poor poorer.  The middle class is under siege.  Corporations continue to accrue power.  We’ve seen the rapid institution of Super Pacs following the passage of Citizens United and the decisions in 2010 by the Supreme Court and how all that corporate money controls politics and media. Things really have gone quite badly.

Chris Hedges is only slightly more optimistic than my critically thinking friend.  Hedges is a Pulitzer Prize winning American journalist specializing in politics and society. He spent 15 years as a foreign correspondent for the New York Times.  He has published 10 books in as many years.  His latest book, Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt (2012), illustrated by Joe Sacco, focuses on specific sacrifice zones in the United States where human beings and natural resources are used and then discarded by corporations.   The book’s goal is to show us the personal impacts of unfettered capitalism in communities such as Pine Pine Ridge, S.D.; Camden, N.J.; Welch, W.Va.; and Immokalee, Fla.  There is a short 3 minute video clip attached to the book review of Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt on the Amazon site.  In that clip, Hedges specifically references the chapter that deals with impacts of mountaintop removal on communities in West Virginia.

“West Virginia’s sort of the perfect example of what happens when corporate capitalism runs amok. ….The streams are poisoned, the air is poisoned.  We went into towns where almost everyone had their gall bladders removed.  Cancer is an epidemic.  Children, little children in elementary schools are all using inhalers. They have big impoundment dams filled with toxic sludge and waste material which every once in a while break, flooding a community, often taking lives.  Trees are gone, soil is gone.”

Our state political system has allowed this to happen to our own.  We have allowed this to happen to our own through our complacency.  Now many of our state political leaders are excited about the economic development associated with natural gas industry, even though the evidence exists for negative public health impacts. The Hydraulic Fracturing law that was passed in December 2011 was a much watered down version of the bill that was developed by a Special Committee of legislators.  Granted, it was progress.  But much law is still needed to protect our land, our waters, our people.

As I said above, Chris Hedges is slightly more optimistic.  He is a supporter of Occupy Wall Street.  Hedges believes that revolt by the middle class and poor may be the only path to sweeping political reform.  Hedges acknowledges the strength of corporate power, the corruption of our media and our politicians, the cult of Self and the embracing of consumption as ‘a kind of inner compulsion’.  Yet he still sees hope for change, although not through any mechanisms available in the current political power structure.

So, what do you think?

A) The current two-party system works.

B) The current two-party system has failed.  Popular revolt is required to reverse the corporate culture of consumption and return America to the ideals of thrift and self-effacement.

C) No hope.  Too late.  Corporations are simply too powerful now to try to fight.  (Look what happened to the OWS encampments.)

D) Other.  (Explain)

Other links of interest: Truthout Interviews Chris Hedges About Why Revolt is All We Have Left,
Chris Hedges and Joe Sacco Chronicle Mining Catastrophes in West Virginia,
Drive for Profit Wreaks ‘Days of Destruction’, NPR

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Rick Humphreys December 4, 2012 at 11:20 am

Our two party system failed a long time ago. In essence we have a government monopoly that like any monopoly, restricts our ability to break free from their chains. There clearly needs to be change but, I’m not ready to say that all hope is lost.

I believe, if citizens wake up, become involved in the process; stop accepting the two party propaganda not the least of which is ‘don’t waste your vote, vote for one of us;’ we can change the direction of our government. Our Constitution, tells us that it is not only our right, it is our duty. It starts with the media which has its creation, not in entertainment but, in disseminating information for the public good.

We must stop voting one of the two parties into office. We must demand term limits and we must educate ourselves on our history. We owe it to ourselves, we owe it to our children, we owe it to our fore fathers and we owe it to our Nation. “Ask not what your Country can do for you but, what you can do for your County.”


Sharron Burgess December 4, 2012 at 2:17 pm

I was a demonstrator in the Occupy movement and stll go into DC when I can for various meetings. Yes, our two party has failed. And yes, it’s going to take a revolution to change the country’s present path to destruction. Not with guns, with words and non-violent actions. I know that I’m not alone in this thinking and am somewhat optimistic that more and more people will take the stance.

 Old joke– Farmer Brown was on his way to the market with a wagon full of crops, when his mule decided to sit in the middle of the road. He tried the carrot on the stick, pushing, pulling, yelling and whipping.  It didn’t work.

  Farmer Jones came along and saw the situation. “This stubborn jackass just won’t move”, said Farmer Brown. Farmer Jones went to his wagon and picked up a 2×4 and whacked the mule between the eyes, then whispered to the mule,”Time to get up and move”, and the mule did. Farmer Brown became greatly agitated and said, “You could have killed him. Why did you do that?” Farmer Jones replied, “Nah. Wasn’t going to kill him. All you have to do is whisper, but first, you have to get his attention”.

 This is the kind of revolution that is needed. Hit where it hurts — in the pockets — the bottom line — whatever you want to call the money and legal aspect of this country’s system.


Marci Bell December 10, 2012 at 9:55 am

Two parties or three parties or whatever. Isn’t what matters, what are the voters willing to accept by way of pollution, land damages and health effects in order to get jobs and have a thriving economy. We may all fall off the cliff and into a sink hole before we realize what is happening to our country. I heard there is fracking in 13 states already. I’ll vote for good air and water, good health, and protection for the roads and bridges; just get it on the ballot.


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