Game Theory and the American Two-Party Racket
Here we refer again to a recurring theme of this site: how American politics is, under the present regime, basically a one party system, with two colluding “wings” — Democrats and Republicans.
The argument presented in this post is that this is exactly what you’d expect to find if a single special interest coalition wished to control a country. Suppose, for the sake of argument, that in some hypothetical country there was a group of people who wished to control the government and to benefit themselves by manipulating government decisions in ways that were potentially harmful to the population at large.
Suppose, further, that these ruling interests first founded or bankrolled a single party only, which tried to gain control of the government. That might work in a dictatorship, but in a democracy like the United States, where people can in theory vote an aversive regime, it is difficult. After a few years, people would get tired of the oppression, identify the government as the cause, and elect a new government. Therefore it would not be in the interests of such vested interests to form a single party only, and to try to control the government by that means.
Suppose instead, then, that this group formed two nominal parties, and that these two parties shared control of the government, alternating, so that only one was in power at any given time. By this means the special interests could then exploit a population indefinitely. When the public got tired of the oppression of party A, then party B could come to the fore, denouncing party A. People could then vote party B into office, believing that in this way they had acted to end oppression. However, under the conditions of the example, party B would also be “owned” by the special interests. Nothing really would change. In this way, the special interests would become effectively immune to the corrective actions of public indignation.
Crucial to this scheme would to to convince people that they must vote only for one of these two main parties, and to dissuade them from voting for third-party candidates. One effective means for this is to dominate news media with coverage of two main parties. A second strategy would rely on the ultimate tried-and-true principle for mass manipulation: fear. That is, make both main party candidates so extreme that people will be forced to vote against one of them; this is facilitated by selecting platforms that divide the electorate as close as possible to a 50/50 split — that way nobody will be willing to vote for a third-party candidate, because each person believes that his or her own vote is crucial in preventing the less desirable mainstream candidate from winning.
This would be the perfect racket, scheme, or con-game. It would let vested interests remain in power indefinitely, continuing to exploit the population. Now, (1) since this would indeed be a very effective strategy for powerful vested interests, and would benefit them greatly, (2) since existing American special interests (big finance, defense contractors, etc.) are quite capable of manipulating two different parties, and (3) since, as outlined above, it gains them very little to manipulate only a single party, then we must seriously consider that this dual-party manipulation is actually occurring.
We might also note some specific evidence of this. First, it is well known that many corporations make campaign contributions to both the Democrats and the Republicans. There is absolutely nothing to prevent this. (Anyone who still thinks that big business only contributes to the Republicans is very naive!) Second, the news media (which is part of big business) tells us very little about third-party and independent political candidates and viewpoints. Rather, they devote inordinate amounts of space to petty squabbles between the Republicans and the Democrats, which fits with our model here.
Okay, that’s the argument. Some readers probably already accept that this is going on. Others are welcome to think about it. If you do agree that this is what’s happening, the answer is obvious: one should vote for some party other than the Republicans/Democrats. Even if this doesn’t change the government in 2012, it serves as a protest vote. It will gradually (or perhaps not so gradually) force the Republicans and Democrats to develop more rational and productive platforms. Further, it signifies that you yourself have extricated yourself from the game.
Most of all, I wish to encourage people reconsider entrenched ways of thinking about Republicans versus Democrats. If the model proposed here is correct, then if one is a staunch Democrat who hates Republicans, or vice versa, then I propose that one is succumbing to the false rhetoric of these parties; one is buying into the specious controversies which the parties and their special interest owners engineer to give the mere appearance of their having two different points of views..
Look at the evidence. Yes, we’ve had a Democrat in the White House for 4 years, and things are bad. But before that we had Republican president for 8 years, and things were bad then. Previous to that, we had a Democrat president along with a deeply troubled economy and imperialistic foreign policy. (True, on paper, the economy then was booming in the 90’s. But how much of that was the result of a hyperinflated stock market? Everyone was delighted when their pension plans, heavily invested in the stock market, doubled in value. But who was asking if this was sustainable? Or moral?) At the same time people were still working like dogs in high-stress jobs, commuting 1 hour to and from work, and breathing polluted air. The country then, as now, suffered from massive epidemics of stress-related psychosomatic diseases. In short, the quality of life was bad under Clinton, a Democrat, under George W. Bush, a Republican, and now under Obama, a Democrat. During none of these administrations was there anything even remotely close to a realistic long-term vision or plan for the country.
We can keep going back and forth like this, changing the name and the superficial appearance of the ruling party, telling ourselves that it matters; or we can wake up and smell the coffee, and throw both sets of bums out of office. What’ll it be?
Related post: Why Vote Third-Party?