by William T. Hathaway
(Swans - November 21, 2005) Yet another election has shown us the Republicans and Democrats aren't real political parties, they're just two modes of control by the corporate oligarchy, two sides of the same gold coin. The economic base of both parties lies in the business establishment, and they represent two sometimes conflicting tendencies within it.
The Republicans support a fiscal orientation aimed at preserving the value of capital. The Democrats support a mercantile orientation aimed at stimulating public buying. Both sides are necessary for their accumulation of wealth from the workers. The alternation of power between them ensures that neither tendency gets carried so far as to destabilize the very profitable enterprise. Given this structure, the changes we need can't come from them.
The Repocrats work very hard to shut out real choices. They create ballot-access laws, matching-fund regulations, and debate policies to block alternative political parties. They want to be the only game in town, but it's now obviously a shell game with no winners except them.
The biggest barrier they place to true democracy is the lack of proportional representation in the legislative branch. From Congress, to state legislatures, to city councils, only candidates who win the majority in their district become part of the government. This winner-take-all system is designed to prevent change. Rather than the law-making bodies representing the diversity of our society, they represent just the majority group, the one that has the most interest in maintaining the status quo.
In parliamentary systems, however, representation is divided proportionally to the number of votes each party receives. In many countries all parties that poll at least five percent of the votes are represented in the legislature. The minor parties can then enter into coalitions and wield power. The purpose of an election is not so much to determine who wins or loses, but rather the proportions in which power will be shared.
Imagine how this five-percent rule could change the make-up of the United States Congress. Our lawmakers would include a much broader spectrum of viewpoints, one that mirrors our society. Our government could become a truly representative democracy, not just a tyranny of the majority.
The current nonproportional representation confines us to a system designed by 18th-century aristocrats. Changing this politics of no choice will not be easy, because it serves so well the interests of their 21st-century successors. But change it we can. We must.
Until we do, we, the people, will continue to be the losers.