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2004-09-23 / This Week's Attitude

Two-Party System Reduced To Lesser Of Two Evils

By Neil S. Friedman

I loathe Fox News Channel’s Bill O’Reilly, host of “The O’Reilly Factor.” He’s generally not, nor is the network for which he works — as marketed — fair and balanced. O’Reilly’s approach, to say the least, is exasperating and egocentric.

Yet a few weeks ago he posed an interesting question to Democratic National Party chairman Terry McAuliffe after President Bush’s GOP convention acceptance speech: “What’s the real difference be-tween the Republicans and Democrats?”

He then pointed out that Bush’s rhetoric was similar to that of Bill Clinton’s acceptance speech in 1992. Naturally, McAuliffe disagreed.

But it got me thinking about America’s anemic two-party system.

I’ve been voting since 1968. However, despite my party affiliation, most elections — national state and local ones – come down to reluctant choices.

That is no more apparent than the two foremost choices in this year’s presidential sweepstakes.

O’Reilly’s assessment was nothing new to anyone who closely follows politics. In fact, that’s been the basis for third parties, like the Libertarian Green and Independent parties, and candidates like Ralph Nader now and Ross Perot before him. Except in a few instances, third parties have rarely had an impact on presidential elections. They usually only merit attention when the meager votes they garner affect the outcome of a close election.

But in the land of the free, voters basically have but two choices — Democrat or Republican. And, in recent years, the choices, more often than not, are the lesser of two evils. (Evils may be a little strong, but you get my point.)

This year is no different. For some voters it’s simply a case of anybody but the other guy. But anybody is always only one other guy. Ardent feminists, undoubtedly, hope there’s a gender change in the near future.

I consider myself an independent though I’m a registered Democrat, but I have no qualms crossing party lines when I’m not thrilled about a Democratic candidate. If you’re not registered with either of the major parties you can’t participate in primaries.

American politics has been ruled by the two major parties for too long. Since 1856 every president has been a Democrat or Republican. Other candidates don’t stand a chance and rarely accumulate more than a small percentage of the vote. Consequently, frustrated mainstream folks — not radicals, reactionaries or the lunatic fringe — opt not to vote. That only empowers the status quo. And the status quo has resulted in diminished voter turnout and increasing voter apathy.

Four years ago less than 50 percent of eligible voters went to the polls and it resulted in the Supreme Court selecting the current president. The end result was, to some extent, disgraceful. It made a mockery of the popular vote, despite strict adherence to the Constitution. Hopefully, that scenario will never be repeated before some gutsy politicians amend the law to reflect the true will of the voting public.

With each passing election stuck in more mire than the swamps of the Everglades, there’s an urgent need for significant campaign financing reforms that are not only fair, but omit loopholes that were all too obvious in the ongoing presidential campaign.

It’s been said that anyone born in America can grow up to be president. The phrase is meaningless when you consider George Bush raised almost $260 million in the primary season without a challenger. John Kerry, who emerged from a crowded Democratic field of hopefuls, spent slightly less to win the nomination. Add to that the tens of millions being spent to win the election and you realize there aren’t many who could raise enough money to make the run for the White House. Not to mention the painstaking microscope that anyone running for office must eventually endure.

Choosing a president in recent years is sort of like making up one’s mind about a soft drink. Chiefly there are Coca Cola and Pepsi, which are similar in taste. Neither sugar-sweetened, caffeine-laden, artificially-enhanced soda is really good for you and only temporarily satisfies. Even so, you drink ‘em anyway.

In less than six weeks Americans will vote for a new president. Though there are only two choices, let’s hope those who vote think long and hard about their choice, not to just quench their tastes, but be-cause it will determine who leads this nation for the next four years.

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