November 8th 2016 will finally draw the curtains on the biggest political show on earth. No matter who wins, the loser is already declared – the American Democracy! The two party system has made sure that not just this election but every election is in their favor. We have heard about the banks being too big to fail, the Wall street being too big to fail but in reality the Democratic Party and the Republican party together have become the personification of ‘too big to fail’. Even in the light of two of the most disliked people being the nominees of the two big parties, one of the parties will of course emerge victorious while millions of voters lament their choice and the inevitability of the outcome.
These parties have been winning for more than 200 years now. 2016 had the potential to become historic for throwing up a real third alternative in the form of Bernie Sanders but the 2-party system made sure his prospects were swallowed alive. As the election day nears, a true liberal voter can only wonder who would have won a 3-way race with such huge unpopularity that both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump have garnered over the years. A pro-people independent Senator with the most populist platform was forced to run in the Democratic Primary because the two-party system had rigged the process long time ago. Although there is no stipulation in the constitution on how many parties can contest, the default two-party system has, in fact, hurt democracy and has made sure that the people’s will can be ‘bought’ as long as the winner is narrowed down to one of two. On the surface of it, there is a lot of anger expressed about issues such as “Citizens United” or “Corporations are people”, etc., but in reality a bigger threat to democracy has been the 2-party system itself. Even if the corrupt campaign finance system that Bernie Sanders hates is reformed, the insurmountable threat of the 2-party system will make sure lobbyists and corporate honchos get their way because of the ultimate predictability inbuilt in this system. This system has created a ‘stability’ that big businesses like but that has never translated in to real stability in the lives of the working classes. The idea of more choices being better choices somehow does not ring a bell in one of the largest democracies in the world. The irony is that the political leaders always talk of how capitalism is always about competitiveness and how competitiveness creates choice for the consumer but they do not want the voter to have more choice in the most important aspect, the election! Their choices are already made for them and the artificiality of selecting from the chosen two is trumpeted as a success of democracy. Now one could argue that there is no limit on how many can contest in the party primaries but the Sanders vs Clinton primary has shown how much of an open battle it was with vested interests such as super-delegates and the behemoth party machinery that had to be contended day in and day out.
Another entrenched ‘too big to fail’ power that works in cahoots with this 2-party juggernaut is the mainstream media. The media’s vested interest in a prolonged political campaign is all too obvious. The disproportionate importance given to the artificial debates between the contenders is designed to reinforce the media’s influence over the process and delegitimize the efforts of any other small contender that has no access to these expensive ‘private affairs’. The media through its choreographed Presidential debates and wall-to-wall coverage of the campaigns works tirelessly to keep the focus on non-issues such as sexually explicit remarks, email scandals and so on and so forth. They care the least about pressing issues such as unending wars (rather invasions), humanitarian crises, ubiquitous gun massacres, burgeoning healthcare costs and widening income equalities with resultant social unrest. Mainstream American media has in fact taken the role of modern day McCarthy by calling out anybody who questions the mockery of democracy, by tarnishing anybody who questions their legitimacy and by raking up national security whenever a major party email is hacked but toeing the official line on such fake reports as weapons of mass destruction!
If there is a single issue that has the potential to impact everything else, that is the question of foreign policy in this unprecedented era of refugee crisis. On this issue, though the media and the 2 Presidential contenders make it seem like they are poles apart, in reality, they both have disastrous outlooks. First, we only have to look at the 2 terms of George W Bush to understand what an impact an uncalled for invasion can have not only on the US economy but on the world economy leave alone the death and destruction it has caused. Millions are still reeling under the havoc created by the Iraq invasion that in turn has led to out of control military spending, loss of countless lives across continents and eventually culminated in the worst economic recession of modern history. In such a background, Hillary Clinton, a votary of Iraq invasion herself, has shown us how she spearheaded another historic blunder called the Libyan invasion. She is an unapologetic hawk and a self-declared disciple of Henry Kissinger, the architect of such horrendous acts including Napalming, cluster bombing and ruthless regime changes across continents. She has made clear on multiple occasions her desire to escalate tensions with Russia and has repeatedly accused Putin of meddling with the US election process with the narrow aim of winning over Donald Trump. One can only imagine then the global theater of war that would manifest under her Presidency. On the other hand, we have Donald Trump that talks of ‘bombing the hell’, increasing the military spending on a military that is already bigger than the next several combined militaries of the world and sees no harm in using nuclear bombs. Though he takes a conciliatory tone towards Russia at times, he is all too volatile and has already made enough enemies around the world by talking ill of Muslims, Mexicans, Chinese, etc. that peace would be a pipe dream under his watch.
On the domestic front, entanglement in these global conflicts that both these contenders envisage will only make it worse to tackle any crisis that automatically will have financial repercussions. How will Hillary Clinton, heavily funded by Wall Street bigwigs, take on the healthcare giants (including big pharma, insurance companies and HMOs) in the battle for affordable care? How will Donald Trump take on them – by cutting deals?
Another emotive issue that both the parties and the media keep peddling is that of the Supreme Court justices. As times change and society becomes more open and religion less prevalent as we are finally seeing in America, no matter how many conservative justices they want to pack on the bench, liberal verdicts will come out dictated by the changing landscape of the country. At the same time, no matter how many liberal judges are on the bench, the influence of money on politics is not something they can change overnight because the problem does not stem from a Citizens United verdict but from the 2-party system itself.
Finally, the fear-mongering of Donald Trump being the worst possible President ever and thus discouraging people from opting for a third party choice by the media and ‘intelligentsia’ has to be exposed too. This fear-mongering actually is helping legitimize the right-wing Republican party – they want to come out ‘clean’ after years of peddling the same lies that Trump magnifies by using Trump as a scapegoat. And democrats lead by Clinton are bending over backwards to help out their Republican counterparts. The country has long before seen a President that was the only one (Harry Truman) in the history of mankind to drop a nuclear bomb on fellow human beings – he was a democrat and it was never unavoidable (detailed study of WWII is beyond the scope of this article but such study reveals this very clearly). The country has seen the most paranoid President already in Richard Nixon that brought eternal disgrace to the post and just scraped short of ending up behind bars, again courtesy to the 2-party system. The country has seen the most ill-informed President in George W Bush that landed the nation in wars that had no means of ending, invaded sovereign states in the name of family honor under the garb of weapons of mass destruction and let his Vice President write his own corporate expansion plans in the name of National Security, again fully supported by the 2-party system.
So, the American people will do a lot good to themselves and to democracy by realizing that their biggest hindrance is this bloated 2-party system and not any external threat. I cannot help but wonder about the things that a revolutionary candidate such as Barack Obama might have been able to achieve if only his promises of ‘hope’ and ‘change’ were not usurped by the hollowness of the 2-party system that he now has come to represent so indelibly in his embrace of the very Clintons that fought against his rise on the pretext of him being so ‘green’ in 2008. Now, in completing a full circle, the Obamas seem to want to join the plutocracy of the Clintons and the Bushes with a potential Michele Obama ticket in the future which may have its own merits but only to be again overshadowed just as her husband’s agenda was.
If the American voter wants a Bernie Sanders-like agenda to capture power in the future, the only way forward is to show the 2-party system the way out. This monster has to be made a dinosaur before it makes democracy a dinosaur.
Nijam Gara is a Gastroenterologist by profession