Easily one of the strangest attributes of watching Congress is the sense that, whatever one’s perspective, the only way that meaningful change could ever truly come about would be a total lack of moderation. It is for this reason that the ad nauseum complaints about partisanship – and, indeed, the credit so many politicians intrinsically offer bipartisanship – even come about. The party system is the ultimate, most explicit act of surrendering independent thought, and it is an act that binds together virtually every successful politician in the United States.
At the same time, there is no sense to the claim that working outside the two major parties will necessarily lead to a better conclusion. However, what has come to be known affectionately as “sausage making” is unironically the very vehicle by which pork barrel spending takes it place in modern legislation. Vague notions of “realpolitik” and “pragmatism” and “realism” inevitably serve to distance legislation from the notions that inspired its original crafting and more toward serving private special interests. Individual party members often decry this process, but never so much that they would seek to go independent. The senatorial and congressional campaign committees for the two major parties reward candidates for their cohesion, and this fosters an atmosphere of going along to get along. This is the atmosphere in which it is easiest to mobilize mass murder.
No doubt, the 2008 Republican executive ticket would express agreement with much of the above, or at least pay lip service to it as maverickism. At the same time, they are observations worth honoring only up to the point where the candidates must seek party blessing. Despite the obviously superior rationality of many adolescents and children compared to a veritable plethora of voters 18 years of age and above, suffrage is not universal largely because of the assumption that children are tremendously impressionable and would simply vote in the manner prescribed to them by their parents. Of course, it is true that parents for good or for ill play a substantial role in communicating the biases, values and interests real or otherwise that spell out decisions at the ballot box.
Whatever one may believe about the prospect of extending the universality of suffrage to those of any age, it seems apparent that the refusal of the vote to children reflects a mass illusion that voting adults are any less embracing of conformity for its own sake than a child might be of the views of his or her doting parent. At the grandest rallies, though, at, say, the nomination of a major-party candidate for president, the acceptance speech is always rife with the vaguest of platitudes. In a moment of clarity, MSNBC’s Chris Matthews has described the parties respectively as the “mommy party” and the “daddy party” in an act of extraordinary accuracy. Child voting is verboten because it would only serve to highlight the humiliating fact that adults unfortunately do not themselves wish to engage the world as free agents, but rather submit to the whims of the blithely consuming hordes.
Sure, candidates may allude to the pledges and promises of the campaign trail, but only vaguely so. The purpose of these rallies is for the candidates to advertise themselves as everything to everyone, as satisfying deeply-held subconscious emotional needs. The ritual of the major-party sales pitch reflects an almost Zoroastrian thirst for an epic struggle between competing forces and the essence of ideology, feigning that all of the possible movements of a society could be summed up into either moving “left” or “right.” But the truth is that the causes and interests actually driven by an individual’s quest on behalf of her or his own interests maintain no integrity when politicians mobilize people in this manner. In fact, when people accept this paradigm from their leaders, they are necessarily allowing the subversion of their own interests. The same could be said for pundits who outwardly shrug at accusations of party-based bias who are nonetheless assure their own compensation by marketing for their readers a sense of a consistent worldview.
In order to even engage people in acquiescence through the very act of voting itself, it is necessary that competing ideologies maintain a certain internal inconsistency. Politicians often tout bipartisanship as being a breakthrough, because it is to the collective advantage of members of both major parties that people believe that all rational or debatable viewpoints can fall within the spectrum of views inside the party platforms themselves. This notion lends itself to some bizarre results.
For example, in Barack Obama’s bestselling The Audacity of Hope, the author says, “I suspect that some readers may find my presentation of these issues to be insufficiently balanced. To this accusation, I stand guilty as charged. I am a Democrat, after all.” Even though the Democratic Party outdates the Republican Party and despite the constant trashing of Republican Party member activities by Democrats, tacit in the party’s very existence is its necessary dependence on another ideology, an ideology which in light of itself is considered at least partially wrong. Barack Obama’s intends for his claim to express a degree of laudable humility about his perspectives as a mortal. But as he goes on to cite the greater similarity of his viewpoints with the editorial pages of The New York Times than The Wall Street Journal, the implication of a supposed internal consistency within party ideology crosses a border into the surreal.
However, make no mistake: This type of claim pervades to every single major-party politician in office today without exception. It evinces the bland careerism of individuals unserious about permanently “going forward” or “restoring” any particular good condition to humans alive today. The interest is to instigate a dialectic battle against another ideology understood in a separate vacuum. The party system continues because the most fervent partisans and “moderates” enjoy the flavor of being right and having been right, and in a world full of enormously complex moral choices, the only way to totally acquire this feeling is to adopt a set of semantics disengaged and divorced from a complementary set.