Among the many grinding aggravations we Americans suffer through every presidential election …
… is the annoying and persistent argument that we ought to be showing more respect to our third parties. Whether they be Greens, Libertarians, those Constitution Party clowns, they all insist their candidate(s) deserves a slot on the main stage. They all carp constantly about the unholy alliance between the major parties and the media that conspires to keep the outsiders outside. They all wail that if only that great amorphous clot of independent, disaffected, disgruntled and/or disgusted voters could hear their guy (or gal) present the alternatives, we would recognize the unmistakable ring of truth, drop those damn Republicrats and Demoblicans like we’d found a dead mouse in our taco, and rush out en masse to make someone we had never heard of until debate night the most powerful individual in this quadrant of the galaxy.
It may be true that among the world’s more sophisticated nations, America is unique in that we are so reluctant to add a third—or fourth, or fifth—wheel to our buggy. Ireland (Republic of) has 11 parties represented in their legislative body, the Oireachtas. There are 48 recognized parties, and 24 parties listed as unrecognized, sending representatives to the parliament of India. The United Kingdom’s parliament has 16 parties represented, Germany’s Bundestag has six, and Japan’s Diet has five.
Israel has 15 different political parties represented in its Knesset. (There are 28 other organized parties currently unrepresented in the Knesset, but they’re trying.) Italy has 10 major parties and 32 minor parties, all with some degree of representation in the Parlamento Italiano. Add to this, there are over 80 regional parties involved in Italian governance at lower levels.
Yet in the third most populous country on Earth (and arguably the most diverse), our United States Congress, with a membership of 535 combining both chambers, has only two individuals who are neither Republican or Democrat—both tagging themselves as Independent.
So are we doing it wrong? Or is everyone else? Are there so many approaches to any particular program, policy, proposal or procedure that it would require input from dozens of different political philosophies to accomplish whatever ends are being sought? How can it take up to 100 Italians or 20 Israelis to process what any two Americans—provided one’s a Democrat and the other’s a Republican— can quibble over just fine, without any help from other perspectives?
After all, most questions are attended to in a binary fashion—it’s either a “YES,” or it’s a “NO” … right?—so why would we need anything beyond a binary political system?
The truth is, I don’t believe most Americans want more than two options. For this ADHD-stricken society, there are far too many other ways to pass the hours—e.g., texting, sexting, zip-lining, mountain biking, porn surfing, Facebooking, snow boarding, Kardashian-following, karaoke squalling, meth-snorting, NASCAR fanning, pulled porking, Caribbean cruising, chicken-winging, tail-gating, selfie-taking, Snapchatting, app-swiping, craft brewing, yoga matting, organic shopping, fantasy footballing, binge watching, binge drinking, binge eating, flash mobbing, Pokémon GOing … to name a few—to spend any serious time trying to sort out the nuances of several different political arguments.
Nor in modern times have Americans ever responded to a third (or fourth, or fifth) option in any way significant enough to effect an election outcome beyond simply screwing it up for someone else. Ross Perot either screwed it up for George H. W. Bush by giving Bill Clinton a victory in ’92, or, he screwed it up for Clinton by denying him the clear majority he might have used to demonstrate his mandate.
And don’t get me started on what effect Ralph Nader had in 2000. Christ, we all ended up getting screwed on that one.
But beyond all that, we are living in a country where half the population can spot the difference between Coke and Pepsi, but couldn’t name a Supreme Court judge, identify their Congressmen, or find their own state on a map if their life depended on it. And you think we should complicate American politicking even more than it already is?
I don’t think so! We’d have whole demographics wandering around on election day, behaving like they’d just had a bowling ball drop on their heads.
So this is my answer to those intransigent holdouts who are still out there, desperately howling the praises of Gary Johnson or Jill Stein—(or for that matter, this Utah wonder boy Evan McMullen)—and abusing the rest of us for our less-than-pure decisions: Look, jerks, if your Johnson or your precious Jill Stein were anywhere near as smart as you are trying to convince us they are, they would have figured out how to succeed within the structure a couple hundred years of American political evolution has provided us.
Hillary did it.
For whatever it’s worth, Donald did it.
And between Hillary and Donald, we have been delivered as clear and unequivocal choice as any American could ever need:”YES!” … or “FUCK NO!”