10 February 2010

Like A Fly Stuck In Amber

Rasmussen Reports: Tea Party Candidate Now Comes In Last On Three-Way Generic Ballot

A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey of likely voters finds that in a three-way congressional contest with a Tea Party candidate on the ballot, the Democrat earns 36% support. The GOP candidate comes in second with 25% of the vote, while the Tea Party candidate picks up 17%. Twenty-three percent (23%) are undecided.

In early December, the Tea Party candidate came in second with 23% of the vote, while the Republican finished in third with 18%. The Democratic candidate attracted 36% of the vote in that contest, too.

Among unaffiliateds, 33% supported the Tea Party congressional candidate in December. Now, only 23% are voting that way. Interestingly, however, most of that shift seems to go into the undecided category rather than into support for the Republican.

The Tea Party candidate continues to earn just single-digit support from Democratic voters.

Interesting how when you start to move to specifics from theory, support for an alternative to the Democrats and Republicans starts to fall. The same thing happened in New Jersey in the last election, and is common in other elections wherein an Independent or third party candidate fades heading into an election, or as soon as the prospect of election becomes real.

Why? Why? What is the answer to that? People always talk about unhappy they are with two lousy choices, and then ...

Is our political system a fly stuck in amber, frozen in place forever?

Is it just habit? A failure to take a new political effort seriously?

When our political system was more flexible, back in the 19th century, party dissolution and formation were caused by the politicians themselves. A "top-down" approach. This is also the case overseas, where political parties come and go, depending on opinions, personalities, and shifting ideas. This was how the 19th century Whigs were formed, by already elected politicians forming a new alliance.

But there were instances of "bottom-up" party formation as well. For example, the 19th century "Free Soil" party, although some elected officials did sign up as well. The "movement" effort is less prevalent overseas, but it does happen.

Why did this flexible approach stop here in the United States? Why did we get stuck in the political amber? And importantly, why don't politicians today break with their parties more often, or join with others to start a new one? For example, why don't the remaining Republicans in the northeast do this? Why don't Blue Dog Democrats start their own party? Why aren't more opportunistic politicians signing on to the Tea Party? (And why is it succumbing so readily to GOP partisans? Note also that anti-war activists were used by the Democrats, who dropped them once Bush was gone.)

One can only conclude that politicians calculate that even unpopular party affiliation either (1) doesn't hurt, or (2) helps. That is, even Republicans in New England are not hurt by their affiliation with the more socially conservative Southern brethren, as staying tied into the party contribution money machine helps to the point where damage caused by the affiliation is overcome. One can only conclude that being tied into the money/patronage system overcomes all other considerations.

Will contributions over the Internet overcome the apparently overwhelming contribution-patronage complex? I would have thought so, but maybe that has been co-opted by the parties, also. Their ability to do so may be explained by an ingrained political culture that affects us psychologically. Some kind of "us versus them" mentality that has been ingrained on our psyches as children. I sadly note that much of what must be free discussion on the Internet fits into this profile. Even when it is not necessary to adopt a black/white or either/or stance, commentators fall into that type of argument.

But I have yet to figure out why we fall for this. Or profess so much antipathy to two institutions yet still maintain and support them. It is more than just ballot access that keeps politicians in line with the party whips. And habit or culture is not enough, as those things change. At the end of the day, it must be the money. The contribution-patronage complex.

Therefore the only answer to break free of the amber is campaign finance reform. A form of public financing or support for challengers. That will be all the more difficult in light of the Citizens United decision. As if the political forces arrayed against the true interests of the people were not formidable enough before.

The question is whether it is even still possible to break free of the sticky goo of current politics, or has the political situation now hardened to the point where escape is now impossible, and we are stuck with the Democratic Party and Republican Party corruption machines forever.

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