Why the status quo no longer works for our political system
To say that the recent presidential election was interesting would be an understatement. America watched as media pundits analyzed the debate performances and political stances of the two major candidates. Tensions rose as Election Day grew closer, but ultimately Barack Obama emerged victorious.
All at once, it was over. The message flashed onto my TV screen: “Barack Obama re-elected.” Though I couldn’t help but let out a sigh of relief, I was reluctant to welcome Obama back with open arms. Though Obama was, in my opinion, the better of the two major candidates, I can’t help but feel duped by both a flawed two-party system and a president with some very questionable policies.
Arianna Huffington writes that the two party system is “hopelessly broken,” saying that it “has not just narrowed our choices, it’s narrowed our thinking. It has deeply infected our political discourse, our media and our politicians. To paraphrase Einstein, the problems we are facing today cannot be solved by the same level of thinking that created them.”
This election season, I became very involved in following the campaign of Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein. Haven’t heard of her? That’s not surprising. The mainstream media in the U.S. provides American citizens with little to no coverage of third-party happenings. During the election cycle, third party candidates were barely mentioned by any major news outlets. When you pair a lack of media coverage with exclusive presidential debates organized solely for the two major candidates, third-party candidates are rendered virtually invisible. Because the American people are not exposed to a wide variety of voices, we think there are only two choices.
In France, there is a political “left” and a political “right” but within these two broad labels exist a myriad of parties. Currently, France has seven major political parties serving in its parliament. If you were to look at a diagram of France’s parliament, you would see a whole rainbow of colors — very different from our house of representatives sporting the same old red and blue.
Every four years the American people are told there are only two truly “viable” candidates. Under this framework, Americans are forced to pick between the lesser of two evils. On Nov. 6th, Americans went to the voting booth and did exactly that, so now we get to look forward to four more years of moderate policies.
For left-leaning Americans, one of the lowest moments of President Obama’s first term was the extension of the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy. Many criticized the President for compromising too much and not taking a firm enough stance on tax justice. This election cycle, the repeal of the Bush tax cuts was one of Obama’s big talking points, and yet his “tough view” on taxes is already wavering. Kevin Drum, a political blogger for Mother Jones writes: “How committed is President Obama to letting the Bush tax cuts for the rich expire? At his press conference today [Nov. 14, 2012], he gave a fuzzy answer, so Chuck Todd followed up and asked him if he’s absolutely committed to repealing the Bush tax cuts for the rich — no ifs, ands, or buts. Obama declined to say yes.”
It doesn’t stop there. David Cay Johnston, a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist, recently spoke at Ithaca College and remarked that Obama is the most “business friendly president we’ve ever had.” In an article he wrote for Reuters, Johnston states: “Under President Barack Obama, business has been able to immediately write off 50 percent of new investment one year and 100 percent in two other years.” This doesn’t seem like a very liberal stance to me.
Furthermore, with another four years of Obama comes another four years of relentless drone strikes. The Washington Post reports: “Over the past two years, the Obama administration has been secretly developing a new blueprint for pursuing terrorists, a next-generation targeting list called the ‘disposition matrix.’” It continues, “Among senior Obama administration officials, there is a broad consensus that such operations are likely to be extended at least another decade.” These drone strikes have been highly controversial because of incidents in which they have hit civilians, some of whom were American citizens.
As we venture into another four years under president Obama, I hope that everyone retains a critical eye for both his policies and the two party system that allows him to remain in office. The status quo won’t do for much longer.
Timothy Bidon is a junior journalism major who loves Guys and Dolls, but won’t sit down from rocking the boat. Email him at tbidon1[at]ithaca[dot]edu