Our political duopoly erodes compromise and cooperation in Congress and reduces civility among all Americans. Increasingly, political parties cycle between majority dominance and minority obstruction. Neither party has much incentive to cooperate or compromise, because the cycle continues when the pendulum of power shifts.
Tyranny of the majority 2010
In 2010, the 111th Congress passed, and President Barack Obama signed, the Affordable Care Act, (ACA). The ACA passed the Democratic controlled House of Representatives 219 to 212. It received zero Republican votes. The Democratic leadership allowed 34 Democrats to take cover by voting no. Those no votes came from predominantly red states like Texas, Utah, Tennessee, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, and others. The intraparty dissent was purely for show.
Earlier, in 2009, the ACA passed the Democratic controlled Senate on a strict 60 to 39 party line vote. Senate filibuster rules kept all 60 Democratic Senators faithful.
Set aside your opinion about the ACA and realize that partisan outcomes collapse as soon as the power pendulum swings the other way. Today, the ACA enjoys no consensus victimizing millions of families while the duopoly continues their partisan battle over healthcare.
Tyranny of the majority 2016
In February 2016, shortly after Supreme Court justice Antonin Scalia died, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) declared, “The American people should have a voice in the selection of their next Supreme Court justice. Therefore, this vacancy should not be filled until we have a new president.” On March 16, 2016, President Obama’s nominee Merrick Garland hit McConnell’s brick wall. Garland’s nomination “lapsed”. This tyrannous act exploited constitutional norms. This extreme episode was only the most recent example of judicial obstruction.
“Since 1789, most Supreme Court nominees have been confirmed when the presidency and the majority of the Senate are controlled by the same political party – whether Republican or Democratic. When the key players are split politically, it’s more common for nominees to be rejected or withdrawn”.1
Minority Resistance 2010
In a duopoly, the political minority also lacks incentives to cooperate or compromise. Instead, the minority party obstructs legislative processes while they plot their return to power.
Back in 2010 Republicans were the minority in the Senate, and the Minority Leader Mitch McConnell stated that his top priority was to ensure that President Barack Obama served only one term. “The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president,” Minority Leader McConnell said during an interview with the National Journal (Oct. 23, 2010).
Minority Resistance 2020
This fall, Democrats took their turn in the resistance by opposing the legitimate Supreme Court nominee, Justice Amy Coney Barrett. Despite rank and file Democratic party support for Barrett rising nearly 20 percent since her nomination 2, minority leader Senator Chuck Schumer threatened to derail the confirmation by denying a quorum when Justice Barrett’s vote reached the Senate floor. His attempt failed, and on Monday, October 26, the Senate confirmed Barrett in a mostly party line vote: 52 to 48. Senator Susan Collins (R-ME), caught in a tight Senate race, cast the lone Republican no vote.
If you’re thinking that’s the end of that, then you are underestimating how deep we’ve sunk into the duopolistic morass.
Immediately after Barrett’s confirmation, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi began talking about “reforming” the Supreme Court. “Not just the Supreme Courts, but the other courts,” Pelosi told MSNBC anchor Chris Hayes Monday night. “In 1876 there were nine justices on the court. Our population has grown enormously since then.” That’s probably the first time anyone linked the number of Supreme Court Justices to population growth. In any case, her statement makes clear Democrats’ plan to pack the court. If that happens, the dupolistic cycle of power grabbing will destroy the notion of a Supreme Court staying above politics.
The duopoly also divides us; it even slimes youngsters. In a recent tweet, the Girl Scouts congratulated Amy Coney Barrett for her appointment to the Supreme Court. Blue shirts blasted the Girl Scouts for their apparent betrayal. The Girl Scouts deleted their tweet and apologized. Then, as you can imagine, the red shirts berated the Girl Scouts for capitulating.
Earlier today, we shared a post highlighting the five women who have been appointed to the Supreme Court. It was quickly viewed as a political and partisan statement which was not our intent and we have removed the post.— Girl Scouts (@girlscouts) October 28, 2020
Multipartism to the Rescue
Now, imagine both houses of Congress divided between three or more parties. Imagine this: we wake up, on the first Wednesday in November of any even numbered year, to find that a half dozen Libertarians captured Senate seats and a large number of newly elected Libertarian and Green Party candidates won their House races. That would shock the system. How would politicians and political parties adjust to the radical change?
Survivors survive because they adapt. Political survival would require cooperation and compromise. Civility would blossom between political bodies. The media would step out of their corners to report news objectively. The new multi-party condition could create an atmosphere where listening and respecting other opinions becomes the norm.
End the duopoly ripping us apart. Vote for independent and third party candidates running for seats in the United States Congress.
- LaGrange College undergraduate students Tamino Schoeffer, Yasmin Roper, Jaydon Parrish, Brennan Oates, Nia Johnson, Olivia Hanners, Hannah Godfrey, Natalie Glass, DeQueze Fryer, Madison Demkowski and Maalik Baisden. The Conversation (September 29, 2020)
- Jocelyn Grzeszczak, Democratic Support for Amy Coney Barrett Rises Nearly 20 Percent Since Her Nomination (10/21/20)