Yet again I break my own rules and get into current American politics.
America is often considered the pinnacle of democracy, or at least that is how Americans see themselves, but as with almost all other representative governments power just flows from one party to another. The 2006 elections were seen by many as the return of the Democratic party to power after the supposed failure of the Republicans to lead and protect the country. While many view this triumph as a feather in the hats of the Democrats and a victory for their way of thinking, it seems too obvious that it was not a vote for the Democrats, but instead it was just a vote against the Republicans.
This is not the first time that the United States voted not for someone but against “that” guy. John Kerry during the 2004 presidential race did not run on a platform that he was a better qualified candidate, nor did he run on the platform that he he had strong convictions and knew how to lead the country. Instead he ran on the platform that he was not George W. Bush. Kerry failed in his bid for election not because George Bush was necessarily a better candidate, but because Kerry’s entire campaign was based on the idea that he was not Bush. For the most part the voting public can see through these one issue candidates; however, this did not stop a similar race from developing once again this year in Connecticut where the Democratic party voted not to have Joe Lieberman run for re-election, but instead to bring in a new face (Ned Lamont) who based his entire campaign on the fact the he was not Joe Lieberman. The results? In Connecticut 40% voted to elect Lamont, 48% voted for Lieberman and 10% voted for the random Republican candidate whose name no-one heard of. Once again the American voters saw through a transparent one-issue candidate and picked the candidate they thought was best of the choices they were provided. Now you may be wondering what this has to do with the two party system in general.
Right now the Democrats are patting themselves on the back and are making plans to take as much power as possible. However, they were elected for the most part not as a mandate for democratic (as in the party) values, but because they are not Republicans. The only reason that the Democrats were elected was because since 1867 there have been no other viable national parties except for the Republicans. These two parties have evolved and re-evolved over the years even to the point of frequently switching sides in issues (the earliest environmentalists and proponents of equality were republicans), but consistently they have held power effectively choking out any other political parties. Today the only other American party really capable of a real national leadership is the Green party, and they are often seen as the “wasted” or “safe” vote. The party you vote for when you don’t vote Democrat or Republican. So while the Democrats laud their victory history shows us that they didn’t necessarily win; they may have just not lost. They have just two years to show the American voters that they can be more than “not Republicans.”