Our "choices" for the 2016 presidential election are very bad and extremely bad.
What, you say? There are more than two choices? Right. And I'll soon be running a Hollywood Studio.
The two-party system of the United States is not going to change this election cycle, though the cracks are showing. More likely, if the Republican Party does implode, a new party will rise. It has happened before and will happen again. But, overall, we remain a two-party nation. The parties flip ideologies, the parties change names, individual parties split. And we always end up with a duopoly.
Not that other nations really have multiple parties in the way romantically imagine. There are, generally, two central parties with minor parties trying to pull the major parties to the left or right. Because the parliamentary systems rely on coalitions, those minor parties have more influence than smaller parties can have in the United States.
The upside of the European model is that small parties do have legislative seats. The downside is that the coalitions can be unstable. Just ask most of Southern Europe about stability. The U.S. model isn't exciting, but it is stable. The parties drift towards each other, then apart.
Normally, I can accept that my views seldom win local, state, or federal elections. People want a lot from government for little or no cost and absolutely no inconvenience. If government is going to cost money, take that money from someone else — though there really isn't as much "income" to redistribute as imagined (see "Eat the Rich"). My ideals are electoral losers… and I accept that. Instead, I vote for the "lesser" spender, the "lesser" promiser of public largess.
Not this time.
We have Populist A and Populist B, one of whom will win. Hillary or Trump. They are campaigning on their famous names, not substance. They are campaigning on how well they connect to the "common" person. And they both have populist rhetoric that would take the United States further down the entitlement hole while opposing free trade and economic disruption that is natural to capitalism.
The Libertarian Party's tired re-packaging of Republicans doesn't stand any chance of victory. They might take some votes from the two major parties, but votes are meant to be earned anyway. Whining that some third party helped to elect a major candidate really means that the other major party failed to earn support.
Populist A: Hillary. She wants to expand federal programs. She wants to expand "positive" rights, using government to ensure someone does things for other people. She has lurched to the left during this campaign. I assume much of what Sec. Clinton has promised she knows will not happen. Nobody believes political promises and now we just assume they are blatant lies.
Populist B: Trump. Please, no. Isolationism sounds good, and I generally support it, but Trump doesn't merely promote isolationism: he promotes xenophobia and protectionism. He takes nationalism and cloaks it in fear and dread. He has no clear program for anything, except a wall that isn't about security so much as it is about fear.
Hillary and Trump. Those are our choices. One will win. Any system that leads to these two as the two contenders is broken. Extremely broken.
If anything, these two are a great argument for gridlock and divided government.
The parties can now be caricatured with some accuracy: Democrats are the party of the poor and the elite urban voters. Call it the Urban Party and you'd be reflecting voting patterns. Republicans are the exurban and rural gray-haired voters, the romanticized small towns that are shrinking and dying (sadly).
The parties are more regional and racial than they should be. The Democrats view issues from the perspectives of New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and other big cities. Their elite voters are busy gentrifying the cities, while their poor voters are struggling in these urban centers with the greatest inequality in the nation. The ideals of the elites cost the poor, ironically, by raising the costs of living. Rent control, strict zoning, green laws, higher minimum wages, more spending for schools, all cost the poor more as a percentage of income. Ideas that appeal to the educated elites have price tags.
The Republicans are afraid of the urban voters, both the elites trying to dictate values and the poor. The GOP seems to be stuck campaigning on fear of everything. That's not a platform for the future, either. Nothing I'm hearing from Trump or the GOP appeals anymore. They deride regulation, complex taxes, and other problems, but they don't offer realistic solutions that will become law. I'd even accept some "unrealistic" goals accompanied by some incremental plans on how to get to a better place with more effective public spending.
We need new voices, new leadership. Oh, well.