The League of Young Voters


Herbert Hoffman, the Two-Party System, and Legality — by Katie Diamond
August 7, 2008, 6:55 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

There’s been a lot of media coverage lately tracking independent Herbert Hoffman’s quest for U.S. Senate. Watching the story unfold is a little bit like watching a game of political tennis: back and forth from Hoffman’s work to Democrats Response to Hoffman’s Petition to Democrats Lawsuit to–you get the point. It’s difficult to watch without a creeping sense of discomfort, however… Regardless of petition signatures and their validity, the situation smacks of Big Politics versus Little Guy. Since when did Maine have an over-arching two-party system that worked via legal trappings to end an Independent’s political bid?

I can’t help but feel disheartened. I’m a Democrat myself, but I’ve always been in huge favor of dismantling archaic systems. Democracy, last time I checked, has a lot to do with choice. A 50/50 option does not ring choice to me–it rings “either/or.” So my alarms go off when the options become systematically and strategically limited.

Time and time again, political pundits will express or convey or imply that a third party simply divides the progressive vote. Rather than see this as a reason to stifle those third (and fourth! and fifth!) parties, we as voters and as political players should see this as a opportunity to increase our language and outreach around what it means to have more than two choices.

I think we get caught up in playing the game, rather than trying to reinvent the rules. It’s easy to be so close to the playing field, we can’t see that another team has arrived and is waiting to take over from here. It’s time to close the door on the old concepts of political parties, and revitalize what democracy really means in America. By opening up the field to this other player, we’re saying yes to progress, and all the growing pains and time it will bring with it.

I leave you with George Washington’s Farewell Address, specifically the segment where he addresses the two-party faction which was becoming prevalent at the end of his final term:

“I have already intimated to you the danger of parties in the State, with particular reference to the founding of them on geographical discriminations. Let me now take a more comprehensive view, and warn you in the most solemn manner against the baneful effects of the spirit of party generally.

This spirit, unfortunately, is inseparable from our nature, having its root in the strongest passions of the human mind. It exists under different shapes in all governments, more or less stifled, controlled, or repressed; but, in those of the popular form, it is seen in its greatest rankness, and is truly their worst enemy.

The alternate domination of one faction over another, sharpened by the spirit of revenge, natural to party dissension, which in different ages and countries has perpetrated the most horrid enormities, is itself a frightful despotism. But this leads at length to a more formal and permanent despotism. The disorders and miseries which result gradually incline the minds of men to seek security and repose in the absolute power of an individual; and sooner or later the chief of some prevailing faction, more able or more fortunate than his competitors, turns this disposition to the purposes of his own elevation, on the ruins of public liberty.

Without looking forward to an extremity of this kind (which nevertheless ought not to be entirely out of sight), the common and continual mischiefs of the spirit of party are sufficient to make it the interest and duty of a wise people to discourage and restrain it.

It serves always to distract the public councils and enfeeble the public administration. It agitates the community with ill-founded jealousies and false alarms, kindles the animosity of one part against another, foments occasionally riot and insurrection. It opens the door to foreign influence and corruption, which finds a facilitated access to the government itself through the channels of party passions. Thus the policy and the will of one country are subjected to the policy and will of another.”

To read the whole address, click here.

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1 Comment so far
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Heck, I don’t really think we even have a TWO party system anymore. Here in Portland, anyhow, the Dems are essentially the only show in town. And while I’m generally sympathetic to their politics (like Katie), I’m finding that the Dems are throwing their weight around in more and more unsavory ways. Herb Hoffman is one example, the Maine State Pier fiasco, with the Governor’s brother glowering at our City Council, was another.

Worse, I’m afraid that Democrat hegemony only pushes their Republican opponents further out to the wacko extremes, and makes them less and less viable. The Greens put up a good fight but there’s not enough of them out there and unlike the Dems they have virtually no support from larger statewide groups.

The election of our state representatives was effectively determined in the primaries earlier this summer – the November vote’s just a formality now. What’s up with that?

Comment by C Neal




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