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Cari and other folks at Synergy,

First, love the site, this is what the internet should be used for. Now on to the article. I too was dismayed that the republicans regained control of congress, thus assuring themselves a tight grip on our government's agenda for at least two more years. I'd like to offer another reason for this, in addition to the one you offered relating to the weakening of the democratic party. I agree with you about the necessity of political change, but could not disagree more that this should come from within the democratic party. The main problem with our current system is that it is an oligarchy -- not a democracy -- one that is designed ingeniously to preserve the status quo and balance of power. This stems from the fact that we have only two political parties that have any chance of sharing control of the government. Look at any other "developed" nation today (England, Germany, Israel, South Africa...etc) and you will see that they have several parties that all share a significant enough chunk of public support that they can contend in nearly every election.

In addition, all of these countries have a parliamentary system of proportional representation, this means that as long as a party gets more than a certain percentage of the vote they are automatically given at least that share of the seats in parliament. For this reason, it is very easy for a party that does not enjoy widespread support to still have some impact at the national level. In our system, each of the two parties knows that there is essentially a 50-50 chance that they will win an election and gain power. Of course each election year is different as certain issues emerge that shift power to one or the other party. But when it comes down to it, the democrats know it's not the end of the world, they need wait only two years, maybe four or even six, and then they will re-take control. The two parties differ only enough to preserve the illusion of a difference. As you said, many democrats postured about the war in Iraq, but then turned around and voted for it.

So why does this not change? Because those who could change it are the primary beneficiaries. Certainly the democrats did not want George Bush to win, but they wanted Nader to succeed even less. Both parties fought viciously to prevent him from even appearing in a national debate. This is because they know that once a third party becomes a major threat, their places in power become that much less certain. (Interestingly, one of Nader's platforms was proportional representation which would make their jobs even less certain.) Politicians who are uncertain of their political futures should listen very carefully to their constituents, not to their parties. But here in the US, it is the parties that deal out the power, not the people, because we do not have enough legitimate options on November 5th. Because of the democrats' and republicans' strangle hold on the political spotlight, a vote for anyone else amounts to a throw-away vote. Gore blew his chances in the Whitehouse not because he alienated the American people -- he won the popular vote -- but because he alienated his party. They have given up on him and so he has no chance.

The kind of change we need must come from outside the current system. It must push reform that is in line with what other nations have already shown is a more appropriate system for this day and age, namely proportional representation. We also must decentralize power from the position of president to a place where it can be more representative of more citizens, namely to congress or some new parliamentary-like body. Otherwise, we're stuck with Tweedle-Dee or Tweedle-Dum for a long time to come.

Thanks for taking the time to read and think about these issues!

Pete Linkroum


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