It’s getting to be election time again and for many of you this will mean holding your nose and voting for the lesser of two evils.  Before you make that choice let’s look at the history of the two-party system.

The U.S., like any other country, was founded by men who wanted to control the wealth of the land. In the years between the Declaration of Independence (1776) and the Constitution (1788) there were many popular uprisings aimed at making sure all men were equal by sharing the wealth. These were called Levellings.  These actions struck fear into the hearts/wallets of the Founding Fathers.

The ruling class realized it had a demographic problem. They were a minority in power. The rest of the country was made up of Native Americans, Slaves, poor whites, and women. The Founders never considered women a threat to their power.  It was other men they feared.  They knew that Native Americans and slaves would be mad to join them.  Clearly there was only one group the elite could con into supporting their acquisition of wealth. The question was how to secure their loyalty without sharing real power and wealth. Above all, no alliances must be formed between poor whites and other disenfranchised groups.  Rich whites pushed poor whites onto the frontier as a buffer against the Native Americans and so there was constant friction between the two groups. One alliance defeated. Black servants were made servants for life (slaves) while whites could earn their way free. Poor whites were often employed as slave field masters and served on posses for run-away slaves. Another coalition defeated. The next step was to convince poor whites that they should support the causes of the elite.

Language and symbolism came to play here. In the 1828 Presidential Election, Andrew Jackson was sold as a “man of the people” despite the fact that he was the richest man in Tennessee.  The idea of “the people” arose and was sold as a way to promote nationalism by serving the ruling elite. The military victory of 1814 was used to promote nationalism and streets were decked in red, white, and blue. The rulers decided to give the impression of power to the average white male. The Jackson election had marked the end of the property requirement so now any white male could vote. To the average white man it seemed that democracy had arrived, but if one looks at the Federalist Papers; most notably #10 and #63, you see that following Washington’s presidency the plan was to present to “the people” two different parties that would each represent varying shades of the very shady ruling class. These parties would appear to be in competition, when in reality the two-party system has been, from the get-go, two shades of one party that represents the wealthy of this country. Neither party would ever commit to fundamental changes that might result in equality or democracy. Madison said that the purpose of America is “to protect the minority of the opulent against the majority.” John Jay said “The people who own the country ought to govern it.” While Alexander Hamilton stated, “Nothing but a permanent body can check the imprudence of democracy.” You and I were never intended to be anything other than the bill payers and cannon fodder for their ambitions.

So when you go to vote this Fall consider the reasons for the two-party system and perhaps be brave enough to strike out for something new that might really represent you, a kind’a representative democracy if you will.

I wrote this article before I received my sample ballot. What a shock! Intellectually I knew that California had approved a top two contender’s bill, but to actually see the obscenity of it all. Every state office has two choices, each of which represents different aspects of the one party. I am totally disenfranchised. I’m not sure what I’m going to do. If I vote Democrat, they win. If I don’t vote, they win. Right now I’m considering voting for all the bills and local candidates, but as far as state offices go, I just don’t know. I know one thing. Real change starts in the streets. Remember back in 2011 when Congress was all in a tizzy over the National Debt? Along came Occupy and the conversation changed to class warfare. Changes comes from the streets; not the suits. It’s there that my faith lies.

Sources: A People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn ©2003; The Common Good by Noam Chomsky © 1998, Ideas that Shaped a Nation by James L. Smith (c) 2000