Last week I drove a young artist to catch a train and noted spring springing up all over. Yellow, purple and countless shades of green. Nature has a colorful imagination. Then, I noticed the sun bouncing off the blue-and-red campaign signs blooming along Market Street. Primary colors means primary elections. This being a non-presidential year, you can count on a few things.
First, despite the stock market breaking records, the rich getting richer than they’ve been since before the Great Depression, guns standing their ground in churches, social programs being cut, and the Supreme Court’s recent McCutcheon decision nailing a “For Sale” sign on every political office, Republicans will shout, “The sky is falling!” Not to sound too much like the late Andy Rooney, but Republicans always seem to say “the sky is falling” when it’s not. But they never say, “The seas are rising,” when they are. Why is that?
Second, despite a little progress on almost all fronts, Democrats will feel guilty about work not yet done; Gitmo, Citigroup, and the NSA remain in business, drones still fly, soldiers still die, and the poor are still getting poorer. Then, we’ll pat ourselves on the back for enacting the Affordable Health Care act and twice electing an African-American president, sing Kumbaya, and pour a glass of pinot. That’s enough progress for one century, right?
Finally, you can count on most people to stay home for this mid-term, low-profile primary.
I asked the young artist, “How can you tell the Democrats from Republicans when they don’t put their party on the signs?”
“Red’s Republican. Blue’s Democrat.” The artist barely glanced from his gadget.
Have we carved our political landscape so neatly into red and blue states that we’ve blinded our noble creative youth to life’s subtler shades?
“Well,” I muttered. “Maybe that guy’s a Communist! Or a Sharia Law Party candidate.”
“Seriously, Dad?” the artist scoffed. “He’s either Republican or Democrat. Freedom fries or French fries. It’s still a potato. We live in a political monopoly.”
The artist paused. “In a capitalist government…”
I corrected: “Capitalism is an economic system.”
“You interrupted,” the young artist sighed. “If in a capitalist government competition is good for business, then why isn’t real competition good for politics?”
In that moment I loved Bernie Sanders, Ross Perot, Ron Paul and George Wallace. Heck, I even forgave Ralph Nader. Each of these candidates added another color to the bland blue suits, red ties and predominately white faces of our politics.
Honestly, I’d like to see more Socialists, Communists, Opposition Party, Silver Party, and Non-Partisan Party. I wonder about the Liberal Republican Party. This party was organized in 1872 to oppose Ulysses S. Grant’s re-election. What about the Native American Party, a.k.a “Know Nothing” Party? This group organized in the 1850s to purify politics of the influence of immigrant Irish and German Catholics. In their delusional, fear-dominated world, “Native American” meant white Protestant Conservative America.
In their quest to buy elections and become “Big Tent” parties, today’s main parties have strayed from their core principles, catered to corporate interests, and quashed diversity. Many Blue Dog Democrats, such as the outgoing Mike McIntyre, have more in common with old Liberal Republicans that strove to keep plantation owners in power after the Civil War than with New Deal or Great Society liberals. And the Tea Party, today’s “Know Nothings,” have little in common with Abe Lincoln or the fiscal conservative GOP of the Eisenhower administration.
The Tea Party does at least add colorful characters. Even if they break from the GOP, bring out tasteful lavender banners and calming cups of chamomile, they’ll only get my vote if the other candidate is in the Sharia Law Party. That would truly be a choice between bad and worse. If we persist in a two-party system that finds its own unimaginative ways to provide us with choices between bad and worse, I’ll continue to vote for bad. Like Will Rogers, that means I’m a registered Democrat and will vote in the Democratic primary. With enthusiasm, I might add.
If you have a favorite primary color, please exercise your right to cast off your blanket of fury, and find an actionable moment in the voting booth before May 6th. If you get inspired to add color as a third-party candidate in November, the filing deadline is June 27th.