There are three political parties in the United States today, and they are all fielding candidates for the presidency.
The parties are the Republicrats, the Scared Religionists, and the Freedom and Peace Party.
By far the largest party is the Republicrats, who have held sway with their current platform since at least the 1940s. They are offering two candidates for president in 2012: their names are Mitt Romney and Barack Obama.
Being such a large party, they have adopted a clever means of ensuring that they hold power perpetually: they split themselves into two wings called "Democrat" and "Republican." This rather clever setup allows them to compete with each other in the formal competitions of American democracy by emphasizing different pieces of the platform, while ensuring that one of the wings will always hold sway, allowing them to implement their shared social democratic platform.
And what is this platform? It is a corporate socialist one. They stand for enlarging government, the replacement of individual civil rights with centralized programs, the redistribution of wealth from working individuals to the non-working but mostly corporate and special interests (their main sponsors) and a military presence throughout most of the world.
There are a number of ways to tell that their two candidates, Romney and Obama, are from the same party. Their have the same major donors (big banks, and other multinationals) -- and the most important legislation that they both favor includes the Patriot Act, the National Defense Authorization Act and most other bills that reduce our liberty (but always for our own good, and usually for our own protection).
The other two parties are smaller. They each have one candidate in the race for president. There is the Scared Religionist party, represented by Rick Santorum, and the Freedom and Peace party, represented by Ron Paul.
If you were to put the three parties simplistically on a one-dimensional spectrum -- a single line -- the Scared Religionists would be at the authoritarian end, and the Freedom and Peace party would be at the opposite, libertarian end. Between them, but closer to the Scared Religionists, would be the aforementioned Republicrats.
The Scared Religionists deserve credit for the clarity of their message, if not necessarily for the consistency of its content. Their view of the world was wonderfully encapsulated by their candidate, Rick Santorum, who recently said:
I am hopeful that some of the things we're seeing with respect to the nuclear program [,] the United states is involved in -- which, is on occasion, scientists working on the nuclear program in Iran turn up dead. I think that is a wonderful thing ... And if people say you, well, can't go around and assassinate people, well, tell that to Al-Awlaki. We've done it. We've done it to an American citizen.
Clearly, members of the Scared Religionists are sure they know best for everyone, and so do not have to worry about such traditional limitations as due process or respect for life. (The last one is a little ironic.) Consistent with his view of how the universe is run, Santorum would seek to run the nation in a way that ensures, by force if necessary, that everyone else behaves "rightly." To many non-members of this party, there is an apparent paradox that the Authority whose earlier work provided large lists of what is right, in some of His other books, asked that the judging be left to Him, and to leave everyone else to make their own choices.
Although the Scared Religionist party are all about the aforementioned ends (and The End, itself, for that matter), they are somewhat too scared to follow fully the aforementioned means (free choice, judge not etc.) -- mostly because they are scared of how things could go down in the meanwhile if people very different from them get a big bomb, or God forbid, get married to a dog -- I mean daughter -- I mean member of the same sex...
Not only is the desired political ends of this party somewhat absolutist, its means are absolutist too: pre-emptive strikes and assassinations have, after all, rather "absolute" consequences. Of course, there is a very high bar that must be overcome for such extraordinary actions: the religionists must be really, really sure that they are right about the need for them. It is a bar they are good at jumping. (They have had a great deal of practice and jump it so the rest of us don't have to.)
Last, but not least, there is the Freedom and Peace party. Their current candidate is Ron Paul. The media don't say much about them, but when they do, you will hear that they are extremists. For example, they believe that we should be governed by law, including the Constitution, to ensure that we are not governed by the interested preferences of men -- powerful or rich or both -- since that would be tyranny. They don't believe in going to war unless it is "just" and their elected representatives declare it. Related to that word, "just," is their belief that people shouldn't have their life or liberty removed without due process. They also believe that laws should not be so many and so complex that all citizens are in violation at some point in a typical day, since such a situation gives authorities undue power over citizens, and that too is tyranny. They also believe that the people who make the laws should read the laws that they vote on. (That they haven't been very successful is indicated by the fact that last January, 43,000 new laws came into force. One wonders how on earth we held the country together without them.). One of their most extreme views of all is that if you make money honestly, you should be allowed to keep it, and if you lose it -- and especially if you lose other people's -- you should be left to go bankrupt.
Paul's platform, like that of Obama and Romney, is reflected in the origin of the donations he received: most of his money comes in small donations from individual Americans. From those who are defending with their lives the values of the Freedom and Peace party -- the US Navy, Army and Airforce -- he receives more donations than do all the other candidates put together.
Although the Republicrats have held power for many generations, they have made huge progress since 2001. From that year onward, the politics of fear have allowed them to move forward on massive violence internationally (against people) and domestically (against our way of life). The bailouts, TSA, elimination of 1st, 4th, 5th and 7th amendments (under the Patriot Act, National Defense Authorization Act, and other legislation) are all acts of fear as they all try to prevent bad things from happening. Only the Freedom and Peace party believes that the political energy used doing this could have been better used to make good things happen -- which is done best by letting honest Americans get on with their lives without the imposition of thousands of unnecessary laws and the taking of trillions of their dollars.
I believe that not enough Americans are sufficiently mistaken to deliver a Santorum victory: culturally, his regressive party is in regress. And if enough of the USA stays sufficiently scared or absorbed in American Idol, Farmville and whatever other mass hypnotic media output is current prevailing, then the Republicrats will win again -- this time. But all monopolies end eventually, and the most interesting aspect of US politics is its firmest long-term trend: all the polls say that the Republicrat and Scared Religionist parties are shrinking, most rapidly among those who will lead our great nation in decades to come, and that it is that third party that is taking up the slack.
Follow Robin Koerner on Twitter: www.twitter.com/rkoerner