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Travis Irvine Headshot

Enough Left vs. Right Blame Game: Shutdown Was a Failure of Two-Party System

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It's been more than a week since the government did not shut down, and it's been really fun to watch Republicans and Democrats blame each other for the whole thing. If you're on the right, the shutdown was thanks to President Obama, Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) and those darn Senate Democrats. And if you're on the left, the shutdown was due to Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), the Tea Party and those nutjob House Republicans. Well, I say they are all absolutely correct. It's everybody in Washington's fault and they should all shut the fuck up.

Yes, recent polls show Obama with some of his lowest approval ratings yet, especially as Obamacare's glitch-filled launch plagues the new health care law's predicted success. Other polls show the GOP bearing the brunt of public scorn with equally low approval ratings, so if you listen to both sides, you should know that they all pretty much suck. The president and Congress are the veritable no-star motels of political history -- a Chinese restaurant to be avoided in the wee early hours of the morning. And yet, every weekend around 4 a.m., we stumble back in and give it another try. It just tastes so good when you're drunk, man!

So it should be no surprise that another poll shows nearly half of Americans want to replace all of Congress, as the hatred for both sides is finally spewing over, and maybe, just maybe, people are ready to act on their "throw the bums out" intuitions. Of course, while this all sounds nice on paper, the reality is our ridiculous/sad two-party political system ensures that whenever we do throw the bums out, we just replace them with... more bums! Yes, any Republican or Democrat who replaces another Republican or Democrat will still be a Republican or Democrat and likely buckle to the Republican or Democrat establishment interests. In our shining-house-upon-the-hill democracy, no matter which bums you throw out, you just replace them with new bums who support the same bum establishment's bum agenda. It's a bummer.

So when yet another poll shows 60 percent of Americans are ready for a third political party in the U.S., can you blame them? After all, the very least voters deserve in this sham of a political system is as many options as there are polls. Even other sensible Western countries like Great Britain have major third parties, like the Liberal Democrats, who are currently involved with a coalition government in the U.K. What is a coalition government, you ask? Well, I don't know, but it has something to do with the fact that Liberal Democrats were voted into power because the Labour Party was too pro-war for too long, and the Conservative Party is, as my British friend says, "A bunch of twats." So British voters elected their third option, the Liberal Democrats, and though the party didn't win enough votes for a majority, they now share power with the Conservatives, keeping Parliament honest and doing some awesome things like voting against war with Syria. It's pretty simple math: when you have another contender chasing the top two contenders, the top two need to contend against more than just each other.

Unfortunately, third political parties in the U.S. face an uphill battle. The two largest we have are the Libertarian Party and Green Party, and while both have a handful of local elected officials across the U.S., neither has ever waged a successful campaign for federal office. In 2012, one of the best Libertarian presidential candidates, former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson, only got 1 percent of the popular vote. In 2000, Green Presidential candidate Ralph Nader received 2 percent, but many lefties now say he cost Al Gore the election. In 2010, I ran for Congress as a Libertarian in Ohio, but disgust with the Ds & Rs didn't materialize into more than 4 percent of the vote, although I wasn't an ideal or traditional candidate at all. Nonetheless, as I campaigned door-to-door, people would often tell me that they wanted to for vote third parties, but didn't because, "They'll never win."

This unwinnable status is only secured when Republicans and Democrats restrict ballot access -- in some states, third parties must gather an impossible amount of signatures and pay enormous fees -- and campaigning with little money is also ridiculously difficult. In 1999, President Bill Clinton famously campaigned for the Democratic mayoral candidate in San Francisco to prevent a write-in candidate from being elected. In Virginia, Libertarian gubernatorial candidate Robert Sarvis is currently struggling just to be included in the debates with Clinton-backed Democrat Terry McAuliffe and Republican Ken Cuccinelli, even though Sarvis is polling around 10 percent. And in my sweet home state of Ohio, our dear buttfaced Governor John Kasich just rammed through legislation to make ballot access even more difficult for third parties, because he fears a more-conservative candidate could take away precious votes and cost him reelection.

Perhaps our only hope is for certain Democrats and Republicans to leave their political homes over specific issues and start a new party. For example, take two of the major policy debates from the past year: defunding the NSA and opposing war in Syria. Republicans and Democrats lined up on both sides of these issues, as progressives on the left and constitutionalists on the right seem to agree that NSA spying and needless war in the Middle East are wrong. This coalition could band together to start something new, like the Progressive Constitutionalist Party! With an acronym like PCP, you know it'll be addicting and take the U.S. by storm.

Or, if Americans are serious about throwing the bums out, maybe we should just vote for as many political parties outside of the Republicans and Democrats as we can -- Independents, Libertarians, Greens, Constitutionalists, Socialists and even "The Rent is Too Damn High" candidates should all become the norm. If not, we can certainly prepare for more of the same from The InBumBent Party.