American politics has become a sham

There were a bunch of town hall meetings with Democratic presidential candidates last night. I didn’t watch a single one of them, instead retiring to my bed with a book. My wife tuned in to all of them, I think, because I don’t believe she came to bed at all (she’s the fiercely political one in the family nowadays, and I can’t blame her.) I look at the swarm of Democrats that are buzzing around during this premature election cycle, and I’m just tired. All I want is sound policy and coherence at this point. So I detest the young, brash ones like Mayor Pete who has no policy and openly says he’s avoiding it because he’s all about “values” (but what if your values are all about having a rational, sane, competent government?) I detest the old neo-liberal party hacks — I can’t believe that Uncle Joe is going to be running. Do you think he’ll get Anita Hill’s vote?

But worst of all, I detest the Republican party. They’re doing nothing. At a time when eleventy-seven thousand Democrats are plunging madly to the starting gate because they see our current president as weak and hateful and a necessary target for removal, the Republicans cower in fear and none are suggesting that they’ll run against him. Why? Because even the ones who express reservations about the Deplorable-In-Chief know that he is the current apotheosis of Republican policy, and they can’t run against him without repudiating everything the Rethuglican machine and Fox News has built since Reagan. Charles Pierce puts it well.

That there are not at least five Republican candidates challenging El Caudillo del Mar-a-Lago not only is a fine metric for judging the deep internal rot in that political party, but also a good measure of the limits of the Never Trumpers as allies in an election year. Let us stipulate the following two points: 1) It is the responsibility of the Democratic Party to do everything in its power to protect the institutions of our republic, and 2) it is distinctly not the Democratic Party’s responsibility to save the Republican Party from itself, and from the political monster it has created over the past 40 years. For four decades, the party has flattered, and begged, and truckled to the very forces of which it is now terrified. Save yourselves, gang.

But that isn’t happening because, for all their brave talk, the Never Trumpers want to keep the political power that base gave them while distancing themselves from its obvious and inevitable product. So, instead of gathering forces behind a primary challenge, many of the Never Trumpers seem to be content with advising the Democratic Party on who it should nominate and what policies it should pursue. This, I believe, in preparation for a campaign to blame the Democratic nominee if the country determines that it wants to live six more years in the current gale-force dungwind.

Let us be clear: if the country re-elects this president*, it’s because modern movement conservatism prepared the ground for it and used the Republican Party to do it. It hangs on all of them like a historical deadweight. They should disenthrall themselves from the policies and tactics that hung it from their necks before presuming to beg the other political party save them from their own monster.

So here I am, disgusted. I am going to vote for whoever wins the Democratic party nomination, and I will say it loud and clear ahead of time, even if it’s a Mayor Pete or an Uncle Joe, because the number one priority for the country is to first get rid of that asshole in the White House, and number two priority is to bury the Republican party. Yet I hate that I’m trapped in this two-party system, and I do not trust the Democratic party to fight for anything other than corporate sponsorship. That means I cannot bear to pay attention to the process, because the process is the problem.

I’ll walk into the primaries and vote my conscience (which at this point whispers “Warren” in my brain; could change), and then when the actual election roles around after a goddamn year and a half of misery, I’ll mark the ballot for whoever is opposite Trump, which means the Democrats could nominate a chimpanzee and they’ll get my vote. Which does not make me happy.


  1. starfleetdude says

    Whomever is the Democratic nominee, if they do become President and Democrats get a majority in the Senate, you can be sure that some version of Medicare For All will pass. It’s not like any of the Democratic Presidential candidates are indispensable.

  2. whheydt says

    Same sentiments here.

    Reminds me of ages past when it was noted that many of us would rather vote for Bonzo than Reagan.

  3. scottde says

    More political parties isn’t a panacea. Spain has six major parties at the moment (two of them brand new) and multiple minor parties, and it’s still deadlocked. It’s unclear whether they will be able to form a majority government after the upcoming elections, and Catalan seperatists could conceivably be the deciding factor. People are just as fed up with the process there as they are here.

    Politics is messy, and there isn’t some pristine clean form of it because human beings aren’t pristine and pure.

  4. kenbakermn says

    If the Democrats nominate a rusty bucket full of used oil filters, and a dead carp for running mate, they get my vote.

  5. Hoosier X says

    #6 kenbakermn – That didn’t work so well in 2016, even if they did win the popular vote.

  6. whywhywhy says

    Mayor Pete knows how to give a good speech and is benefiting from the evangelical backlash, but I would rather have one of the women who know how to get things done: Warren, Harris, or Klobuchar.

  7. jrkrideau says

    @ 5 scottde

    More political parties isn’t a panacea

    No indeed, but watching US politics from Canada there really does seem to be a need for one or two alternative and viable parties in the USA. Currently there is almost no real difference between the two US parties and so there is no party to offer any real alternative. Even if the party cannot take the presidency or even a seat in Congress it can act as the country’s concience and offer alternative policies.

    One of the problems down south is that no one there seems to be willing to vote for a smaller party for long enough to build up it up into a viable party. I think it is both structural thing and a cultural thing.

    At the moment we have 4 (?) parties in parliament at the Federal level, Québec has 3 or 4 but at least 2 have no presence in the rest of Canada and so on.

    Which reminds me, Prince Edward Island is having its provincial election today and there is a good chance that the Green Party could form a government. This would be the first time in at least 50 years some one other than the Conservatives or the Liberals formed a government. There is my point about time. The Greens have been wandering in the wilderness in every province since the party was formed, perhaps 30 years ago and suddenly they have a chance.

  8. says

    There is an election with more than two viable candidates–it’s the primary election. As far as I’m concerned, the primary election is the election, and the general election is a day to check off a box.

  9. Akira MacKenzie says

    We don’t need more political parties, we just need one viable, sane, left-wing political party to give voice to progressive issues and have the courage to act upon them without worrying about the ever-fickle whims of the apathetic “undecideds.” As horrible as Republican/Conservative ideology is, at least they try to deliver them to their base. The Democrats, not so much.

  10. robro says

    Forty years puts it at 1979. Pierce is off by at least three decades. He’s forgetting the “Southern Strategy” that openly courted disaffected Dixiecrats during the Goldwater campaign, the Nixon campaign which successfully used the strategy and also pulled levers to prevent the “October surprise” peace deal in Vietnam, the Eisenhower administration that allowed the CIA to support authoritarian regimes in Central America, or the rabid anti-communism of the McCarthy era. These are all themes still in play, although ironically the evil empire of Russia is now a partner.

    If you want to get really scared and PO’d, check out Carole Cadwalladr’s recent editorial in the Guardian and her TED talk about the Brexit vote, the 2016 presidential election, and the role of the social media giants: “My TED talk: how I took on the tech titans in their lair.”

    She basically calls Mark Zuckerberg, Sheryl Sandberg, Jack Dorsey (Twitter), Sergey Brin, and Larry Page, as well as Robert Mercer, Nigel Farage, et al, criminals for their sinister dissemination of lies, flaunting UK election finance laws, and stonewalling the investigations.

    She openly declares that democracy is broken, and not just in the UK and US but around the world. No wonder the Koch brothers think it’s better now than it’s been in 50 years.

    I see no reason to expect it to be different in 2020.

  11. Akira MacKenzie says

    Addendum: And by “sane” I mean accepting of scientific reality: no new age woo, no anti-vaxxers, no loons who think wifi causes cancer, no alternative medicine, etc..

  12. weylguy says

    I do not trust the Democratic party to fight for anything other than corporate sponsorship. That means I cannot bear to pay attention to the process, because the process is the problem.

    In 2006, when the then-new Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi said she was taking impeachment of George W. Bush off the table, I switched parties from Democrat to Green. Pelosi’s latest alibi against impeaching Donald J. Trump is that “he’s not worth it.” Something very wrong is afoot in the Democratic Party, and Dr. Myers nailed it.

    If the American political process cannot get rid of a president as provably venal, corrupt and criminal as Trump, then there really is no political process to speak of, other than adherence to plutocratic military/industrial corporatism.

    I’ll vote like Myers, but I have zero faith that anything decent will come of it.

  13. says

    @10 Jrkrideau

    Firstly, no real difference between the Republicans and the Democrats? Have you been paying any attention at all over the last few years of American politics? Look at the new supreme court justices, the tax bills from congress, and basically everything Trump has done. If you think there is no difference you should be paying more attention.

    Secondly as a Canadian I can argue that our multi-party system has been a disaster for the country. In Ontario we got Doug Ford only because the NDP, Liberals, and Greens (all left leaning) split 60% of the vote allowing a Ford majority with 40%. Federally this same problem gave us Stephen Harper. Other than Alberta and Saskatchewan there is really no province with right wing majorities but we keep getting right wing governments.

  14. mastmaker says

    My (scant) historical analysis says: Democratic party carries less blame than you imply. Sustained campaign by far right (which increasingly became mainstream) from Reagan days to paint anyone left of Reagan to be anti-American and even (according to some of them) sub-human, and all the vitriol associated with it has weakened the Democratic party. You can draw similarities with the weakened opposition under non-democratic leaders like Saddam or Gaddafi. In the case of US, the entire Republican party and Fox News are engaged in mental subjugation of opposition. It is a wonder that Obama even got elected, but as I keep saying, that is largely down to him appearing out of nowhere in 2004 and thus largely escaping the smear campaigns.

  15. feministhomemaker says

    I have your same commitment, PZ, to voting for the democrat, whoever gets the nomination. But I have a bit more optimism it will make things noticeably better, whoever gets the nod in my party and definitively better if certain ones get it, most notably Warren for me at this point. I am still open to Booker and Harris and will jump in for Stacey Abrams in a heartbeat if she makes the plunge. My heart will be very sick if Bernie or Biden get the nod and I will be mildly less sick if Beto or Buttigeig get the nod. I’ll be neutral if Klobochar or Gillibrand get it. Not excited, not sick. But damn straight–I vote blue, democrat, whoever gets the nod. Trump and the republicans must go down. Period.

  16. Artor says

    “…You can be sure that some version of Medicare For All will pass.”

    Can I? Really? I’d certainly like to see that, but we’re talking about the Democratic Party here. Conceding to Republican policies even when they don’t have to is what they’re famous for.

  17. mastmaker says

    To further clarify: When one party runs a sustained campaign of painting the other party and other ideologies as anti-american and sub-human, and not worth debating and their idea and ideology ALONE is worth consideration, they are not just waging political war on that party. They are waging war against democracy. Republican party is ABSOLUTELY guilty of (attempted) murder of democracy in USA – over the last 40 years. I have not studied the history enough to know what exactly happened in the two decades around Nixon’s presidency, so cannot comment on that.

  18. Akira MacKenzie says

    I’ll vote like Myers, but I have zero faith that anything decent will come of it.

    That’s been my attitude since 2012 after it turned out Obama was going to be a disappointment. I might be a massive dumb-dumb, but I’m smart enough to realize that third-party temper tantrums aren’t going to work. It’s just that voting for a party that takes to for granted is a grind, not matter how necessary.

  19. starfleetdude says


    I did say “some version”. If Democrats do win and get a majority in the Senate, but not 60 votes, it’s not likely that a single-payer version of Medicare for All would be enacted. But making those 55 and older eligible for Medicare and adding a public option to the Affordable Care Act would be doable.

  20. consciousness razor says

    Firstly, no real difference between the Republicans and the Democrats? Have you been paying any attention at all over the last few years of American politics?

    Seriously. The Democrats are a mixed bag. This is not a great “get out the vote” motivational speech, but also not a reason to fall into utter despair and disillusionment (again and again and again, which often seems like act, even when I’m sympathetic to the message). That’s just how it is. All you can do is fight with the army you have, play the position on the chess board in front of you, etc.
    The Republicans, on the other hand, are only a party of garbage and awfulness and nonsense. It is entirely unmixed. That bag is overflowing with pure shit. Enough said.
    We do in fact have more than two political parties in this country, not very major ones but they do exist, whatever that is supposed to be worth. If it were just two, at least that would be better than only one. But the smallness of the number (however you measure it) isn’t what bothers me, because if there were a thousand different versions of the garbage party, that would not make me feel any more empowered as a voter.
    If it were up to me, we’d remove the electoral college, remake the Senate, prevent gerrymandering and voter suppression, and grant statehood to our colonies (excuse me, “territories” is the accepted term). And a whole bunch of powers/institutions should be taken from states and given to the federal government. I think those are the right things to do anyway. Then, maybe the Dems wouldn’t be such a mixed bag, and assuming the GOP doesn’t destroy itself, it can at least become more and more irrelevant.

  21. stroppy says


    Well, hard to know where to start… maybe read up on Roy Cohn; man behind Tailgunner Joe McCarthy (and his pal Nixon), lawyer for the mob, and mentor to Donald Trump.

    But yeah the corrupt conservatism goes hand-in-hand with the history of slavery in this country. The most modern strain gins up and organizes concurrent with Reagan IMO, under pressure of simmering resentment over the Viet Nam war and the 60’s counter culture. ALEC, the Federalist Society, talk radio, and all the things you’re familiar with serve to accelerate the rot.

  22. starfleetdude says


    There are two distinct political parties in the U.S. and they do differ in important ways from each other. Anyone who tells you differently is selling something, and it’s probably iocane.

  23. thirdmill301 says

    The problem is not American politics; it’s the American people. Yes, Trump lost the popular vote, but in a sane, rational society he would not have been a serious candidate in the first place. That almost half of the people who voted were willing to elect the likes of him tells me that the real problem is that yes, we really are a racist, misogynist and xenophobic society. Until that changes, or until the law of cause and effect gets repealed, nothing much else will change either.

  24. monad says

    @16 anna: The usual way parliamentary systems prevent those kinds of vote-splitting problems is by parties joining in coalitions. In Canada this almost happened against Harper, but I guess it was considered too extreme to actually go through with, or something like that? Instead the parties have to actually merge, like the Conservatives and Reform to give Harper in the first place.

    It doesn’t make a lot of sense to me; the check on this kind of thing is already there, it’s just that nobody uses it. Which is still a lot better than the US system, where there are all sorts of checks against an openly criminal president that are going completely untouched, because one party are complicit, one party are irresponsible cowards, and no others exist.

  25. says

    @27 Monad

    We have a multi-party system in Canada but it is not proportional representation. On a riding by riding basis this sort of thing happens: Left party one 28%, Left party two 17 % Left Party Three 5% Right Party 40 %. This plays out across the country/province giving the right party a majority of seats. The left doesn’t have the numbers to defeat them in parliament with 60% of the vote. We need a proportional representation system. Multi-party systems fail badly in first past the post. In British Columbia a party got a majority government with less votes then one of the other parties.

  26. says

    I should also say in Canada the right is much better at merging when needed then the left. The left argue purity issues and stay separate while the right beats them again and again.

  27. Allison says

    Re: third (i.e., minor) political parties

    I live in NY, which has typically 4 or 5 parties on the ballot.

    In practice, most of the time the minor parties (i.e., any party other than the Democrat or Republican ones) simply endorse major party candidates. This is a win for the minor parties, because if they get enough votes on their line, they get some kind of government support (I don’t know exactly how this works), and for establishment politicians, because if they by some miracle lose a primary election, they’re still on the ballot. (The minor parties don’t have primaries.)

    The only time where a new party has become a major party in the US that I know of was the Republican party in the 1850’s and 1860’s, and that was because the slavery issue basically dominated politics, the Whigs had nothing to say about that and the Democrats were split into pro- and anti-slavery wings to the point of having two presidential candidates. The Whigs then disappeared entirely and the Democrats effectively split into two parties, based on region: a pro-slavery party in the old South, and a slavery-agnostic party in the rest of the country, held together only by each side’s willingness to sweep any political issues under the rug on which they differed. It wasn’t until the 1960’s that this strange marriage broke up.

    Based on that, I’d say that to have a viable new party, you’d need (a) some overriding political issue that would be enough to attract people from a wide variety of political directions and (b) a failure of the current major parties to address the issues of the day.

    Unfortunately, it looks like it’s the Democrats who might go the way of the Whigs, while the Republican Party seems to have united behind hate and bigotry. And hatred and bigotry have unfortunately always played well in the US.

  28. says

    “Has become” a sham?

    Has been a sham since 1981 when Reagan was inaugurated (as opposed to being shot at close range with an extremely large-calibre firearm).

    This has been going on since before Millennials could walk. We’re screwed. Trump was not our first moron president, and neither was Dubya; Reagan was. This is history rhyming with itself, as it always does.

  29. lpetrich says

    To me, Beto O’Rourke and Pete Buttigieg seem like male bimbos. What do they have going for them? What do they propose?

    I like Elizabeth Warren a LOT better. She has some very good proposals, proposals that she has worked on for a long time. Kamala Harris does not quite have EW’s record of proposals, but I prefer her to BOR and PB.

    Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden seem to me to be very old. I’m concerned that they may not have much stamina. That aside, I think I’d prefer BS to JB.

  30. archangelospumoni says

    M. jrkrideau
    “Currently there is almost no real difference between the two US parties . . . .”
    This forum usually has more polite exchanges than your garden variety public venue, so I’ll try to be a little more polite.
    It is unbelievable, astounding, shocking, bewildering, and . . . infuriating . . . that a sane, literate person would deliberately make such a statement aside from massive sarcasm.
    One party is often interested in stuff like “facts” and “math” and “arithmetic” and “incontrovertible proof of human impact on climate change” while the other rejects facts in nearly all forms and venues. Then add in the covert AND overt racism, the covert AND overt misogyny while adding in the enthusiastic embrace of totalitarianism here and abroad.
    Then add in common thievery in nearly all forms and then add in downright hostility to any sort of environmental protection of any kind.
    While you’re at it, dump in a bunch of pseudoreligion, pseudoevangelicalism, and remember that all of their religious books seem to have skipped that one section when the guy told them “whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me” (clearly, this is ONLY because their Bibles missed that one page–nobody could be that hypocritical to “forget” this one page on purpose.)
    There . . . other than the above, you have correctly conflated the major parties.
    Please don’t make such statements again without including the qualifiers as I have listed.