Forget the gaudy Biden vs. Trump soap opera. What counts nationally: The DC party control, stupid!

Not voting or voting third party in a razor-close purple state (as in 2016) empowers a dictatorial narcissist.

Image Credit: Gallup

Federalism, with exceptional, once-a-generation third party input, is run by two national parties. 

The opinionated can rant and rave about what’s wrong with Trump (endlessly if leftists) or Biden (the unpopular, flawed, aged centrist), but that’s only the center ring media circus of American politics. The true, historic change agency is party-driven, coming down to whether one party controls Congress and the White House. Otherwise, stagnation, contention and the status quo triumph, without prospects for meaningful compromises or reforms. When Congress over time is dysfunctional, dark forces (like autocracy) thrive.

Admittedly, when backing U.S.’s belligerent imperialism, the parties differ more on means and timing than the end (America forever as top dog super power). But domestically parties represent very different world views, spanning (positive) functions of government, leveling the playing field, voting rights, the legitimacy of elections, procreative rights, taxation, regulation, unions—and especially whether respect for law and the courts remain the foundation to democratic values. Only the unaware or partisan blather about equivalence.

Yet, even if Biden (or any Democrat) thumps Trump (or any right-winger), the winner struggles unless Democrats retake the House and sustain Senate control (no easy tasks). Sometimes emergencies, like 9/11 attacks, change this truism of politics but not often. No law-abiding, Constitutionally-aware Democratic president, especially when imprisoned by manic Republicans keen for blood, vengeance, and chaos, can pull off anything serious, certainly nothing approaching my agenda, a New New Deal. Now Trump, spitting on the Constitution as an outmoded antique, will concoct fascist commando raids even if Congress objects. With slavish Senate Republicans on call, Trump won’t fear what’s become the impeachment/conviction farce.

So sure, exercise your righteous third party candidate vote (especially in state or local choices). But in the presidential race, ignoring the reality of who and what runs our federal system simply removes such non-participants from impacting the national agenda. What third parties do best (when not mucking up the waters) is not electoral leverage but broadcasting a less visible, systemic problem that triggers actual reforms. Third parties, as in the Progressive Era, defined the path to women’s suffrage, humane child labor laws, popular vote for senators, even checks on excess alcohol consumption. What third party matches that?

Everyone now knows, thanks to bizarre Trump transparency (paradoxically amidst his storm of lies), what kind of president he will be—and how he’d bully Congress, federal agencies, the Dept. of Justice, the military, even the IRS, to punish foes and stay out of jail. For me Trump takes a huge risk by outing overt fascist goals, talking up caging immigrants, invading Mexico, certainly weaponizing federal powers. That exposes weakness IMO, revving up new, outlandish entertainments and media headlines. What savvy fascist in advance promises literal “dictatorship”? No Putin brags about wielding absolute power before owning it.

Understanding what elections mean

The point here is not obscure: elevating federal officials is less about symbolism or favorites than having input, small or large, about who will propose, create, then authorize what universal laws matter. Elections transcend popularity contests or just backing your ideal (moral) favorite, let alone expressing emotional (or righteous) purity. Electing the president or Congress comes down to who controls the most impactful government budget and biggest military power—whose very operations impact everyone. Competence, knowledge, training and character (as in problem-solving) matter more than outrage, cultism or grievance. 

Thus, anyone who cannot distinguish pro-government Democrats—moving on climate, opportunity, education, work conditions, protecting civil, election, voting and women’s rights—from government-hating Republicans and libertarian/billionaire/big-business/ wedge politics/ reality-denying manias, is blind to what drives federalism, if not public prosperity. Either it matters what happens to the “life-styles” of the not-rich and not-famous (that is, communal values) or it doesn’t. Either you see the whole or feed the fractional and factional. Either you honor the core Judaic-Christian value, “love thy neighbor as thyself,” or you don’t. 

In short, federal votes must be judged from five miles up, assessing real impacts on real lives of what a president says and does, what Congress does, and who’s heading lead, critical agencies. Just compare the momentous difference between the scandalized yahoos that Trump picked as advisers vs. Biden’s adult, rational, scandal-free appointees. Only myopia of the pragmatic whole of governance justifies not voting for a major party. It’s really a case of being in the game or being in the stands, or not being in the stadium at all. 

This is not an attack on third party positives, nor do I impugn good intentions. I have voted my conscience thusly, knowing my ballot would be lost in the shuffle, even help figures I couldn’t abide. I am no Democratic apologist, critical of leadership shortfalls and reluctance to back a progressive viewpoint, let alone effectively compete with ruthless opponents. Though Biden boasts a fistful of unexpected, partial domestic wins, he is the default rational adult vs. a cult con artist who relies on faith-alone irrationality.

Beyond rhetoric or fixations, we’re talking whether more (or fewer) Americans live with dignity, with greater chances for prosperity. Only those in denial would miss the schism between Democratic cultural and ethnic tolerance, indeed direct support for the bottom 80 percent, vs. a belligerent, corrupt party that rejects basic governance, on pandemics, on job, pension and economic growth, climate change, legal and illegal drugs, work safety, workable immigration policies, hard-won human rights, and legitimate elections. One party, with admitted corporate alliances, makes an effort on behalf of the many, the other only serves the few.

Nothing is apolitical

Any vote for a Republican defends a death-dealing worldview that distorts government as the great menace, that slanders media as the “enemy of the people,” and that views politics not about lifting up people but ruthlessly seizing partisan power, controls and vetoes. Voting Republican endorses the current ultra-conservative Supreme Court; voting Republican condones the last two inept, dishonest House Speakers. Voting Republican means electing a gang of racially-biased, anti-democratic politicians. Voting Republican means utter passivity and moral infamy in the face of chronic, endless, horrific mass killings. 

In short, voting matters, and not voting for either major party removes one from direct input, belying one’s democratic right. Vote as you like but realize whatever you do has wide consequences: not voting or voting third party in a razor-close purple state (as in 2016) empowers a dictatorial narcissist. Aware citizens don’t always get the luxury of expressing one’s “innermost values;” casting a ballot means participating in a messy slugfest which either benefits the many and needy or doesn’t. Self-interest may well be secondary.

The point is not perfection but choosing among the two potential winners who’s the most legitimate, sane, well-informed, preferably compassionate leader. If you back Trump, vote for him (if he’s nominated) and we all pay the price. If you back democracy and rationality (vs. an authoritarian cult religion), only Biden so far satisfies that humane, worthy goal. Staying home denies both your citizen right and having even a marginal impact on the finale. Even lawless insurrectionists, who don’t qualify to hold office, can still displace the vote of a stay-at-home who won’t compromise.


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For over a decade, Robert S. Becker's independent, rebel-rousing essays on politics and culture analyze overall trends, history, implications, messaging and frameworks. He has been published widely, aside from Nation of Change and RSN, with extensive credits from OpEdNews (as senior editor), Alternet, Salon, Truthdig, Smirking Chimp, Dandelion Salad, Beyond Chron, and the SF Chronicle. Educated at Rutgers College, N.J. (B.A. English) and U.C. Berkeley (Ph.D. English), Becker left university teaching (Northwestern, then U. Chicago) for business, founding SOTA Industries, a top American high end audio company he ran from '80 to '92. From '92-02, he was an anti-gravel mining activist while doing marketing, business and writing consulting. Since then, he seeks out insight, even wit in the shadows, without ideology or righteousness across the current mayhem of American politics.