Bernie, Donald, and Two-Party Syndrome

Courtesy of the campaigns of Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump respectively.

Courtesy of the campaigns of Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump respectively.

Dylan Martinez, News Editor

The United States of America is a federal republic trapped in a corrupted two-party system. Americans take pride in the misconception that we are a true democracy, the fact that the government ostensibly derives its power from the consent of the people, and the light on a hill that the U.S. embodies.

The truth is that the United States is not a leader in democracy anymore. It lags noticeably behind places like Scandinavia, Western Europe, Japan, etc. In a country of 320 million people, there are only two major political parties on a national scale – parties that even exert monumental influence at a local level. This is unlike anything else in the world. In our Congress, there are Republicans and Democrats. In Spain’s parliament, a country of about 47 million people, there are six major parties. In France, there are ten. Even Mexico, a country with a political system even more corrupted and dysfunctional than our own, has ten parties to choose from.

Variety in party is important because it reflects the diversity of political taste in America. It is why a self-proclaimed “socialist” is forced to run in a party much more moderate than he is and a racist right-wing populist leads a greedy, corporate-sympathetic, nationalistic machine.

Spain, up until this past December, was similarly choked by two-party syndrome. The Socialists and the Popular Party dominated Spanish politics. Over the last two years, however, throughout tumultuous economic trial, political uproar produced the centre-right Citizens Party and far-left Podemos Party (“We Can”).

Why is it that Spain, a country that has been in near constant decline since the 1500s, can enact gargantuan change in its political system in a single election and we can’t unite to pass something as logical as commonsense gun control legislation? Instate universal healthcare? Lower tuition and offer higher education to all citizens? If we are a light on a hill, we are allowing our flame to burn out.

Enter Bernard Sanders and Donald Trump.

The former is a socialist senator from the tiny New English state of Vermont, and the latter is a real-estate tycoon and former celebrity host of “The Apprentice.”

Traditionally, our political system checks candidates in a well-defined box. There is a blueprint to running for American office and it’s this: get in bed with big money, try to appeal universally to the American people, and never say something that could be perceived as out of touch with the general public’s line of thinking.

Journalist William McElroy once wrote, “He [Abraham Lincoln] held that ours is a government of the people, by the people, for the people. I maintain, on the contrary, that it is government of politicians, by politicians, for politicians. If your political career is to be a success, you must understand this distinction with a difference.”

It is bizarre, then, when we get somebody who identifies as a democratic socialist, advocates for a single-payer healthcare system, and free college for everybody. What?

On the flip-side, there is a ginger-haired billionaire who advocates for a shutdown of Muslim-entry into the country, creating a massive wall along the border for Mexico (that Mexico will pay for, by the way), and “bombing the [expletive]” out of the ISIS-inhabited parts of Syria.

Each of these candidates would have killed their campaigns in any prior election cycle with these positions. And yet they continue to surge. Donald Trump comfortably leads the Republican pack while Sanders is rapidly catching up to and even leading against Hillary Clinton in some states, who everybody assumed was a shoe-in for the Democratic nomination. Trump does so by funding himself with his billions, while Sanders is the only candidate in the race in either party to run without a Super-PAC – and with a record number of individual donations.

To enact true political change, a President Sanders is the only option. In my eyes, he represents compassion, responsibility, and experience in a country that has been helped back on its feet by the policies enacted by President Obama, but still faces a long road ahead of us. As much as Donald Trump and the conservative cronies want to portray the America of today as apocalyptic, the fact is that the unemployment rate has been halved, more people have healthcare than ever before, and we are establishing a solid economic foundation. Donald Trump represents a spirit of divisiveness and hate. While he is also important in breaking the bonds of two-party syndrome, his message is detrimental to American ideals.

If we are to proclaim democracy in the world and have other nations of the world take us seriously, we must lead by example. A minimum of four major political parties is necessary. Two parties is not freedom, it is not democracy, and it only facilitates corruption.

The United States is moving into a new era. This presidential cycle is indicative of that. More and more people are moving towards the fringes of what was previously considered acceptable in the mainstream of public thought.

One candidate rides public transit, flies coach, does his own laundry, and is the only candidate in the race to be running without interference from big money. He is funded by the people, and has received more donations from individual people than any presidential candidate in United States history.

One candidate talks more about how rich he is than the issues, owns casinos and golf courses across the world, and rides in his massive jetliner, corporate jet, and two helicopters. He attacks women, insults ethnic groups, and personally degrades people who disagree with him.

While we will not have a true democracy until the two-party system is abolished, Bernie Sanders is a tremendous step forward in the right direction.