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Bi-polar disorder
American democracy is fast making way for a two-party dictatorship, and US citizens are already seeking options

American author Gore Vidal once stated, “Apparently, a democracy is a place where numerous elections are held at a great cost without issues and with interchangeable candidates.” As the trends indicate, this seems to have become a reality for US democracy today. Even when it is suffering from a mammoth public debt of over $16 trillion and a 7.9% unemployment rate, the presidential candidates (and the campaigners behind them) in the recently concluded elections have been ambitious enough to spend an amount of around $5.8 billion (more than the GDP of Malawi) during their respective campaigns. In addition, the adverse effects of political duopoly are becoming vivid with time. The belief in the two party political system – Democrat and Republican – which is deemed “outdated” by experts, is getting shakier by the day.

SuperPAC (Political Action Committee), which was established by the Citizens United Supreme Court, has massively influenced the rising expenditures in US elections as it has allowed parties to accept and spend enormous amounts of corporate, individual or union cash; often without disclosing sources. The total cost of the November 2012 election was around 12% higher as compared to 2008 ($5.2 billion) and has almost doubled as compared to the expenditure incurred in the 2004 elections ($3 billion). UK election expenditure of around $49 million in the 2010 general elections looks microscopic compared to the US (120 times more frugal). The trend of rising election expenditure in US has been severely criticized by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who critically commented, “An election, which is one of the manifestations of the people’s will, has become a battleground for the capitalists and an excuse for hasty spending.”

Even the ‘battleground for the capitalists’ has been limited to only two parties, i.e., Democratic and Republican. A larger proportionate of people displayed their dissatisfaction against the current political system. A Gallup Poll conducted just before the election highlighted that the Americans are no more excited about having only two choices and astonishingly, 40% of Americans consider themselves as ‘independents’.

Over time, the US Presidential election has become more of a political farce that comes into play every four years. In reality, a duopoly is a two party dictatorship where both sides appear to be separate; yet truly represent the same agenda. The American duopoly is highly influenced by corporate interest. For instance, as per media reports, more than 70% of the people demanded a public-run health care option but both parties maintained their support for private health care. Irrespective of peoples’ unwillingness, both parties supported the war in Iraq and Afghanistan. And if we have to believe a leaked ‘Memorandum of Understanding’ signed by both Obama and Romney (Obama & Romney agree to cowardly debates, Russia Today, October 16, 2012), the three televised presidential debates were really ‘planned to prevent any unplanned circumstances’! In actuality, both candidates provided ‘pre-planned’ retorts to ’pre-approved’ queries from ‘pre-selected’ individuals.

Considering the macroeconomic conditions, unnecessary expenses on election campaigns must be curtailed. Also, the problem of duopoly can only be solved if enough people are willing to risk backing a third party candidate. They can learn from classic duopolies like MCI and AT&T, Macy’s and Gimbles and Kodak and Fujifilm. Many of them do not exist today as they ignored customer satisfaction after a certain point in time. Just as such binary alignments are potentially bad for business, US politics also needs to be cured from a similar bipolar disorder.

By:- Amir Hossain

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