The Problem with the Two Party System

Sometime in my youth, I remember expressing happiness to my dad that my preferred political party had won the presidency, after a long drought. Unfortunately, the new president was having trouble finding well known, experienced, skilled, proven Democrats to fill the leadership roles in the Cabinet, and beyond. My father, long interested in government, to the extent of reading multiple histories of the Romans, ranted about the incompetence of the new president, and the general failure to fill many of the positions, due to the refusal of Congress to approve his nominees, thus proving his general incompetence to be president.

Is Now The Time to Expand Our Two Party System?

That’s the problem with election cycles in the two party system that we Americans love so much. We’re proud of the fact  that we have only two major parties. We avoid that messy coalition building that other democracies have to to through. We let the people choose, and then let the chosen person / party govern. At least that’s been the theory. The winning party claims a mandate based on the electoral college “landslide,” even if the popular vote went the other way. The winner then gets to fill the leadership roles in agriculture, the military, education, finance, drug policy, and all the other aspects of modern life.

But experience builds on experience.

As an engineer, age late 50’s, suddenly my clients are asking new types of questions. I would not have been able to answer these questions even a few years ago. Or maybe the questions have always been there, but I’m able to hear them now. Hard to say. A few times in the recent past, the answers have popped into my mind almost as soon as they are asked, and anticipated side concerns also seem to articulate themselves in the compost of the confusion of the questioner.

When only Democrats get to fill top positions for 8 or 12 years, Republicans don’t gain the skills required to lead. When only Republicans get to fill top positions for 8 or 12 years, Democrats don’t gain the skills required to lead. When Republicans, who by definition think multi-level hierarchy is the natural and best state for humanity, are in charge for long stretches of time, the sprouts of true egalitarian democracy are killed, pre-emergence.

Empowerment is the Key!

I heard an African-American community leader calmly insisting, correctly in my opinion, that money for White-led organizations helping African-Americans was wasted. African-Americans, he kept insisting, have to be empowered to solve problems by themselves. That means the role of the white cultural matrix must be to try to weed out the systematic discrimination that keeps African-Americans dis-empowered.

Empowerment is related to the SELF.

It does not mean power OVER others.

What are the major, current and actionable sources of this dis-empowerment? I’ll leave that question for all of us to meditate on.

Only by solving problems can we learn to solve problems.

This happens  at many simultaneous levels: individual, community wide, city wide, state wide,  nation wide, and world wide, and over many generations. It takes a long un-interupted time for the poisonous preconceptions carried in every culture to be weeded out in the “market-place of ideas.” These poisonous ideas are left from earlier times, were created in different circumstances, by well meaning people. But the only constant is change. And as change accelerates in the accelerated mingling of different groups in modern times, we need to move toward a system where people of all cultures and political persuasions have un-interupted chances to develop their leadership skills.

You may wish to view this Wikipedia article on other problems associated with the type of voting we have, which is not necessarily confined to two party systems. Thanks to the person who called this article to my attention.

Wrong about Worms!

The worm, surprised by the sudden appearance of daylight, quickly retreated into its tunnel.

“Do worms have eyes?” asked Danny.

“Hmm, good question. I don’t think so.”

“Either did I. Maybe they can sense light though. Or maybe it simply felt the air move. Or maybe it was resting against the bottom of the flower pot when you picked it up.”

I had recruited Danny to help me clean up the yard, his young skeleton being more flexible than mine, and his muscles stronger.

“It’s hard to say what a worm knows!” Danny pointed out.

“Well, it’s easy to find some verbiage about worms. But saying something meaningful and truthful requires mental wrestling,” I reminded my young neighbor.

Worms do not have vertebrae!” retorted Danny. “That did not require too much wrestling.”

I nodded, happy to hear this entity of tender years producing such a pithy aphorism, and replied to him.

“We do have vertebrae, but we are still subject to the winds of fate. Our vertebrae help us stand straight, but we can’t avoid making some wrong turns in life.”

“Yeah,” mumbled Danny. “I’m still calculating the worth of that last explosion of wrath I indulged in.”

My eyes involuntarily sought the exit to the wormhole. I knew the feeling. We had met in the advanced anger management class. Our warped personalities were both on the mend. We were cultivating our minds. Tired of having to wriggle away from the complicated conditions we had created for ourselves, we were learning new habits. We were learning how to un-braid the strands of our troubled lives. We were learning to unwrap the layers of weird circumstances that had trapped us in inner turmoil. We were learning that prose is preferable to fists. Versatility is what we can learn from the worm.

Your face is wreathed in smiles,” noted Danny.

“Versatility is what we can learn from the worm,” I cheerfully replied.

“Right!” said Danny. No damn vertebrae to get in the way.”


Our homework assignment in writing group was to randomly pick a word from the dictionary and write something about it or with it. I usually don’t do the homework. Most of the others in the group are retired and have more time. This time, I was inspired to write something though, but “WREATHE” (the verb) just did not give me much to go on. So I turned to the “Indo-European Root” dictionary at the back of the American Heritage Dictionary that I got a few years back. Word origins are very interesting. I read and underlined the entire Indo-European and Semetic root word appendices when the book arrived.

“Wreathe” comes from the root word “wer” of which there are three unrelated versions. (They’d sound different in the original Indo-European language, but all are represented as “wer” in modern American English. Wreathe comes from “wer” #2.) This version of “wer” has to do with turning and wrapping. It’s amazing how so few root words have generated so many individual expressions of nuance in the last 5000 years or so.

The highlighted words are all derivatives from “wer” #2. Of course some of the derivations in this dictionary are (IMHO) wrong. It’s tough work and the professionals tend sometimes to ignore the obvious in favor of the obscure. Sovereign, for example, (meaning self rule) obviously comes from whatever roots generated “swa” (self) and “raj” (as in “raja, king, also like reign!) but they have a different take.