IN THE PREVIOUS CHAPTER I vowed never to support any organization which would take positions representing me, which positions I would not willingly (peacefully) stand personally responsible for. In short, I object to organizations that claim a consensus that does not exist—a false reporting of agreement growing out of committee action.
It is logical for anyone to inquire, “Well, what about support of and membership in one of the two major political parties? Would you go so far as to take part in neither of these? You would vote for the candidate of one or the other party, regardless of positions, wouldn’t you?” These are good questions and deserve a careful answer, though I am not suggesting that anyone else adopt my view.
According to The Columbia Encyclopedia, “the existence of only two major parties, as in most English-speaking countries, presupposes general public agreement on constitutional questions and on the aims of government.” This idea is fundamental to my thesis. Under such agreeable circumstances, each party keeps a check on the other, thus giving assurance that neither party will step out of the bounds that have been agreed upon.
Let it be re-emphasized that the two-party system (1) presupposes a general agreement on constitutional questions and the aims of government and (2) aims at, if it does not presuppose, honest candidates contending for office within the framework of that constitution. In this kind of political order, each office seeker is supposed to present fairly his own capabilities as related to the agreed-upon framework, voting being for the purpose of deciding which candidate is more competent for that limited role.
Clearly, the theory as originally conceived did not intend that the positions of candidates should be a response to voter opinion polls concerning the content or meaning of the constitution and the aims of government. If voters could thus reshape or reform the boundaries of government at will, there would be no need of candidates. Far less costly and more efficient would be the purchase of an electronic computer into which voter opinions and caprices would be continually fed; it could spew out altered constitutions and governmental purposes every second!
If there were “a general public agreement on constitutional questions and on the aims of government,” and if candidates were vying with each other for office solely on their competency to perform within this framework, I would have no comment. But there is little contemporary agreement as to constitutional questions and the aims of government! Name a point that can now be presupposed. Both the questions and the aims are at sixes and sevens.
And as to candidates—with a few notable exceptions—they no longer contend with each other as to their competence to serve within a generally accepted framework but, instead:
(1) they compete to see which one can come up with the most popular alteration of the framework, and
(2) they compete to see which one can get himself in front of the most popular voter grab bag in order to stand foursquare for some people’s supposed right to other people’s income.
The upshot of this political chaos is that voters are seldom given the chance to decide on the basis of competency but have only the choice of deciding between opportunists or, a better term, trimmers. This changed situation does, indeed, call for comments about political party membership and voting.
Despite the respectability of the two-party theory, its practice has “come a cropper.” Today, trimming is so much in vogue that often a voter cannot cast a ballot except for one of two trimmers. Heard over and over again is the apology, “Well, the only choice I had was to vote for the lesser of two evils. I had to vote for one of them, didn’t I?” A moral tragedy is implicit in this confession, as well as a political fallacy; in combination they must eventually lead to economic disaster.