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BLOG: America needs more major political parties

Tom Jackson • Mar 31, 2011 at 5:11 PM

Thomas Suddes, one of the Cleveland Plain Dealer's better columnists, had a scathing piece in last Sunday's PD which roasted Republican lawmakers in Columbus for their Voter ID card bill and attacked Democrats for lining up to ban the Teach for America program in Ohio.

Teach for America recruits top college students for the public schools. The emphasis is on academic smarts rather than lots of education credits, so the education establishment doesn't like the program, although Barack Obama does.

"University of North Carolina research in that state suggests Teach for America teachers increase high school pass rates and middle school math test scores. Democrats evidently think Ohio schools need no such boost," Suddes observes. Suddes is too polite to say so, but Democrats evidently prefer making teacher unions happy than actually educating children.

Republicans, meanwhile, are pushing through a bill to require everyone who votes to produce a photo ID, even though, as Suddes points out, the bill is a fix for something that isn't broken. There are almost no examples of voters pretending to be someone else when they show up to cast their ballots.

"Except as a way to keep old or poor Ohioans from the polls, the ID bill is pointless," Suddes writes.

Suddes' column highlights a problem I have with America's political system, which divides power between just two parties, both which are captive to special interest groups.

Voters can go with the Republicans, who largely represent the interests of the rich and the corporations.

Or voters can go with the Democratic Party, which represents the interest of the rich, the corporations and the labor unions. 

That isn't the way the system works in other countries, which usually has a parliamentary system that makes it easier for multiple parties to elect at least a few lawmakers.

Left-wingers in Europe, for example, can vote for real Socialist parties. In the U.S., they have to live with endless compromise if they vote for Democrats.

Voters in Germany who lean Libertarian can vote for the Free Democratic Party, which is "liberal" on social issues — such as gay rights — but favors free-market policies and free trade. Similar voters in the U.S. have only the Libertarian Party, which doesn't have a single member in Congress.

Germany's parliament currently has members of five political parties: The Christian Democrats (equivalent to Republicans), the Social Democrats (resembling progressive Democrats), the Free Democrats (classical liberals, i.e. moderate libertarians), the Greens, and the Left, a democratic socialist party.

In other words, German voters have real choices. In the last U.S. election, voters chose between Barack Obama, who favors bombing Libya and sending more troops to Afghanistan, and John McCain, who favors bombing Libya and sending more troops to Afghanistan.

Is it time to talk about changing the system in the U.S.? More people would be inspired to vote if they could support a political party that actually fought for their ideas.

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