Even though I hate the gladiator-like format of those things, I tuned in to the debate last night, and forced myself to sit through it. It often deteriorated into shouting matches, with candidates taking jabs at each other. I had hoped to see more unity, but of course the goal with these debates is to make yourself look good, while making everyone else look bad. Talk about counterproductivity! I can’t help but feel that these shows are only good for amplifying differences, not elevating similarities. All the booing and hissing that took place confirms that notion. And don’t get me started on all the labeling… sheesh!
A two-party system inevitably has to provide a roof for a wide range of opinions. I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing – it’s just an different expression of the same thing. In Sweden, we have gobs of smaller parties. In order to further their agendas, they have to join others, relatively likeminded, and form coalitions – usually along ideological lines. In the end, the function of these coalitions is very similar to the two-party system of the US. Right now, the field of democratic hopefuls need to start thinking about forming more productive relationships with each other. There is a big job awaiting whomever gets the nomination, and to be successful, they will need each other. (Which of course these made-for-TV soundbyte spectacles are not at all promoting.)
My awesome old social studies teacher in high school explained the difference between ideology and political reality in an unforgettable way. He told us: “Think about the political spectrum not in the form of a line connecting right and left. Think of it in the shape of a horseshoe where extreme right and extreme left are very close. Ideologically they are vastly different, but their effect on the average citizen is pretty much identical”. Over the past three years, we have slid dangerously , and are well on our way toward the right tip of the shoe. This ship needs straightening, and fast!
All this to say that for as different as these debates force the candidates to say they are, I really think they are all rather similar. They are all positioned somewhere rather high up on the arc of the horseshoe, far away from the totalitarian extremes of the tips (where we’re currently headed). Thinking of it visually in that way, rather than through the use of more or less inane labels, helps keep perspectives clear. What the left flange of the herd of democratic candidates are offering, Forbes calls “compassionate capitalism”, which is a far cry from the explosive S-word. Again, labels wreaking havoc…