Fowler: Political parties don’t cause our problems, they reflect them

June 14, 2013 

Fowler

— Over the past 220 years, 10 prominent politicians have attempted to do what Jim Rex and Oscar Lovelace propose and create a new political party (“Time for a new party,” May 29). Only two have had any discernable effect on our political system: In 1912, Theodore Roosevelt got Woodrow Wilson elected president, and in 2000 Ralph Nader got George W. Bush elected.

Political parties are volunteer organizations that make it easy to reflect voters’ opinions and values and translate them into the election of public officials — and guide them to adopt public policies once the elections are over.

The two parties have been a constant in American politics since 1860 — the most stable system in the world. Republicans are conservative, Democrats are liberal; Republicans are rich, Democrats are poor. Many exceptions, but quite accurate.

The Republican Party ended slavery; the Democratic Party got us out of the Great Depression; together they enabled the creation of the Great Industrial Revolution, and gave life to the Civil Rights Movement. Not a bad show for 150 years.

Democrats and Republicans are both flexible and over the long run not ideologically rigid, even though both parties show signs of that undesirable trait these days. But they will get out of it soon, as both parties reflect America’s people, who are not ideologically rigid.

America and our political parties have overcome a lot of hard times since 1860, and will do so in the future.

The problems identified by Drs. Lovelace and Rex are not new. To suggest that creating a new political party will solve them is naive, to put it politely.

Our society suffers from categorical changes that cause genuine hardships.

One of those changes is the disintegration of the industrial society — the most prosperous period in the history of any nation, characterized by relatively high wages for relatively low skills. The high-tech revolution has destroyed many of these jobs, and the increasing concentration of wealth and corresponding evaporation of adequate compensation for the middle class is causing enormous political stress.

Competition from other countries for jobs, markets, political influence and world resources upsets our notion of American exceptionalism. Non-military challenges from countries such as India, China, Brazil, Japan and South Korea contribute to our uneasiness. Economic, informational and cultural interdependence increase our frustrations.

These changes all add to our conflicts and concerns. Drs. Lovelace and Rex should go back to the drawing board and find out how to improve our sense of security and our educational, economic and cultural systems. Doing this is even more difficult than creating a new political party that is viable and functional.

Donald L. Fowler

Columbia

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