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A voice left out


The fundamental problem with this two-party system is that it doesnít allow for a diversity of voices.

younggreensReflections on an Obama election
by Reed Dunlea, Vassar Green Party, Poughkeepsie NY

The night of November 4, I could not help but feel joy, and relief. First and foremost was the sense of pride I felt in knowing a Black man was elected President of the United States. As much as there remain huge issues of inequality and racism faced by Black Americans and other people of color in America, reflected in prison demographics, income inequalities, access to a quality educations, and in many other arenas, the historic victory of that Tuesday night cannot go unnoticed. Though the struggle is not over, Americans took another step forward towards equality.†

Reed Dunlea

Reed Dunlea

I felt joy in having a new president that is at the very least acknowledging progressive issues. He discusses returning to diplomacy, reducing troops in Iraq, closing Guantanamo Prison and is talking about the need to fix our healthcare system. I felt relief in John McCain not only losing this election, but losing it handily. The prospect of enduring four more years of a presidency that shouts, ìscrew youî at the rest of the world on just about every single international issue would have just been too much to endure.†

I let myself revel in a victory for the evening. Come November 5, I had no choice but to return to my disillusionment in the American electoral system.†

In recent months, these feelings have only grown as we watch Obama surround himself with hawks and establishment politicians. The only two candidates who I truly believed were promoting policy that could actually turn this country in the right direction, Cynthia McKinney of the Green Party and independent Ralph Nader, were completely and systematically excluded from the electoral process. This of course is nothing new, as the American two-party system poses near-insurmountable challenges for any candidate that does not wish to align with one of those parties.

The fundamental problem I see with this two-party system is that it doesnít allow for a diversity of voices. To participate, you are either Democrat or Republican, liberal or conservative, left or right. There are of course scales of the extent that viable candidates consider themselves to fall in one of these two categories. But the simple reality is there are hundreds, thousands, millions of different voices in the United States. To try to group every single personís opinions into one or the other of only two voices is unfair and unrepresentative.†

Two parties turn politics into a game of no substance, where there is no real debate, or †there are no real solutions being presented. There is not an opportunity for all voices to be heard, or decisions based on the inclusion of all ideas. There is only room for two. And having two voices will never be able to encourage the debate needed to solve the mounting challenges that this country and world are facing.

I did not agree with many of the policies and positions professed by Barack Obama during this election, or after. I could not support a candidate who talks about solving the threats of terrorism with war, with continuing a war in Iraq, increasing the violence in Afghanistan, and considering spreading war to Pakistan and other Middle Eastern countries. I could not support a candidate who condemns Palestinian rocket launches yet says nothing critical about the hundreds of civilians being killed by the Israeli military in Gaza.†

I could not support a candidate who supports the continuation of the capitalist economy with a bailout of Wall Street speculators who took huge risks with the lives of hard-working people. I cannot support a candidate who advocates the expansion of free trade agreements, let alone not repealing existing ones. I cannot support a candidate that does not endorse single-payer healthcare. And because of this, I cannot have a real voice in the electoral process.

On the long drive home from the National Green Party Convention this summer, I had an interesting conversation with another young Green Party member. We talked about the political power of the religious right in this country, particularly of the Evangelical movement. This segment of the American population has managed to become arguably the most politically represented and powerful demographic in American politics. My friend offered a suggestion as to why this is so: because they do not have to vote for anyone. The Evangelicals answer to a higher power; to god. If they donít think a candidate is answering to god as well, they simply will not vote for them. They will allow that candidate to lose the election, and the next time around the Republicans will be sure to field a candidate who will have their support.†

Those of us on the progressive side of American politics need a higher power than the Democratic Party. As long as Democrats know our votes are guaranteed, we will be ignored, year after year. Our agenda will never be recognized, or implemented in any significant way. The two-party system is not working and we need to stop giving it our support year after year, praying that it eventually will.


  1. Dave S February 9, 2009

    Great article, Reed. There is a common perception that people vote Green for symbolic reasons, to feel good about themselves for not compromising. We need to articulate, as you do in this article, that we vote Green because history shows that the fastest way to get what you want from the government is to vote for it.
    I’m also more convinced than ever that instant runoff voting is our best hope for opening people’s minds to parties they’ve never voted for.

  2. Kevin O. February 18, 2009

    Great article, sounds like we Young Greens have our work cut out for us. Global warming, electoral reform, the aftermath of U.S. military imperialism, our social safety net getting smaller by the day, are just to name a few. I’m glad your perspective is nearly dead-on with mine about the resolution to the root of American problems: it starts by denouncing the corporate duopoly.


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