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Danger Lampost

Futurist & Technology Consultant,


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Are we slaves to the forces that conspire to keep Republicans and Democrats in the United States in a 50/50 stand off?

I have been increasingly amazed about something in American politics: Half the country apparently thinks the other half is some combination of insane, immoral, or perhaps just misled. I can't quite grasp how that can be true, but it seems to be true to me, as I listen to and talk to the vast majority of people who are firmly republican or democrat.

These aren't just simple things we're fighting about. We're fighting about life and death issues, like what happens to women when they get raped, and what our health care policy should be. I would think that with such disputes, eventually one side or the other would win out. Both can't be right. Yet both sides seem perpetually evenly balanced. Is there some force at work forcing this even balance? If so, what is it? Are we all just slaves to this force?

Throughout American history, there have been roughly equal numbers of republican (18) and democratic (16) presidents, ignoring other parties throughout American history. (Hopefully I got that right, but fact check me if you are so inclined...) This leads me to conclude that there must be some larger social force at work influencing the masses of people, to keep these numbers perpetually balanced. Because I can't understand how these forces can be so evenly balanced over so many years without some force keeping them balanced.

What force(s) keep on keeping republicans and democrats so evenly balanced in the United States? Are we slaves to this force?


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  • Nov 6 2012: Politicians don't wield as much power as many think - so buying them is not so helpful. In particular, the American president is quite a weak figure - especially if Congress is against him. Except for the ability to declare war, of course: that's the Hollywood sensationalist aspect. However, has American foreign policy been very successful after all these wars? It's certainly up for debate.

    It is true, buying politicians seems to be part of the institutionalized corruption of the American political scene. This makes politicians less powerful and not more powerful. It neutralizes what they can do. Despite the endless American propaganda - some schools even have timetables including propaganda subjects like "The American Right to Vote" - America has a considerable democratic deficit. Th European democracies are, in large part, far more democratic than the US, not having the paralyzing 'checks and balances' which are the bane of the American system and prevent anybody's view being turned into action, and being substantially less corrupt (Italy and Greece excluded).
    • Nov 7 2012: Congressmen and women rely just as much on "donations" as presidential candidates. It's not rare for the American congress to overwhelmingly agree, in a bipartisan manner, with things a majority of the population (for both parties) is against and that seems really unnatural to agree with for at least one of the two parties.

      Examples are the failure to outlaw super pacs, failure to split up banks, failure to withdraw from Afghanistan.
      • Nov 7 2012: Well, congressmen are representatives and not delegates and it is entirely reasonable that they should sometimes vote in a manner that does not reflect the majority view in the country. That they should sometimes have a different perspective is understandable and often reasonable.

        In a parallel situation one of the main reasons that the death penalty was abandoned in the UK was that, although there has always been a majority in favor of capital punished in the general population it had become impossible to find a jury that would actually find someone guilty if they knew the death penalty would be imposed. In other words, those same people who supported the death penalty when asked in theory refused when asked to apply it in practice. Similarly, parliament in the UK has repeatedly refused to reintroduce the death penalty despite frequent votes on the issue.

        Euthanasia is another case in point. This is overwhelmingly supported by the British public in opinion polls but parliament consistently refuses to pass legislation required to make it legal (and the British Medical Association strongly opposes it too).

        I've done what research I can to find out if the American public really do oppose the three things you mention, and while I know all three are controversial I can find no evidence which clearly supports your position. What I will say is that in my view there is an underlying democratic deficit in the American system. It is an overlarge system with numerous inherent flaws, poor accountability and institutionalized corruption (to which the super PACs surely contribute).
        • Nov 7 2012: "Well, congressmen are representatives and not delegates and it is entirely reasonable that they should sometimes vote in a manner that does not reflect the majority view in the country. That they should sometimes have a different perspective is understandable and often reasonable."

          Even when it goes against the core beliefs of their party, foreign allies don't push for it and both past experience and the experts tell us the sky won't fall if it is rejected? What reason other than corruption can there be that super pacs have not been outlawed and that the banks have not been split up (as they were only 15 years ago)?

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