Friday, August 26, 2005

Third party? Go ahead, throw your vote away...

Point 1: democrats vs. Democrats
Let me begin with what may be arguably the greatest political commentary ever authored, from that fine source of popular culture "The Simpsons" --
Homer: America, take a good look at your beloved candidates. They're
nothing but hideous space reptiles.
[audience gasps in terror]
Kodos: It's true, we are aliens. But what are you going to do about
it? It's a two-party system; you have to vote for one of us.
[murmurs]
Man1: He's right, this is a two-party system.
Man2: Well, I believe I'll vote for a third-party candidate.
Kang: Go ahead, throw your vote away.

Now I will in advance agree with my friend and colleague that it is a sad state of affairs when our own system can be parodied in three or four lines on an animated show. But it also forces me to ask him how he can so easily distance himself from the party that represents "his half" of the political spectrum. It is something I have never understood about the left -- that they will self-identify as liberals instead of liberal Democrats.
For all that I would love to get rid of the fringe of my own party to present a more electable face, the half of the political spectrum has always understood that within a two-party system, there really is no place for an "Third Way" unless you can supplant one of the existing parties (absent the defection of a former president, that is). Policy change comes from electoral success, and electoral success comes from drawing your party together, not distancing yourself from your party's electoral strategy.
Gabe, how does speaking for a movement, rather than a party, constitute a "long-term advantage"?

Point 2: War, stem cell research, and the debate over life
I think this portion of the discussion is moving to that great trio -- war, the death penalty, and abortion, so I'm just going to jump right into it.
Let me start by saying that while I am open to persuasion, I think there are only two intellectually consistent positions in this debate: (1) Pro-choice, pro-death penalty, and "pro"-war and (2) the opposite (i.e. the Catholic Church's position).
My argument for this position would be this: Either the taking of a human life is sometimes justified, or its never justified. War and the taking of life that goes with it may be justified to prevent a current horror (think the Holocaust, etc.) or may be necessary to prevent such an action in the future (i.e. why the US should have gone into Rwanda sooner, Darfur sooner, etc.). Obviously, the first case makes an easier justification since the harm being prevented is immediately apparent, whereas in the second case it may never become apparent, since a disaster averted before it begins is a disaster that never occurs. (Why the film "Minority Report" presented such an interesting question)
As to the abortion debate: I don't agree with those who feel that life begins at conception. But in fairness, if I did, a pro-life stance would be the only defensible position. If a 2-month old fetus (first trimester) is a human life, than how can we countenance destroying it simply because its mother (or parents) aren't prepared to have a baby? I'm not saying I agree with that position, but how can one who believes as much have a different position? And as such, shouldn't we judge them if they didn't try to prevent what they see as murder?
On the flip side, the death penalty: These aren't innocent people. (yes, I know the debate about the number of people freed from jail and death row. But since there is no serious evidence that an innocent person has ever been executed in the modern era, I view it as proof that the system works, albeit sometimes slowly and imperfectly). I don't think I need to go too much further into it on this post, since I suspect we will come back to it in a while.

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