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Two party system provides real choices

Illustration by Arnuflo Bermudez
By Kendrick Wilson
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Monday October 7, 2002

A friend and colleague of mine, Caitlin Hall, is bent on convincing me that the two party system is deeply flawed and is responsible for most of what is wrong today. I disagree.

I am not a Democrat because I see it as the only alternative to being a Republican, and I'm not a Democrat because I think it's popular.

In a letter to the editor Thursday, "Winsky raises good issues for governor's campaign," another student passionately endorsed Richard Mahoney for governor.

All endorsements of Mahoney are most likely misguided, as anyone with a pulse in Arizona including Mahoney himself knows he won't win. The most influential Mahoney can hope to be is to act as a spoiler and allow Salmon to steal the governorship from Napolitano. Anyone who claims that Salmon would be better than Napolitano for Arizona let alone our university needs a serious reality check. As for Mahoney himself, he's just vindictive. He lost a four-way primary for U.S. Senate several years ago and has yet to forgive the Democratic Party.

Since the two-party system developed into the Republicans and Democrats in the mid 1800s, third parties have only been successful when they have brought one of the two major parties to incorporate their issues. The Civil Rights movement brought on several small parties, but it wasn't until the Democrats under Kennedy incorporated those parties' issues that progressive steps like the Civil Rights Act actually came to pass. The National Women's Party did little in the name of women's suffrage until both major parties accepted its stance. Ross Perot did little on his own to reduce the deficit, and it wasn't until both major parties incorporated his stance that any progress was made.

Some would argue that none of these issues would have been addressed had the third parties that sponsored them never existed. I would part company. The Green Party did not exist when President Nixon signed the Endangered Species Act, no powerful antiwar party existed when the United States retreated from Vietnam, no anti-apartheid party was necessary for President Jimmy Carter to support economic sanctions against white South Africa, and no anti-HMO party has been necessary to cause the Democrats to call for a Patients' Bill of Rights and prescription drug coverage for seniors. In fact, all of these issues were pushed from within the major parties. One could argue that civil rights, women's suffrage and deficit reduction actually took longer because the presence of third parties created a disincentive for the two major parties to incorporate those issues. Why should the Republicans support deficit reduction when Perot's supporters aren't going to be swayed towards Bush no matter what?

I am a Democrat because I want to see our natural environment preserved and protected. I'm a Democrat because somewhere today, a child in a poor school district doesn't have a textbook, doesn't have a seat and doesn't have much chance of going to college. I'm a Democrat because somewhere today, a polluting factory is contaminating our waterways. I'm a Democrat because somewhere today, somebody's grandmother is given a death sentence by an HMO. I'm a Democrat because a good friend of mine is on the verge of losing his scholarship and thus his only way of paying for college. I'm a Democrat because I believe the American dream means bridging the growing gap between the haves and the have-nots, moving up in our society, and doing what one's parents couldn't.

Few people agree with all the values and goals of either major party. By the same token, very few people are so moderate that they don't fall into one party or the other.

Janet Napolitano supports the death penalty, but she also supports a woman's right to choose. Salmon is anti-choice, even when the woman's health is at risk. Napolitano will work to protect our natural environment and promote better growth management. Salmon would allow special interests to maraud our state's natural treasures. Napolitano has unwavering support for education, and is willing to close the gaps in the "Swiss cheese" that is our current tax structure. Salmon has already called for a tax cut for the wealthiest Arizonans. Napolitano will protect patients from their HMOs. Salmon would allow HMOs to continue making record profits while patients die from treatable illnesses.

For all its faults, the two party system has actually served us well. This year, it provides us with two distinctly different candidates, and anyone who cannot see the differences needs to take another look.


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