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In his farewell address, the first President of the United States, George Washington gave dire warnings against the rise of political party dominance. It is interesting indeed, how such a respected President, adored by his peers and many people of modern times, has been so cavalierly ignored. Washington had much to say about political parties and his language warning against them was strong and clear:

"There is an opinion, that parties in free countries are useful checks upon the administration of the Government, and serve to keep alive the spirit of Liberty. This within certain limits is probably true; and in Governments of a Monarchical cast, Patriotism may look with indulgence, if not with favor, upon the spirit of party. But in those of the popular character, in Governments purely elective, it is a spirit not to be encouraged. From their natural tendency, it is certain there will always be enough of that spirit for every salutary purpose. And, there being constant danger of excess, the effort ought to be, by force of public opinion, to mitigate and assuage it. A fire not to be quenched, it demands a uniform vigilance to prevent its bursting into a flame, lest, instead of warming, it should consume."

Washington is not so much warning against a two party system as he warns we the people to avoid having political parties all together. The consuming flames of party dominance in this country should be fairly evident by the heat of our Presidential elections and the insistence by both Republicans and Democrats that a vote for any third party candidate is just a wasted vote. Given that a popular vote of Presidential candidates is more ceremonial than practical since the President is elected by the electoral college, and given that both the Republican and Democratic parties have maintained such a stranglehold on that electoral college, it would seem that a vote for any party is a wasted vote, at least in terms of Presidential campaigns.

It is also fairly evident that within the two party system of Democrats and Republicans it is the extremist of both parties that dictate the campaign process of not just the President but of all elected officials. Abortion, gay marriage, welfare and economies are the issues of today. Yet, in Washington's time the primary issue was liberty. Liberty today has been framed in terms of "civil rights" or "civil liberties" rather than just plain liberty which is a natural right belonging to the people. But, for more than two hundred years the American people have lived their lives satisfied that they are free to do as they choose, given those choices are within the parameters of the rule of law. Never mind that thanks to this two party system the people have been burdened with increasing taxation, intrusive regulation into their daily lives and have watched their natural rights to free speech stifled, their freedom of the press sequestered by two party corporations, their right to peacefully assemble monitored by administrative agencies, their right to own guns framed as a collective right belonging to militias only and their right to a speedy trial supplanted with plea bargaining.

That the extremist of that two party system have taken control of both Democrats and Republicans does not diminish the fact that alternative parties tend to be even more extreme in their politics with parties such as the Green Party, the Socialist Party, the Libertarian Party and the amusing Republocrats. Extremism is hardly temperance and even though the Republicans and Democrats tend to allow their extremist to decide their party candidates, in the end, those elected by that party quickly discover that the people in general tend to stay comfortably in the middle and are not very forgiving of failed extremist politics. President Obama is quickly discovering this as George W. Bush discovered this as did President Clinton, and Bush' father.

This extremism of "third party" candidates is perhaps one reason they tend to fail. The extremist of the two major parties can be subdued as they are often minorities among their parties but in alternative parties the majority are extremists. While the people are clearly frustrated with continually choosing the lesser of two evils, they are also quite comfortable in doing so as is evidenced not only by their voting patterns but by their consumption.

While there are numerous soft drink companies that offer their product to the market place it is Coke and Pepsi that dominate this market. This dominance is mostly due to brand name recognition and the same most likely holds true for Democrats and Republicans. Today we have Democrats in power and one might argue this is the Pepsi generation. Yesterday it was the Republicans and one could argue then that Coke was the real thing. All of this is just empty rhetoric spoon fed to the gullible masses who, despite living in a country that imprisons more people than any other country in the world, believe the live in the freest country in the world.

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Q: What factors have kept third parties from emerging into viable stable political choices for the electorate?
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