Challenging the two-party system

I am writing Beyond the Duopoly to challenge the two-party system in the United States. This blog exists to be my journal and to communicate with my readers.

Wednesday, June 16, 2004

Howard Dean: I may interview him

This weekend Howard Dean is coming to Chicago to speak at the Bridging the Health Care Gap demonstration in Lincoln Park.

Collective Interest is on the list of media outlets that may get an interview if Dean feels up to it and there aren't bigger media outlets that want the same time slot.

So, I may get a chance to interview Howard Dean this weekend. (Unfortunately Sebastian has conflicts on Friday and Saturday.)

What can I ask relevant to this book? Here's a couple thoughts:

* Changes to the health care system have the potential to affect many powerful political constituencies. One of the constituencies that makes big money from the health care system are trial lawyers, a key constituency for financing Democratic political candidates. If the government is paying for health care--which is probably necessary for universal health care--the government will want to reduce spending without compromising delivery of health care. Won't a universal health care system lead to significant reduction in medical malpractice judgments? And since medical malpractice suits are a cash cow for trial lawyers, isn't it unrealistic to expect the Democratic Party to implement universal health care?

* In U.S. News and World Report James Carville predicted the rise of a third-party movement for the 2008 presidential election. On what issues are the Democrats and Republicans vulnerable to a third-party challenge?

Monday, June 14, 2004

good jobs chapter: abstract, critique of Ds/Rs & main points

Right now, I'm partial to a format that includes:

+ an abstract
+ a critique of the Ds & Rs on the issue
+ a list of chapters that have strong interrelationships
+ a list of main points (at the end of the chapter)


To facilitate macroeconomic management of the economy, the government measures the total number of people employed. This measurement does not tell if the employed consider their work worthwhile or their compensation adequate. New employment indicators could paint a much more complete picture of working in the United States. By measuring the quality of work the citizenry could hold elected officials accountable for not just the number of jobs, but the quality of the jobs. This will shift the priorities of the political leaders away from economic indicators that serve transnational capital to indicators that affect the lives of regular citizens.

D/R critique:

The Democrats and Republicans have been content to measure performance of the economy incompletely. The measurements used naturally cause the policy makers to evaluate their decisions in ways that are aligned with the interests of transnational capital. Democrats and Republicans have avoided measurements that tell how regular people are doing. Economic policy has been made in a way that has been deferential to the interests of transnational capital and the consequences to regular Americans are an afterthought. Democrats and Republicans occasionally play lip service to the middle class failing to gain ground, but they never seem to have a solution that reverses the trend. Democrats and Republicans treat the middle class losing ground as inevitable.

Related chapters: [I'm not sure there are any other chapters that have significant interrelationship with the "Good jobs" chapter.]

Main points:
· the government job indicators measure unemployment, net jobs created and unemployment benefits.
· these indicators exist to serve macroeconomic management of the economy.
· these indicators tell almost nothing about the quality of jobs.
· these indicators largely ignore people that have taken themselves out of the workforce.
· the federal government could measure other things, including job quality.
· by measuring and reporting job quality government policy would emphasize the creation and retentionof quality jobs.
· the government should have a strategy for bringing people into the workforce from the pool of people that have removed themselves from the workforce.

format of chapters & book

The book should be easy to read.

If an innovative or non-traditional format will make the it easier for readers to quickly grasp the points, the book should not be constrained by genre conventions.

Should each chapter have an abstract?

Should each chapter have a list of the other chapters that are inter-related?

Should chapter outlines be available online?

To what extent should chapters have sub-headings?

Should the end of the chapter have a list of main points? Should there be questions for discussion? (These techniques are used in textbooks, by why not use them in other non-fiction?)

Should thesis sentences of paragraphs be italicized? Some traditionalists may consider this a base concession to the Cliff’s Notes generation. But what harm does it do?

Should cartoons be included to illustrate the main points? Again some traditionalists may consider this an affront to what serious prose should look like. Will the illustrations reenforce the prose? Good cartoons can draw a casual reader into the prose.

I also want to make maximum use of bullet points, tables and graphs.

Tuesday, June 08, 2004

title, Duopoly vs. Knot

I did a Google search on "Beyond the Duopoly" and got a bunch of listings discussing utilities in Australia. I wasn't enamored with the name before and this reduced my enthusiasm more.

A name came to me last night while watching Paycheck. It's a John Woo Sci-Fi movie with Ben Affleck with a plot that combines the memory issues of Total Recall with the seeing the future aspects of Minority Report. Carl rating: a solid three stars. After providing the IMDB links I feel inadequate for not previously connecting that all three movies were based on short stories by Philip K. Dick, a prolific Chicago author.

The names:
"Cleaving the Gordian Knot"
"Cleaving the Knot"

While a bit cryptic by themselves I envisioned a cover with a ballot with the choices "Democrat" and "Republican" and the voter scrawls "I want another choice!" or "I want another fucking choice!"

Do you have any suggestions or feedback?

schedule, roughs in ten weeks?

I'm wrapping-up first outlines of all chapters today or tomorrow. The first outlines are on 18" X 24" paper and are mostly a list of points to be made. They are not necessarily organized.

Minus the five or so chapters that will take more time, I am hoping to be able to rough four per week of the others. It's ambitious, but I want to get this done and available to the readers in a timely manner.

Is it too ambitious to have everything roughed in ten weeks?

Monday, June 07, 2004

second section of the book

Here are the chapters in alphabetical order:

Abortion (feminism)--The Ds & Rs, with the collusion of the media, have decided to make abortion the defining political issue. The effect of this is to diminish and even exclude other issues. And feminism does have an anti-male quality.

Alternatives to Left & Right--We are trained to see politics (conflict) on a linear scale between two opposite polls. This prevents us from seeing other public policy possibilities outside "the basepath" between the two poles.

Anti-Southern, anti-rural bias--The popular media and mainstream culture have a bias against the South and people from small towns. When Southerners and country folk aren't being ignored they are usually portrayed as ignorant or idealized in some mythical way.

Corruption--To reduce corruption increase transparency and decrease conflict of interest.

Evil--Labeling "the others" as "evil" (e.g. "Evil Empire", "Axis of Evil", etc.) is inappropriate in politics.

Fear--Too much of U.S. politics is Ds & Rs trying to scare voters into fearing the other parties component constituencies; this is a natural consequence of the two-party system. Fear is the wrong context for shaping public policy.

Logic, numeric and scientific illiteracy--The electorate needs to better understand logic, numbers and science to craft good public policy in a democracy; schools and journalism have a role in creating an electorate that can have meaningful discussions about political choices.

Media--The U.S. media sucks. The United States can't have quality political discussions--essential in a democracy--because the media is so atrocious.

Modernity--The international rise of religious fundamentalism (which almost always curtails the role of women in society) is driven by anxiety created by the feeling of individuals and peoples losing control of their fate because of technology and economics.

Post Marxism--For many Marxism provides the framework for understanding society. To open new possibilities society needs to get past the Marxist understanding of society, especially the conflict between capitalists and proletariat and the faith that history is determined.

Respect--The capitalist/Marxist view is that people struggle to acquire wealth (power). The commodity that people are really struggling for is respect. Society (the whole world) should be striving to treat all people more respectfully. This is true on an individual level and as a matter of public policy.

Sunday, June 06, 2004

"Beyond the Duopoly" listserve

I've created a listserve at Yahoogroups. You can join by sending an email to

The Book Expo made me realize how important it is to publicize the book as well as to write it.

Saturday, June 05, 2004

pre-publication reviews

Maybe I'm getting ahead of myself, but I started to think about pre-publication reviews. Who would I want to get?

John Anderson
Jesse Ventura
Ralph Nader
Ross Perot
Lenora Fulani
Lowell Weicker
Dick Lamm
John McCain
Bill Bradley
Tim Penny
Angus King
Bernie Sanders
Jim Jeffords
Gerry Brown
Howard Dean
Tom Campbell

Any other ideas?

BookExpo America

Yesterday I was at BookExpo America. I'm returning today.

What have I learned?

There are a bunch of independent authors and publishers out there.

Some of the stuff is good; some of it isn't so good.

It's a challenge to "break through" and get a book out there. Marketing is perhaps the greatest challenge.

I've also realized that I should create a listserve for the email addresses of all the people I meet that say having an alternative to the Ds & Rs would be a good thing.

Thursday, June 03, 2004

Section 1, duopoly consensus issues

The following are issues where the Democrats and Republicans are functionally in agreement.

1. Access for non-major party candidates. Ds & Rs cooperate to keep U.S. politics a two-party system.
2. Balanced budgets. Both Ds & Rs have demonstrated reckless fiscal policy.
3. Civil liberties. Ds & Rs cooperated to expand government's power to encroach on individual privacy and have only been half-hearted at resisting encroachment by business.
4. Education. We should expect more from public education, but education is just one more battlefield to play-out the struggle between D interest groups and R interest groups.
5. Gambling. Expanding gambling has allowed Ds & Rs to make a few politically connected people rich; citizens were rarely consulted about whether they wanted gambling to expand in their states and communities.
6. Good jobs. We measure all sorts of business statistics on the economy, why don't we measure the quality of jobs?
7. Immigration. Ds & Rs set immigration rates higher than the public wants.
8. Interethnic relations. Yes, the United States has inter-ethnic tensions. Yes, government should reduce tensions and increase access to opportunity. But if you listen to Ds & Rs, you'd think affirmative action is the only issue.
9. International financial institutions. If we're going to have these institutions they should be democratically accountable to the people affected by their decisions.
10. Israel. Ds & Rs are only permitted narrow criticism of the Israeli gov't. The United States needs to pursue its own interests, not allow itself to be used by the Israeli government.
11. Social Security. Ds & Rs have had decades to fix Social Security; the program should be on sound fiscal ground for as far as can be projected.
12. Taxation. The income tax has gone from being enormously popular to significantly unpopular. Ds & Rs love the idea of tinkering with the economy through the tax code or at least exchanging tax breaks for campaign contributions.
13. Universal health care. For different reasons both Ds & Rs oppose universal health care even though it makes good business sense and would be the morally correct thing to do.
14. "War on Drugs". Ds & Rs love the "War on Drugs", but what's the goal? By what measure is it working?
15. War powers. Ds & Rs have agreed to cede Congressional power to the President. D & R judges have upheld this arrangement. It's wrong.

Veterans. I have debated including this as an issue. Ds & Rs accept the status quo of inadequate services for veterans. Does this rise to the level of the other issues?

Energy policy. Last night I interviewed Dave Leip of Dave Leip's Atlas of U.S. Presidential Elections on Collective Interest. When I asked him for an issue where both the Ds & Rs were wrong he cited energy policy. I tend to agree with Dave, but I don't feel like I know enough about energy policy to write a chapter on it.