Does the Two-Party System Benefit African-Americans Today?
This past week I’ve thought quite a bit about the growing debate regarding relevance of the two-party political system in the U.S today. As you may know, analysis and coverage has been all over the Web particularly after a recent panel in New York City. Entitled “The Two-Party System is Making America Ungovernable”, the Oxford-style debate took place before an audience at New York University’s Skirball Center for the Performing Arts. The event, which garnered lots o’ media coverage during and after, featured 2 notables “for” Arianna Huffington and David Brooks, and 2 “against” Zev Chafets and P.J. O’Rourke. (Nightline’s John Donvan moderated). Since the panel was so disappointingly void of any ethnic and age diversity, I’ve decided to chop it up a bit with you here about the subject.
Well, as the browning of our country takes place with each hour, it seems completely remiss not to have included this perspective, doesn’t it? And since our population skews younger, it seems even more remiss not to have a viewpoint from a well-versed Gen X or Yer of color on the subject. You matter.
It’s important to include all beliefs on this topic since many observers are beginning to question whether a two-party system encourages extreme polarization and has, therefore, contributed to an America which is becoming less and less “governable.”
These observes go on to say that the country needs to break out of a system that has led to grid-lock and has difficulty finding common ground. Meanwhile, others say that while the two-party system has its faults, it part of the historical basis of United States democracy, and that the system does allow room for Independents, etc.
But what exactly do young African-Americans think?
As a demographic which has been traditionally known as one which almost automatically leans democratic, have we ever really considered the impact of a two-party system anyway? And with, for example, an unemployment rate double that of the U.S. average (approximately 18% – and heavily affecting younger Blacks), has this party really served us as we have served it?
On the other side, Pew Research makes the case that for one of the first times in history, the Millennial generation, while predominantly identified as Democrats; is starting to look across the aisle more so than in the past. But in looking at the 2010 midterm results (as noted in one of my previous columns), have young African-Americans already pretty much decided that the two-party system is over?
But here’s where it gets even more interesting. It’s been said that the youth demo already sees many previously highly-regarded institutions and organizations as irrelevant because of the Web. No longer beholden to gatekeepers, we can discuss the issues ourselves, peel back the layers of political rhetoric and cut to the chase. And since statistics show that African-Americans and Latinos actually access, for example social media, more frequently than any other demographic in this country; there could definitely be some powerful implications.
For me, it doesn’t seem the question so much for us is about having one, two or 20 parties. Maybe it comes down to what extent does one feel part of the system at all and to what extent one is trained to engage in genuine critical thinking rather than just spin. And how much weight one’s voice has, how much value that voice is given, perhaps through digital platforms, and how the information is processed are also all important factors as to whether one is going to become an engaged citizen or not. Rap artist/actor/activist Common actually has some interesting thoughts about how Black communities fared (potentially better) when less reliant upon government.
Who knows. After all, the Universe is made up of dichotomies i.e. night and day, hot and cold, good and bad. Maybe this is life. We could remove two official parties and still gravitate toward some newly-branded polar opposites just innately anyway.
By the way, before the debate, the audience voted 46 percent in favor of the motion and 24 percent against, with 30 percent undecided. After the debate, 50 percent supported the motion — an increase of 4 percentage points — and 40 percent opposed it — up 16 points — making the two-party supporters the winners of the debate. Ten percent remained undecided.
But you probably weren’t in that room. So, where do you rank among these figures, and what’s your version for an alternative to the current two-party system?
Catch the conversation between me and Common below:
Lauren DeLisa Coleman is a writer, host and thought-leader specializing in the diverse segment of the Gen Y demo, tech and its convergence with socio-economic concerns. She is also the CEO and founder of Punch Media Group, an edgy digital media and entertainment company which develops pop culture experience and branding strategy across digital platforms. Follow her @mediaempress