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The Party System of Politics

“It is a mark of our whole modern history that the masses are kept quiet with a fight. They are kept quiet by the fight because it is a sham-fight; thus most of us know by this time that the Party System has been popular only in the same sense that a football match is popular…The truth is that the old parliamentary oligarchy abandoned their first line of trenches because they had by that time constructed a second line of defence. It consisted in the concentration of colossal political funds in the private and irresponsible power of the politicians, collected by the sale of peerages and more important things, and expended on the jerrymandering of the enormously expensive elections. In the presence of this inner obstacle a vote became about as valuable as a railway ticket when there is a permanent block on the line. The façade and outward form of this new secret government is the merely mechanical application of what is called the Party System. The Party System does not consist, as some suppose, of two parties, but of one. If there were two real parties, there could be no system.”

- from A Short History of England by G.K. Chesterton

It works basically the same way in America also...


D.C. Salmon said…
Good post! This reminds me of one of the opening lines of our Rhetoric textbook that reminds us that "debate [and as Chesterton puts it-sham-violence] is always better and more preferential then actual violence". Some people get sick of all the bickering in politics, but we all have to remember that it's all just fake and that it's better then real violence. Thanks for posting! And please: Keep these political posts coming! I'm enjoying them!
Rick said…
I think Chesterton's point here is more that the disagreement between the political parties is a sham and a facade. People are kept involved in the political process by believing that there is a substantial difference between the parties. However, both parties pursue the policies advocated by rich contributors and big businesses, pass the exact same types of laws, and behave in the same ways when in office.

As he says at the end, "The Party System does not consist, as some suppose, of two parties, but of one."