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Bob McDonnell wants to be Virginia’s next Governor, and he was looking pretty-good for taking that office until his past came back to haunt him. His Democratic opponent, Creigh Deeds, has taken to waving McDonnell’s college thesis about, damning the Republican front-runner with his own words.

McDonnell was a student at evangelist Pat Robertson’s Regent University. Robertson, who has himself run for the Presidency, is just slightly to the right of Genghis Khan, and it seems McDonnell was following in his footsteps. Written in 1989, the paper entitled “The Republican Party’s Vision for the Family: The Compelling Issue of the Decade” is a mash-up of conservative attitudes against women, gays, and just about anyone else who isn’t a white Christian living in a conventional married relationship. McDonnell has tried to distance himself from the thesis, claiming his views have changed as a result of life experience. Deed’s campaign, however, calls it a “Secret Blueprint” for McDonnell’s policy agenda as Governor.

In other words, this is all the usual empty, misleading, vituperative rhetoric to be found in any political campaign. On the one hand, even if McDonnell does still hold these views he would never admit it publicly; on the other, Deeds is “Swiftboating” McDonnell with 20-year-old information. This is the quality of American politics in the 21st Century: the voters should believe nothing, because the candidates don’t.

The fact that McDonnell was 34-years-old at the time he wrote the thesis is significant, as it takes some of the wind out of the “inexperience” excuse sails. However, this is balanced by Deed’s 7% deficit in recent polls, making the use of the thesis an obvious desperation ploy. But these things are to be expected in a country where issues such as health care, war, and the environment take a back seat to personal attacks and the politics of “perception”. Republican or Democrat makes no difference – the tactics and goals are the same: search, destroy, and win.

The American voter is caught in the middle, spoonfed irrelevant “truthiness” (thank you Stephen Colbert) while being buried under garbage truck loads of innuendo and spin. No wonder so many of them find it easier to let party wonks do their thinking for them, rather than attempt to sift this political trash for an errant fact that might be found amongst the tons of rotting rhetoric.

There is nothing inherently “American” about the two party system. George Washington himself warned against the evils of organized parties. The Republicans and Democrats are the arrogant liars they have become simply because they know one or the other has a lock on power; if one party doesn’t catch the brass ring, they know it will come around again in a few years. They can afford to be patient. Therefore the best strategy for Americans who are tired of the two party merry-go-round is do not vote for them. All it takes is one viable third party to scare them into actually addressing real issues, issues that matter to the average voter. Look at the ruckus Ross Perot and the Reform Party caused back in the 1990s, when they actually drew significant percentages in state and national elections. Real competition scares the hell out of the two main parties.

Nothing could be healthier for the political life of the United States than a dose of real competition. If the Republicans and Democrats actually had to fight to hold power they might be reminded who they work for, instead of just working us over.

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