I have just finished yet another great audiobook, Fascism: A Warning by Madeleine Albright, with only a few days to go until the US election. Madeleine Albright was the first woman to serve as U.S. secretary of state, and her background as an immigrant from Czechoslovakia just after the end of the second world war gives her a unique perpective on history and international affairs. The book details the rise of the most notorious past and present dictactors, such as Mussolini, Hitler, Putin, Orbán, Erdoğan, and Chávez. She also has a good look at the developments in the US, particularly after the election of Donald Trump in 2016. Her warning is that fascism starts with a lot of small steps, and only when it is too late do you discover that one day you are past the point of no return. The US is very likely at that point if Trump is re-elected.
The two-party system
It is very difficult to say anything about the upcoming US election that has not been said a hundred times already. Nevertheless, as an outsider from the Nordic countries there is one thing I want to bring up: the problem with the two-party system. I first noticed it in the 90s when I lived in the UK. During the election campaign in 1997 I was astonished to see posters from one party which were about the other party. A poster from the Conservatives had a picture of Tony Blair, making his eyes look like the devil’s. I am originally from Denmark, and the elections I voted in during the 80s had 15-20 parties on the list. If a party got more than 2% of the total number of votes they would be represented in parliament. With so many parties they obviously were all fighting for attention. However, in the UK, as in the US, the main objective of an election campaign is focused on making your party look marginally less bad than the other one. It is a fundamentally different system. Instead of trying to convince the voters you have vision and competence, your party can just say “if the other party wins everything will be chaos”.
The way things are in the US at the moment I would say that both the Democratic Party and the Republican party should be split into two. The democrats should split into a centre-left party, as currently represented by Biden, and a progressive party as represented by Bernie and AOC. The republicans should split into an extreme nationalist party, as currently represented by Trump and just about all the republicans in Congress, and a centre-right party that is more similar to what the republicans used to be.
What a socialist country is like
I have lived in Finland for a long time and a few years ago I got Finnish citizenship. Consequently I could vote in the national elections last summer. I think there were 18 parties on the ballot. In addition to the usual suspects on the left-right spectrum, there were parties such as The Swedish Party, The Christian Party, The Feminist Party, and The Green Party. In order to vote, I walked 200m to my local library and waited in queue for less than 10 minutes. As an engineer I have a decent salary that I pay 25% tax on. In return for that I get free healthcare, free education, and a pension. I wouldn’t really refer to Finland and Denmark as socialist countries, but rather welfare states. Unfortunately, the socialist label seems to have caught on in the US, and there is very little we can do about.