Perhaps you didn’t notice, but I’ve been silent for two months. That’s right, no blogs since April 8 yet no one’s asked why. The thought that you didn’t miss me dinged my ego a bit. I’ll get over it, but let me go ahead and answer the unasked question.


It’s an alliterative answer: myriad medical misadventures. The sum total of forays into hospitals and doctors’ offices consumed so much time that I neglected some other tasks. Now I am back, feeling nearly normal and needing to get some things off my chest. 


We’re passing through a period of elections all over the world — political contests in India, Great Britain, Mexico, and the United States loom large. Each one deserves a few words. 


  • India. The Hindu nationalist party of Prime Minister M. Narendra Modi has failed to win a majority in the Indian parliament. This was a surprise since Modi’s party, the BJP, was widely predicted to sweep to power with a solid majority in India’s legislature. The Congress Party — the party of Gandhi and Nehru — made a surprisingly strong showing. Modi is still immensely popular in India, sort of a political rock star. But the election showed that his growing power worries a significant percentage of Indians, who voted to rein him in at the ballot box. A small victory for anti-authoritarianism.
  • Britain. On July 4, Britons  will go to the polls with all seats in Parliament up for grabs. After 14 years of Tory government, the Labour Party is widely considered to be the solid favorite to recapture leadership. The two main figures on the electoral stage are Rishi Sunak and Sir Keir Starmer, Conservative and Labour, respectively. Smaller parties such as the Reform UK Party, the Liberal Democrats, and the Greens will also seek seats in Parliament. The Reform UK Party, led by Nigel Farage, represents the British version of the MAGA movement. As a matter of fact, Farage very recently announced that he would not stand for election because he thought it was more important to work to elect Donald Trump in America. Then he reversed himself and got back in the race. Recent polls show Farage’s party getting 17 percent of the vote, the Conservatives 19 percent and Labour 40 percent. (Fun fact: the Reform Party is organized as a corporation with Farage owning a controlling interest). Conservatives fear that a strong showing by Farage’s Reform UK party would further erode Conservative power, allowing Labour to wield an effective majority in Parliament. 
  • Mexico. In Mexico the world saw the most populous Spanish-speaking country in the world elect a Jewish woman — Claudia Scheinbaum — as its next president. She will succeed Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, with whom she has been closely allied. Scheinbaum has a hefty and impressive resume. She holds a doctorate in energy engineering and shared a Nobel Peace prize with other UN climate scientists for their work in 2007. She was the first female mayor of Mexico City, the largest city in North America with a metro population of over 22 million. She comes from a family of scientists. Her ancestors began immigrating from Lithuania and Bulgaria as the Nazis rose to power. She is widely published in scientific journals. She had dual areas of expertise — climate science and practical politics learned in the public arena. And she was elected in a country renowned for its macho culture and Roman Catholic religious domination. What a feat! 
  • United States. Now for the depressing news. Here at home, a worn-out two-party system has provided us a sobering choice. We can go with a decent, life-long politician who is demonstrably too old to serve or an amoral cult leader loathed by the entire world. 


I have written more than once about my misgivings concerning our broken-down two-party system. My doubts are amplified by the choice confronting us. 


One party’s leadership lacked the imagination, gumption, or both, to usher aside its grandfatherly incumbent and replace him with new blood capable of actually exciting voters. They stuck with conventional political wisdom of recycling an incumbent no matter his weaknesses — that’s just what you do. After all, he squeezed out a victory against the same challenger four years ago and he can do it again, right? But that was four years ago — a time span that doesn’t matter to a man in his 40s or 50s, but is hugely consequential for an 81 year old. This particular incumbent is on the on cusp of his dotage, if not already in it. The  Democratic Party’s miscalculation has become Joe Biden’s central weakness and voters see it every time he’s in front of a microphone or walking across the South Lawn to board Marine One. The party might as well have hung a sign in front of the White House declaring, “No New Blood.”


The other party is, as I’ve already said, a cult of personality dominated by venality and mendacity. Listing all the examples it embodies and the scoundrel it has empowered would waste my time and yours. MAGA hooliganism is right there for anybody whose eyes and ears are open to see and hear. The prospect of them returning to power is beyond alarming.


 This is what the two-party system has given us. The dice might have rolled differently had we been able to choose from among, say, four or more parties in a parliamentary system that forces coalition-building and compromise. Sure, it can be messy but nothing like the doomsday scenario we face. 


I’ve said before that we delude ourselves when we boast about how seamlessly and peacefully our political system transfers power after elections. The miracle of democracy! Well, Jan. 6, 2021 was anything but peaceful or seamless. And remember the Bush-Gore “hanging chads” election of 2000? Gore won the popular vote but lost in the Electoral College. A conservative majority on the Supreme Court essentially decided that election. How democratic was that?


Barring those elections, one could argue that the two-party system has served us reasonably well over the years. But that was before the political extremism practicing, foaming-at-the-mouth Republicans rendered the system obsolete. 


Like many Americans, I worry about a peaceful, seamless election aftermath this time around, especially if Trump loses. He will make sure there is chaos to the max; he will not discourage violence. As bad as that could be, a Trump victory would be far more destructive. I don’t think anyone outside the Trump cult (the Republican Party, that is) will dare to brag about “the greatest country on earth” if the White House goes orange on Jan. 20, 2025. It will be prima facie evidence that the system needs fixing and fast, if it’s not already too late. 


The other elections I reviewed are less depressing than ours is shaping up to be. If  we were open-minded enough, those elections might teach us some things. What if a Jewish woman who was a distinguished climate scientist and former mayor of say, New York, ran for president? Could she win in a landslide? I seriously doubt it. For half our country, she’d have three strikes against her the day she announced her candidacy — her gender, her religion, her science credentials. 


Which makes me wonder: Are we as a nation more politically narrow-minded than Mexico? Ponder that for a while. The evidence suggests that we might just be.

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About Buck Close

Deacon Buck Close serves on the staff of the Church of St. John the Evangelist in Newport, RI. He was born in South Carolina, graduated from Tulane University in 1972 with a BA in Economics and Latin American Studies.

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