- By Cameron AbadiCameron Abadi is deputy editor at Foreign Policy. He previously worked at the New Republic and Foreign Affairs and as a correspondent in Germany and Iran. His writing has appeared in Bloomberg Businessweek, the New Yorker, the New Republic, and Der Spiegel.
We all know that it’s shaping up to be a bad election cycle for incumbent politicians in the United States. But the opposition insurgents, Republican or Democratic, who are eventually swept into office this year shouldn’t forget that they owe their victories, not least, to America’s two-party system. The voters’ recession-fueled outrage is inevitably mitigated by the ballot’s structured "either-or" choice.
For a sense of the potential fallout from a more open election, America’s political class might want to take a peek at Iceland, one of the countries hardest hit by the global financial crisis. This weekend, the capital city of Reykjavik is set to hold city council elections that will determine the next mayor and according to current polls, the prospective winner will be the simply-named "Best Party," a grouping formed only seven months ago by Jon Gnarr, one of Iceland’s best-known comedians.
Gnarr insists that the party intends to seriously govern, but large stretches of the campaign manifesto — in which Gnarr promises a polar bear at the city zoo and a Disneyland at the airport — suggest that he hadn’t originally expected to become mayor.
One only wonders what the U.S. Congress would end up looking like if there were credible third parties running advertisements as effective as the Best Party’s four-minute campaign music video (with English subtitles and set, naturally, to Tina Turner’s "We’re Simply the Best".) Maybe the Tea Party should consider adopting into its platform some of the Best Party’s more anodyne positions — "Topnotch stuff as a general rule," for example?