‘The Avengers’ And American Political Parties

Mark Ruffalo, Occupy activist, fracking opponent, and now, the Incredible Hulk, wants us to know that The Avengers are America. He tells the Wall Street Journal: “You have all these disparate egos, superheroes in this and that, and they refuse to give up some of their positions in order to make a more perfect union and to join the team. That’s really what the whole movie is about: subjugating your own best interest momentarily to further that of the whole.” I think to a certain extent that’s true. And I think this is a way in which superhero teams function more like American politics should: they evolve over time. People leave old teams and join new ones as their ideas and personalities shift, and while making the transition can signal a shift from good to evil, it can also be the result in a shift in tactics or priorities. Old teams die if they don’t make sense any more.

Political parties aren’t a bad thing: it’s good to have an infrastructure to spot, train, and support talented candidates, and to act as a pooled research staff for politicians. But I do think it’s unfortunate that the barriers to entry are so high that it’s almost impossible for viable alternatives to the Democratic and Republican party to emerge. And it’s even worse that there’s so little tolerance for intellectual evolution that when someone switches a party, it’s huge news. Politics are an arc. People are not Democrats or Republicans in the cradle and they shouldn’t have to be, and perhaps those shouldn’t be the only choices.