Had dinner at my parents’ last night, and at one point talk turned to yesterday’s primary election. It’s quite interesting that, within a matter of days, the Iowa Caucus and New Hampshire Primary chose different candidates for both major parties.

It points out something that should be obvious: State-wide primaries don’t tell you how well a candidate would do in a national election. Iowa Democrats preferred Obama; New Hampshire Democrats preferred Clinton. Iowa Republicans preferred Huckabee; New Hampshire Republicans preferred McCain. It shouldn’t be a surprise that people in different regions have different concerns.

Putting too much stock in the results of one state-wide race makes as much sense as having Oregon voters select the next governor of Louisiana.

On a related note, what is it that causes so many fields to settle into the equivalent of a two-party system, with two major players (sometimes balanced, sometimes one dominant and one major alternative) and a bunch of also-rans? Republicans & Democrats, Windows & Macintosh, Internet Explorer & Firefox (and previously Netscape and Internet Explorer), Pepsi & Coca-Cola, etc.

Sure, humans like oppositions. It’s what makes the false dilemma fallacy work so well rhetorically. But why is either-or thinking so prevalent in some fields? And what’s different about fields in which many alternatives hold each other in balance? Car manufacturers, for instance, or movie studios, or cell phone manufacturers.

Just saw Snopes’ post on Ben Stein’s commentary on the Oscars and the politics of Hollywood, including this rather disingenuous statement:

Basically, the sad truth is that Hollywood does not think of itself as part of America, and so, to Hollywood, the war to save freedom from Islamic terrorists is happening to someone else.

Sure, he’s talking about Hollywood specifically, but it’s the kind of “You’re not really American” rhetoric we see a lot in political polemic.

Has it occurred to people on the right that us “lefties” (which seems to mean anyone who is less conservative than President Bush) do think that fighting terrorism is a good thing, but that our nation is currently going about it the wrong way? That maybe invading Iraq wasn’t the best way to curtail global terrorism? That it might be possible to spy on terrorists without bypassing that Constitutionally-guaranteed “due process of law” in a way that sets precedent for warrantless spying on citizens who aren’t terrorists?

We don’t hate America, but we’re not particularly thrilled about some of the things our government has been doing lately.

I do agree that the Academy Awards are pointless in the grand scheme of things, but I’m sick and tired of the false dilemmas rampant in what passes for political discourse these days.