PARTY FRUSTRATION

In response to an inquiry in his comments section, Bill Quick offers his thoughts on the future of the two US parties:

The Donks will splinter. The Donk Party will remain, probably as a tail to its largest and richest special interests – unions, lawyers, the ethnic plantation bosses.

The most liberal – ie, the Left – will split away, either to the Greens, or to some new party. The result will be a majority Pack party, a minority Donk party, and a permanent small third socialist anti-capitalist, anti-American catchall for the likes of Chomsky, Nader, Mailer, Hollywood, and so forth, which will be sought after desperately by the Donks so they have a chance against the bigger, richer, stronger Republicans. This will pull the mainstream Donk organizations to the left, and encourage a constant flow of “conservative” Donks to the Pack.

While this sort of radical realignment isn’t inconceivable–it has happened before, although not in 143 years–it is highly unlikely because of the structure of our system. As all Americans are now well aware, one wins the presidency by winning the Electoral College. Doing this requires getting a plurality of the vote in enough states to push one over the top. This mitigates against small parties getting much momentum, as the coalition that fractures first will lose out. Even if this fragmentation took place all at once, it would be virtually impossible for a new party to win the whole shooting match. In which case, the election would go to the House of Representatives and be, well, interesting in a multiparty environment.

It would be far more complicated in the legislature. The House consists of 435 single member districts elected by plurality vote. Here, theoretically, smaller parties could emerge since no majority is needed. The ballot rules and nature of funding makes it difficult, however, for anyone to emerge to compete with the Big Boys.

Very few of us are satisfied with either party but there are no rational alternatives given our existing system. Had the the most dedicated members of the Left not voted for Ralph Nader in 2000, Al Gore would now be president. While I’m thankful he isn’t, most Naderites would certainly prefer Gore to what they got instead.

Right now, the GOP is not sufficiently fiscally conservative nor sufficienctly libertarian for me. They’re too dominated by the Evangelicals for my tastes. But what’s my alternative? The Libertarians? First, they continue to nominate whacko candidates. Second, they get such an infinitescimile fraction of the vote as to be meaningless. Al Sharpton has a better chance of getting elected than a Libertarian. Finally, while my tendencies are more small-l libertarian than that of the dominant faction of the GOP, I find the Libertarians, and indeed all of the ideological and single issue parties, far too doctrinaire and impractical.

The good news is the parties are not set in stone, even if the organizations appear to be. The Democrats of 2003 are not the Democrats of Jimmy Carter, much less Michael Dukakis or Walter Mondale. The core of that party has moved rather substantially to the right/middle over the years in response to lack of success in presidential politics. There are still some left wingers in the party, but they are almost all from parts of the country or congressional district pockets that are ideolgically left. The GOP today is not the party of Dwight Eisenhower, Richard Nixon, or Gerald Ford. Indeed, it’s not fully the party of Ronald Reagan anymore. The parties continue to evolve in order to meet voter demand.

Those of us who are very much interested in politics tend to be rather ideological. We must remember that we are outliers. Most Americans have no real political philosophy; they vote based on their pocketbook, their sense of security, and the degree of trust a candidate engenders.

FILED UNDER: US Politics,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.