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View Diary: Is a Progressive Third Party a Viable Option? (94 comments)

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  •  Square One: the Democrats have a Progressive (3+ / 0-)
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    slothlax, madhaus, Quicklund

    caucus in the House.  Such as it is.  It is co-chaired by Raul Grijalva of Arizona and Keith Ellison of Minnesota.  This is probably the best context where Progressive efforts should be concentrated for an effective outcome.  It also comports with the guidelines of the community. More importantly it recognizes a fundamental reality of our political system and electoral process.

    The US just isn't set up for third parties at the national level.  The Electoral College is proof of that.  With multiple parties the likelihood of splitting the Electoral College increases so that no candidate wins the majority.  In that case, a nightmare of fallback procedures kicks in and they become less and less democratic.  Also, in a system where only two parties dominate in the general election, third parties can always play the role of spoiler.  

    It doesn't take a political science genius to understand that the current system doesn't accomodate or support multiple parties.  It's no mystery.  Just compare the US system to the electoral process in France for example, where multiple parties thrive.  They use a two stage electoral process that begins as a wide open free for all where anyone can win and only the top two proceed to the general election. And no, the top two cannot be from the same party.  In France, the top two who compete in the general must seek support from those who were eliminated in the first round to form a coalition large enough to win.  That's how alternative parties gain leverage to have their interests represented.  In the US system there is no equivalent.  Instead, we have the inverse where third party interests only have the choice of withholding their vote which, in the end, doesn't help them get what they want.  

    The simple reality of power politics is that you can only get if you have something to give on the macro level (I'm not talking about your individual vote.)  There's power in numbers and you need enough to be able to sway the result.

    "Democracy is a life; and involves continual struggle." ---'Fighting Bob' LaFollette

    by leftreborn on Tue Jan 22, 2013 at 12:26:07 PM PST

    •  Would never work nationally (0+ / 0-)

      Not any time soon.  But I could see a third party on either flank being able to challenge House seats.

      There is truth on all sides. The question is how much.

      by slothlax on Tue Jan 22, 2013 at 12:34:29 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  And then they'd have to join a caucus (0+ / 0-)

        The GOP caucus or the Democratic caucus. And we are back to 2-party control.

        Or they could join no caucus, hold no committee seats, and achieve nothing.

        •  Coalition is not union (1+ / 0-)
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          The smaller parties would extract concessions for their support. That's how coalitions work.

          There is truth on all sides. The question is how much.

          by slothlax on Tue Jan 22, 2013 at 04:12:36 PM PST

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          •  Maybe they would, maybe they wouldn't (1+ / 0-)
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            If Third Party Members X. Y, and Z were needed to push one of the real parties into the majority, then the 3rd party folks would be in position to get some concessions.

            But most of the time those members would not be needed. And in such a case they would get nothing more than the juniormost chairs on a few committees.

            Most times are not Joe Lieberman Applies The Screws Time.

            Now OTOH has Members X, Y, and Z advanced up through the ranks of a real political party, then they would earn seniority, leverage, and committee chairs within their own team. They would have earned some genuine influence. As a member of a real party, they might win re-election long enough to get off the back bench.

            •  I get the difference (1+ / 0-)
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              Its all hypothetical.

              What I'm talking about would take more than a decade.  So yes, in the short term, a handful of third party members would be relegated to reaching some middle level leadership.  But if there's a splinter party on both sides, both major parties will be harder pressed to get a majority on their own.  And if the smaller parties can accumulate twenty to thirty seats, the third crappy committee chairs are all of a sudden king makers because they have the clout and visibility to get people to listen.

              As a totally separate but completely related question:  Is there another democracy in the world with only two parties in the legislature?

              There is truth on all sides. The question is how much.

              by slothlax on Tue Jan 22, 2013 at 07:54:47 PM PST

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              •  Another poster put it best (1+ / 0-)
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                It is a longer and harder road to create a new party to replace the GOP or the Democratic Party than it would be to reformulate an existing party's structure.

                As for another democracy operating on a 2-party system, I believe there are but I have no confidence in that answer. I am pretty sure most democracies operate on a parliamentary system in which 3rd parties are usually much more viable.

                Personally, I am really on the fence when it comes to our Constitution. At times I feel it is too inefficient in the modern world of air travel and the internet. Then other times I see a parliamentary government do something really stupid and I realize no system stops humans from that sort of thing.

                •  I agree (1+ / 0-)
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                  Anyone who looks at US political history knows the parties are organic and its "the people" more than anything who change them over time.  But I think the parties as they stand now are continuing on a path of ideological and regional uniformity (urban liberal/rural conservative) that opens up space for other voices.  As a liberal, I look to those huge margins in some urban House districts and doubt that the voters in those districts are really that uniform in their opinion.  There should be other options.

                  I do think the Constitution is purposefully inefficient.  That is one reason we have the longest standing Constitution in the world.  Whatever its faults, I'm still on board.

                  Australia comes to mind as a two party type system, but even there they have other minor parties in the national Parliament.  Same with Japan.  No European country has only two parties.  Even first past the post countries like the UK and Canada have more than two parties in the national Parliaments.

                  There is truth on all sides. The question is how much.

                  by slothlax on Wed Jan 23, 2013 at 11:53:04 AM PST

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    •  And it has Keith Ellison because (0+ / 0-)

      I and others in my district voted for him regardless of the party establishment tut tutting that supporting a Muslim leftist was oh so risky.  

      The only way you elect progressives is to elect them and you do not do that by voting for candidates who are not progressive no matter their party label.

      •  See, you're doing it already! (2+ / 0-)
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        Quicklund, alain2112

        Its much more effective to utilize the existing structure than to reinvent the wheel.

        There is truth on all sides. The question is how much.

        by slothlax on Tue Jan 22, 2013 at 01:00:45 PM PST

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      •  Your viewpoint is shared by a lot of Americans but (0+ / 0-)

        I can offer another way of looking at things, if you don't mind.

        Maybe because I was exposed to a different system which starts in civics classes at an early age I have a different idea of what works best.  There's an obvious difference between voting your conscience and strategic voting.  I see a strong preference in America for voting your conscience.  It's understandable.

        Ideally, in a democracy, citizens make a series of decisions, whether they realize it or not.  It begins at a fundamental level with questions like:

        How do you make your voice heard?  That's the root purpose of voting. [The word itself traces back to its Latin meaning of a vow, a declaration, a prayer.  In English we know the word 'votive' as in 'votive candle' from its use along with prayers.] Given its meaning, remaining silent by not voting is categorized as a strategic failure.
        It's not a matter of conscience.  That only applies to selecting a candidate who will support your interests.   There's no room for non-participation because your interests won't be supported if your voice isn't heard.  (You won't get what you want if you don't ask.)  

        On this foundation is built the decisions that go into strategic voting.  The full implication of every decision is considered.  If I vote for candidate X what outcome can I expect  If I don't vote for candidate X what outcome can I expect.  If there are only two candidates, it's a relatively simple decision that boils down to choosing the one who most closely matches your interests.  The unacceptable option, not voting, is also good to consider if there are only two candidates.  If a candidate who doesn't overlap at all with your interests can have far worse consequences if she wins than the alternative.  

        "Democracy is a life; and involves continual struggle." ---'Fighting Bob' LaFollette

        by leftreborn on Tue Jan 22, 2013 at 01:36:26 PM PST

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      •  The point is that pushing for progressives (0+ / 0-)

        outside the party can be very damaging.  Look at what the Tea Party did for the Republicans.  I think it should only be done when it doesn't hurt Democrats and as a practical matter what's the difference between a Democratic Progressive or a Progressive.  In Keith Ellison's case not much.  I think he wins because he's a strong candidate.  They keep running more conservative candidates against Michelle Bachman and losing (the last time in a squeaker) but when Clinton came to talk Democrats filled the stadium and they had to turn away about 10,000 people in subzero weather.   He spoke in Stearns County and Bachman lost in good old conservative Stearns  60-40 (Clinton power).  Good candidates with good support is what it's all about.

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