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The Democratic party has the opportunity to be the great party of the radical center.  The challenge is to come up with a structure to harness the passions of the extremes, without being beholden to them.  The only way to do that is to truly get behind real electoral reform and bust up the two party system.

I've been voting since 1988, and this is the first general election in which I voted for a Democrat for U.S. President.  It's been a long road from my upbringing to this point, playing political Goldilocks.  I've come to the realization that I am a centrist, and have little to complain about the substance of the Democratic platform of the past few years.  I don't think that I'm alone.  However, what's been driven home this election is that we're not quite the majority.  Truth be told, if we weren't aligned with many non-centrist groups, we wouldn't be close to a majority.

The Republicans have hit upon a winning and time-tested combination:  the high-turnout fundamentalist Christian base combined with the ruling elite, with a healthy dose of deregulation and lower taxes to make small business owners feel like they're part of the club.  This isn't much different than the very successful formula of the Holy Roman Empire, and we shouldn't underestimate it.  The only difference is that the Holy Roman Empire didn't need the gun nuts to top off their 50%+1.

The problem that the Democrats have today is that we're left with the rest.  We can all find things wrong with the Republicans, but we can't agree on which ones are the worst.  The passion deficit in the Democratic party is caused by the fact that we all have our pet issues, but they're different pet issues, and any one candidate can't possibly represent them all well.

There's of course, plenty of passion outside the Republican party.  Labor unions are very passionate about good jobs with good benefits and good working conditions here in the states.  Environmentalists are very passionate about maintaining the environment.  Gays and lesbians are very passionate about securing equal rights to the pursuit of happiness.  Feminists are very passionate about the right to choose whether to have an abortion.  The list goes on.

The Democrats have the opportunity to be the great party of the center.  The challenge is to come up with a structure to harness the passions of the extremes, without being beholden to the extremes.  The only way to do that is to bust up the two party system.

This is where the Greens and Libertarians come in.  They may be kooky.  We don't agree with them on many issues.  But we all have one thing in common:  the status quo has got to go, and we're all very passionate about that.

Some of us may wish to one day get lucky, and see the Left rule the roost the way the Right does.  However, I think there's a lot of folks who are scared for our democracy, and are really scared of what it means for the Right to have this much power.  It seems more than anyone should have.

A radical centrist who is willing to commit to busting up the two party system through real electoral reform can potentially excite a lot of passionate support from the most unlikely places.  Libertarians in Texas, Greens in California and centrists in Ohio can all get excited about a single candidate.  Rather than exploiting our differences to shut out the minority, let's exploit our differences to include them.

Note: wegerje has been trying to stir up interest in this for a while.  Though I'm a long time electoral reform advocate, I've been holding off beating the drum too loudly, hoping we wouldn't have such drastic justification.  However, now that we're buried in lemons.....

Originally posted to robla on Thu Nov 04, 2004 at 12:15 AM PST.

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Comment Preferences

  •  As a third party person... (none)
    I gave the dems my vote this time because I hate bush, but the canidate will have to earn it in the future.

    They won't do it with electoral reform though, because it would be slitting their own throat.  The existence of the two party system is in the democrats best intrests even if they are getting their asses kicked; the cycle will reverse sooner or later.

    --

    •  It depends who "they" are (none)
      I agree that the party leadership won't willingly cede power.  However, I think it's something that many Democrats would be willing to abide by.

      I find myself voting almost strict party-line (D), and yet, it took me a long time to call myself a Democrat.  If you look at party identification, Republican-voting people are far more likely to call themselves "Republicans" than Democratic-voting people are, even though we're roughly a "50/50 nation".  There has to be something to this.

    •  I'm not so sure (none)
      I think that for the Democrats it was two things that kept them wedded to the Republicans within a two party system. Primarily they had been the party in power for so long, that yes sharing seemed to be a lessinging of that power. Now that is gone.

      But two, I think the coalition building assets of electoral reform had never really surfaced on the party leaderships minds. It had never occured to them to think of those benefits in such a win-win manner.

      I think that now is the time. It's not going to happen overnight but we do need to start now. See my post here on some more thoughts along these lines.

  •  This idea has merit (none)
    but it will take some doing to get alot of Democrats to support this thanks to Nader.  He didn't cost Kerry the election.  But his run this time greatly undermined his own reputation and created hostility between 3rders and Dems.
    •  The "Life of Brian" problem (none)
      There's a great bit in Monty Python's "Life of Brian" which is so apropos to our situation.  Brian has just offered to join the "People's Front of Judea" in opposition to the Romans:

      • Reg: Listen. If you really wanted to join the PFJ, you'd have to really hate the Romans.
      • Brian: I do.
      • Reg: Oh yeah? How much?
      • Brian: A lot!
      • Reg: Right. You're in. Listen. The only people we hate more than the Romans are the f**&ing Judean People's Front.
      • PFJ: Yeah
      • Judith: Splitters.
      • Francis And the Judean Popular Peoples Front.
      • PFJ: Oh yeah. Splitters.
      • Loretta: And the peoples Front of Judea.
      • PFJ: Splitters.
      • Reg: What?
      • Loretta: The Peoples front of Judea. Splitters.
      • Reg: We're the Peoples front of Judea.
      • Loretta: Oh. I thought we were the Popular Front.
      • Reg: Peoples Front.
      • Francis: Whatever happened to the Popular Front, Reg?
      • Reg: He's over there.
      • --------[A single old man sits on a lower seat.]
      • PFJ: [To the old man.]  SPLITTER!

      I agree it's going to be an uphill battle to get everyone singing from the same page.  Celebrating and respecting diversity is a morally just core value for the Democrats, but it's a double-edged sword from a political perspective.  It expands the potential constituancy for the party, but herding all of the cats into the tent is a huge problem.

      Electoral reform is an issue that can unite a lot of voters, and can even be a wedge issue for Republicans, cleaving the Christian Coalition from the Forbes-style Republicans.

      Rob

  •  Democratic power is like love (none)
    when you give it you still have it. By making the two party system more democratic we will not be busting it up (it's broken in the U.S. anyway) so much as fixing it up.

    I think that now that the Democratic party is out of power that they (we) will be quite amenable to electoral reforms that encourage third parties because it fits so well with our (their) "big tent" ideals. As they/we begin to see how such reforms strenghten our "grand coalition" we/they will begin to get behind the reforms in real ways.

    Rob, I see we are on the same wavelength. I had just posted this diary last night as well.

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