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The US is, beyond any doubt, a two party State. It has been that way since pretty much forever, and that is the way it is very likely to remain, pretty much forever.

Let's explore that a little.

This is going to be reasonably brief, and concise, and necessarily missing out on detail.

If you can supply the missing detail, please feel free to add comments.

There are Democrats and Republicans. It was ever thus, and our current disquiet with those on our side of the aisle will not change this situation, however attractive that idea may seem in the early onset of spring.

Where are all the Green Congressmen? How many attempts have there been to formulate, and form, political parties in this country? How much success have they had?

Why does anyone think that the Independent voters, who love mainstream Democratic policies, and quite like our President, will vote for a Third Party with a Liberal (Socialist and probably Communist) platform?

They answer is that they won't. Even if they did, in a few True Blue districts, all that you achieved was to displace some of the better Democrats and replace them with good Democrats who, whatever their label, would caucus with the Democratic Party, and the Democratic Party would get all the credit. Next go around the Democratic Party would gear up the machine, thank you for your help, and kick you into the weeds.

I am not saying that the formation of a third party is impossible. What I am saying is that any real success, any real benefit for the people we wish to help and promote, would be a very long time coming, if at all. Sure it would be exciting. Hell it would be fun. But fun and excitement have a way of wearing off in the face of the obstacles that would be erected, and the frustration that your effort helped the Democratic Party, if indeed they didn't split it so severely that the GOP had a free run.

Let's take a case study:

The UK has a decently well established Parliamentary system. So the UK is already ahead of the game, because government there has to be fairly responsive. If they are not then they are all washed away by the next high tide. The US has a disadvantage here. Even if you can persuade the people that you have most of the answers, it is going to take you several election cycles to build enough traction in the Senate to prevent obstuctionism ... Ask Barack Obama how that feels.

The UK has a Third Party. That third Party has morphed a few times, but remains a broadly left of centre party with green credentials and libertarian tendencies. It is a decent party with some very good people. It has been the Third Party since God was a boy, and shows few signs of ever really making a major impression.

Their latest stupidity is a coalition government with their natural foes, the Conservative Party during a time of austerity and recession. When the next vote comes they are likely to be decimated. There have been times when they have received 25% of the popular vote, but no real power. That is the best a Third Party here could hope for, and remember, people like the Liberals. They are nice people, non-threatening with a good social agenda. Any Party here that is left of the Democratic Party is unlikely to be painted quite so benignly.

If we want a progressive political party in this country, and I believe we need one, not just want one, then we need to wrest control of the Democratic Party from the corporatists, the Blue Dogs, the vain, the terminally stupid, and give it back to the people. It's not like there are no good Democrats in the party, there are, and they need help not abandoning because mostly they will not come with you.

The Tea Party, bless their little cotton socks, are showing us the way. They are a faction, a rump, a fairly small group who have their Party Leadership bending over backwards to please them. We have our leadership bending us over too ... forwards, to shaft us!

We do not have a Parliamentary system. Rapid and effective changes cannot be made. We cannot ride the crest of a popular platform into power, but we can ride that wave right into the DNC.

Why try to build a new Party with little more than enthusiasm, when we already have one? It makes no sense and the constant clamour for this kind of action serves only to divide us and give comfort and aid to those who would do us harm. In the process, the very people we seek to help the most become the first victims.

We have progressives, we have liberals, we have a surplus of folk only too willing to help move this country towards social justice. What we need to do is put them in positions where they have real authority.

We need them in local Parties. We need them selecting candidates. We need them elbowing out the time servers on the State organisations. We need them on School Boards, City Councils and in the Judiciary. We need them organising labour .... the fire-fighters, the Police, the Teachers and others.

These targets are smaller than the grand vision of a new Party. They do not have the allure of a grand gesture. What they have is a chance of working. If they work we would, in fairly short order, realise that we just built a new Party, in our image, and responding to our agenda, and serving the people we believe are being poorly served right now.

We will not rid ourselves of the Blue Dogs over night. The DINOs will fight back, and some will hang a round for a while, but we can make changes and in doing so we will signal that we are not to be dismissed, we have a seat at the table.

Just doing this much will change the attitudes of Beltway Democrats ... Ask the Tea Party.

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Comment Preferences

  •  I love a grand gesture (11+ / 0-)

    as much as the next person. But I prefer change that is effective, even if it is less glamourous.

    I hope that the quality of debate will improve,
    but I fear we will remain Democrats.

    by twigg on Sun Apr 10, 2011 at 10:34:53 PM PDT

    •  I do not think we need a third party (0+ / 0-)

      I think we need a replacement second party for what the dems used to be.  Yes one party has to die, and I think it will be the republicans, since most have left and become dems.  That is why the republican party has become so extreme.

  •  two party politics are an emergent phenomenon (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    glitterscale

    of first past the post elections[cite] so the final outcome of taking back our party is in many ways identical to taking back our party.  The problem is that American politics really are a reflection of the American people and to change it what we really need to do is to figure out how to get the millions of apathetic low information voters tuned into and informed about politics.

    What a "third party" brings to the table is a blank slate,  those voters we need to affect already know that the major parties don't really care about them and a revamped Democratic party will have trouble energizing them because of their preconceived notions.  The genius of the tea party is being able to tap into the fresh enthusiasm of a third party movement without sacrificing the infrastructure of a major party.

    •  The Democrats energised (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      blunami, Gooserock, gzodik

      the people in 2008, and they can do so again.

      If, and it's a big if, a Third Party ever got any real exposure, the first consequence would be to split the Democratic vote, and we know who would benefit from that.

      The danger of a Third Party is that it drains many progressives from the Democratic Party, and still loses. Then we have the enviable situation of the Dems in power, with few progressive.

      I hope that the quality of debate will improve,
      but I fear we will remain Democrats.

      by twigg on Sun Apr 10, 2011 at 11:09:55 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  that is the first stage (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        anarchyintheusa

        but shortly thereafter either the remainder of the Democratic party would be absorbed into the new third party or the third party would collapse back into to the Democratic party.  What Duverger's law says in essence is that for N possible winners in an election the only stable state is N+1 parties.

        It might cost us for a cycle or two, but in the long run it won't.  I still think that all things considered what I'll call the hybrid model is more effective.  In part because it would allow us to project power at the more centrist Democrats that would be worried about a challenge from the left.

      •  They Don't WANT Great Energy. 2008 Was Because (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        twigg, anarchyintheusa, blunami

        we had an insurgent Presidential candidate running against the party and corporate favorite. He had no choice, but once in office he dropped that mobilization effort like the political hot potato that it was for a party that intends to govern as compassionate conservatives not progressives.

        The Dems have done for 30 years what they're doing right now for the 2010 --cooling off the base, running away from those who were unusually high turnout in 2008 on emotional  promises for change, and turning to the conservative swing vote informed by the Republicans.

        You're right about the solution, the party membership have to be replaced. That's how the rightwing did it to their party.

        We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

        by Gooserock on Mon Apr 11, 2011 at 05:35:48 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  Well given my own working class orientation (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        twigg

        a near term loss of some neoliberal dems is not a net loss.  It is a net nothin.  In the long run there will simply be a reconfiguration of the system  I simply do not have a preference between a neoliberal and a republican. so if it delivers a loss, to the neoliberal dems i do not care.

    •  I like the diary (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      twigg, badger, northsylvania

      but disagree slightly about the effects of a coalition (or minority) government in a parliamentary system; we have had a minority government (in Canada) for a few years now (5 I think but don't quote me) and it works quite well because it prevents any excesses that would occur in a majority situation, where the government could do whatever it wanted to do.

      I hope, as I know some other Canadians do, that the next government is also a minority government.  It works better for the voter.  Majority governments in a parliamentary system works better for those who govern.  It's easier for them to be dictators that way, as the government generally doesn't fall unless there's a vote of non confidence or the polls are very dreary.

      "Canada is a Northern European welfare state in the worst sense of the term, and very proud of it" Stephen Harper, Prime Minister of Canada, part time vampire

      by marigold on Sun Apr 10, 2011 at 11:10:22 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  That depends a bit on the rules (0+ / 0-)

        UK rarely has coalitions, Italy has them in perpetuity.

        The UK might benefit from a few more, but Italy changes it's government more frequently than most of us change our socks.

        So there is a balance to strike.

        I mentioned that system because it is a system that does allow new parties to gain traction. The US system makes it very much more difficult.

        I hope that the quality of debate will improve,
        but I fear we will remain Democrats.

        by twigg on Sun Apr 10, 2011 at 11:14:15 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  The problem in America is there are 50 parties (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      twigg, James Allen, blunami

      And then those 50 state parties have to come together and attempt to act as a unit every 4 years. While the democratic party of California and the democratic party of new York may share many of the same values, those values are going to be very different from the democratic party of nebraska and the democratic party of south Carolina. In a country as large and diverse as the united states, it is nearly impossible to have uniformity of principles in our political parties. That is why the official "DNC" platform is typically full of vageuries that everybody can get behind.

      •  I see the difficulties there. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        blunami

        Unfortunately, the GOP doesn't seem to suffer this :)

        Progressives have a view, a vision and I suspect that progressives in all 50 States would braodly agree on most of it.

        The Democratic Party is not a progressive Party, and Dan Boren will never agree with anything said by Barnie Franks, for example. One of them needs to go, and I know which one I want to keep :)

        I hope that the quality of debate will improve,
        but I fear we will remain Democrats.

        by twigg on Sun Apr 10, 2011 at 11:16:57 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Not true... (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          MRobDC, jrexpat

          Texan republicans part ways with the national party on immigration,

          Wyoming republicans(actually this might be a phenomenon across the whole west at least to some extent) part ways on personal freedom issues with the national party

          Utah republicans part ways on air quality issues(at least they did when  Huntsman was gov), and some health care issues(Soon to be unemployed Sen. Orin hatch was co-sponsor of CHIP legislation)

          Arizona, Florida, and rust belt state republicans know their days are numbered so are pushing policies well beyond what the national party would generally subscribe to.

          And the republicans are not holding together nearly as lockstep as they used to, Yea they can vote against things in lockstep that is not hard to do. But as same as what policies to actually support they are in utter disarray, The only thing their running on right now is white faced fear of their own base voters.

          •  I agree. CA repubs - another example (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            twigg

            Or what's left of them at the moment, I should say.

            I have no love for Arnold, but he did go against the national party by supporting Obama's health reform efforts and also over climate change

            That said, getting support for a progressive party even at a local level would be a challenge. Matt Gonzalez, the Green candidate, lost to D candidate Gavin Newsom in the SF mayoral race. Bill Clinton and some other Dem heavyweights campaigned for Newsom, and I don't think the Greens have had as much of a local presence since that race. So while I support the idea, I'd say it's a decades-long project (and struggle!)

          •  Look at the budget fight (0+ / 0-)

            Bachmann doesn't support the deal because it doesn't defund the ACA. Pence doesn't support the deal because it doesn't defund Planned Parenthood. There will be others that don't support it based on the fact the evironmental funding is still there. Some will just say no based on the fact it's not cutting $100 billion. There is no unified message in the opposition, apart from "we don't like it".

    •  also what gives them leverage (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      twigg, LaFeminista, James Allen

      is that they turn out voters for primary elections which are typically low turnout events.  Rand Paul got something like 200k votes in the primary election and the establishment candidate got around 120k and the turn out numbers suggest that a huge chunk of the 200k were voters that don't normally vote in primary elections.  
      That is why the establishment republicans are afraid of them... realistically almost any of them could be next.

      If we want to change the Democratic party that is exactly what we need to do.  We just need to bring down a couple in primary challenges and the rest will start to take those of us on the left seriously... until we prove that we can do that centrism and corporatism will continue to be the best strategy for winning elections.

  •  The US is not a proportional system like (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    arendt, northsylvania

    Israel, where even minor parties can win seats in the Knessett. It is winner take all. The Green party or any far left party will probably do well in places like Berkeley, San Francisco, Alaska, Seattle, Portland, Hawaii, Boulder, parts of New Mexico, parts of Montana, parts of Colorado, Madison, Chicago, Ann Arbor, Ithaca, Cambridge, Amherst, and parts of Manhattan. And even there they're likely to lose to Democrats.

  •  You have to change the voting system to a (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Futuristic Dreamer, arendt, Gooserock

    type of proportional representation before anything will change.

    In the US campaign finance reform is so long overdue its scary

    "Another world is not only possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing." Arundhati Roy

    by LaFeminista on Sun Apr 10, 2011 at 11:31:06 PM PDT

    •  Campaign Finance Reform (0+ / 0-)

      is one of the major steps to real democracy ... Quite right.

      I hope that the quality of debate will improve,
      but I fear we will remain Democrats.

      by twigg on Mon Apr 11, 2011 at 04:42:06 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  The 1st Amendment Prevents Campaign Reform (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      twigg

      Even if corporate issue advertising could be eliminated, even if the Rapture would leave us with a nonrightwing Supreme Court and would permit government funding of campaigns, press freedom is a corporate not a citizens' freedom, and press coverage and advertising will still necessarily require billions of spending per election.

      We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

      by Gooserock on Mon Apr 11, 2011 at 05:40:10 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  It absolutely does not (0+ / 0-)

        prevent CFR.

        Money does not equal speech, and Corporations are not persons.

        There are a couple of SCOTUS decisions that need new test cases and a more honest Court.

        The Constitution does not ban CFR, the SCOTUS did, and they are NOT the Constitution.

        I hope that the quality of debate will improve,
        but I fear we will remain Democrats.

        by twigg on Mon Apr 11, 2011 at 05:49:53 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Good luck (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          twigg

          The court has held that spending money is symbolic speech. That won't be changing anytime soon. And Citizens United did more to solidify the idea of corporate personhood than than the previous 150 years of corporate law combined.

          The SCOTUS may not be the constitution, but they are vested by the constitution to be the final arbitrator of what is or isn't acceptable under it.

          •  I understand that (0+ / 0-)

            Which is why, if Obama gets more picks, he needs to pick those committed to the ideals in the Constitution, not those ideas that the corporations want imposed.

            One vote .... we need one vote and those decisions will reverse.

            It is worth remembering that the SCOTUS is simply the third CO-EQUAL branch of government.

            They do not get to repeatedly subvert the will of the other two bodies without facing some pushback.

            I hope that the quality of debate will improve,
            but I fear we will remain Democrats.

            by twigg on Mon Apr 11, 2011 at 07:57:52 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

    •  Will be voting for AV (0+ / 0-)

      on May 5th. It's not proportional voting, but it's better than nothing and it would be a shame for the LibDems to eat all those Tory shoe scrapings for nothing.

  •  The problem with look at Tea Party as 3rd party (0+ / 0-)

    Is that it isn't. The Tea Party was always a segment of the Republican party, the near-libertarians with a dash of god-fearing racism thrown in. They are the 22% that supported Bush until the last seconds of his failed presidency. They are the disaffect Paulites that never had a voice except for every 4 years when Ron Paul would make his symbolic presidential run to shut down everything the federal government does. They were allowed to come to power in the Republican Party because Bush so discredited the brand that the party was destroyed post-November 08. They had no leaders (still don't), no message (still no coherent message), and no credibility (as if they ever did). The corporate wing of the Republican Party realized that it could take these people that had never had a voice and elevate them, put billions of dollars behind them, and make it appear as though there was a resurgance in the Republican party. And it worked.

  •  Get rid of blue dogs? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    twigg

    Our district got rid of our blue dog congresswoman.  They elected a Republican.  That is the choice that we face here.  We can talk about a progressive party when the voters demand one.

    In a country where half the country regularly votes for gibbering GOP droolers, Obama is as progressive a Democrat as we are going to get.

    You want a third party?  Split the GOP.

    GOP: Bankers, billionaires and suckers.

    by gzodik on Mon Apr 11, 2011 at 07:44:00 AM PDT

  •  good luck getting past (0+ / 0-)

    First Past The Post. That's why Canada's NDP is almost irrelevant, and whatever party Nick Clegg heads up across the pond is also almost irrelevant and why both nations are run by Tories (Conservatives). And in Canada's case, probably the same after the May election.

    First Past The Post (which is what we do here, anyway) just spreads the votes out so they can't be geographically significant.

    hey, I wish there were viable third parties, but it's not going to happen here, and if it does, they'd just end up being spoiler votes. Until we change our voting system to actively support multiple-parties so they're not ultimately irrelevant.

    Check out DKos Pennsylvania!

    by terrypinder on Mon Apr 11, 2011 at 08:25:54 AM PDT

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