Two Parties?

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Recently I visited a blog (tooconservative.com) in which a Democrat was posting to a predominately Republican blog and lamenting Bloomberg and the possibility of his running.

I have scoffed at this possibility of it becoming a serious threat to our two-party system or this race, but have since changed my mind.

A threat to "our" two-party system is a threat to the consolidation of power; the two major parties might become marginalized. A two party system isn't something the constitution explicitly empowers. The constitution would be of very poor construction if it did (the Republican Party did not exist until the mid 19th century!). The comment though (which was favorably received by at least some) shows that there is concern over the "system" remaining.

I am convinced "the system" is inherently bad. The system works to concentrate power in two groups, and those groups are not there for a particular reason other than to elect candidates. One of my friends, who is active in national level politics, said: "You have to remember that the Republican Party is not about any issue or cause [like the Democrats] it is about electing candidates." Both parties then do not stand for anything. They have traditional supporters to whom they bend and sway.

Historically, this seems to be the case as well. There are very few times when a major third party arises; i.e., when a third party can get someone elected to a national office. What appears to happen is some issue will arise, and the major parties adapt to engulf one or the other side of the issue. What that leaves us with is a system that has two groups that fight each other, with neither group being of any particular ideology. Certainly there is some inertia in what party is on what side of an issue. But even then, sometimes things get complicated. For instance, the Democrats have historically been in favor of large government, it was the Republicans that started the No Child Left Behind act which dramatically increased the intrusion of the federal government into education (which is not within the federal government's charter, the U.S. Constitution).

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14 Comments

jacob said:

Brian,
Great article.

I must agree with your friend that the end purpose of a political party is to elect candidates. Jefferson railed against the rise of political parties on similar grounds.

However, most parties are started with ideals. The GOP was formed in the Midwest, and one of its founding ideals was abolition. The drive to win elections as an end onto itself only comes later.

It is time for a house cleaning in the GOP, because they are turning on their traditional supporters. Such house cleaning may cause the politicians to recall the ideals. Yes, the preceeding sentence is idealistic to the point of being naive.

Brian, I think this is the line of inquiry we will be exploring more and more over the coming months.

Ted said:

The time to act is now. Either we recruit candidates now to challenge incumbents or we look for a third party, the options being the Libertarians or the Constitution Party.

Time goes by quickly and unless people get energized now, we will be left with the usual suspects running for Congress.

Unfortunately as someone who is has been working to organize a conservative third option, I can tell you that people talk a good story about being fed up with the status quo but most are unwilling to do what is necessary in terms of donating their money, time, and talents to make it happen.

ACTivist said:

Brian,good idea but it won't happen anytime soon. I think that the major parties need to do some serious overhauling and find candidates, not from the current pool, but those who need to be solicited to run. Candidates running seem to be doing so for their own agenda while those who are sought out tend to do it for the common good. Now try to find someone with logic, decency and integrity who thinks that government is of the people and not best for the people!

jacob said:

Ted,
You are correct, if the RINO's in the party are to be credibly challenged we need to enlist/draft/shang-hai canditates for this purpose yesterday.

novamiddleman said:

Good point in theory but...

If any of us leave the Republican party the Democrats will have an easier time winning elections.

Call it the lesser of two evils but I dont think anyone would rather have the democrats in charge.

Ted said:

nova,

That's the trap, isn't it? They know we can't stand the idea of Hillary, Nancy, Harry et al running things and that we will always hold our nose and vote for the lesser of two eveils.

Now of course they will say the right things during the campaign, but when it comes time to vote in Congress too many of them lose their backbone.

As I said above, the only thing we can do is to either challenge them in the primary/caucuses or find a third party.

Is there a danger of the Left gaining more power if we go with a third party candidate? Of course there is, but given what is going on now, will it really make that much difference? Perhaps things would get worse but that would only to be to our advantage when even the middle sees what the Left is trying to do.

Only when individual GOP legislators see that there is a price to pay for going spineless on us will they get the point.

If you want to change government, you have to change the way you vote.

jacob said:

Ted,
I have come to the conclusion that voting for RINO's is worse than not voting. Our party is taking us for granted. If we let them get killed off a bit, they will get the message.

It is better to cut off the infected tissue, and blead the wound clean, than to linger and eventually die from the poison. This immigration bill is just the latest outrage. It won't be the last.

As for not having elsewhere to go, I have someplace to go. My living room to watch John Wayne reruns on election day as the GOP gets spanked.

My point is that the "system" is the problem. having a third party doesn't solve the issue any more than having the right candidates solves the problem. From what I see, all the "solutions" are still inside the box.

We can try to reform the Republican Party, and that will stick for a while, *if* we can get enough people to push on the issues and see what is happening. We could even form a new party with the intent of electing a new set of candidates and that will work for a while until the present Republicans (or even Democrats) get the idea that the third party is actually getting more power. Then those that see a party as something to be steered and directed in order to achieve power will move to the new party.

As long as individuals can see getting into office as a way to power, money, prestige and fame, they will make every effort to get there and stay there. Party politics becomes the tool of the new nobility. We need to remove them and see that they don't have the means of getting back.

The only way I see this ever being accomplished long term is to push term limits through constitutional amendments. Eight years is too long a term. Anything more than twelve years in office is just too long. Even if it means we have to turn good people out if office. I'd like to see two term lifetime limits for all offices.

jacob said:

Brian,
I agree with you regarding term limits. The better solution is an electorate that is vigilent. We are instead, fat dumb and happy.

6 years for a congress critter. 12 for a Senator. I would also impose a 20 year limit on supreme court judges, and you only get one chance. When we wrote the constitution the avg age of death hovered near 40, it is now close to 80.

Jacob,

The electorate we have is the one that exists. We cannot change the electorate, and no amount of education will change the nature of those that don't care. If a solution to anything is done, it has to outlast those in office and those that are alive now. The problem of indifference will be exacerbated by having a better government.

Many people only care when a problem affects them. So we have many people that don't see the problems that will occur in the future ... or worse. I've heard people say that they always vote for bond issues because they don't plan on living here long enough to pay much on the bonds, and the improvements will only raise their home values.

Those that do care about a problem only care as far as the effects affect them. We need ways of assuring we don't arrive at a de facto nobility of politicians that are elected by political parties whose only job is to elect candidates.

jacob said:

Brian,
"The electorate we have is the one that exists. We cannot change the electorate, and no amount of education will change the nature of those that don't care."
I agree, which is why term limits is the most logical solution. Another check on the imbalance brouht about by the career politician.

My comment that "a vigilnet electorate" being the best answer was me cyring in my cup. It is the best answer in theory; human nature however is immutable.

"Many people only care when a problem affects them." This satement in fact is a corrollary of the 'each looking out for their own self interest' that makes capitalism work.

One note regarding term limits, they have been tried in several western states, and the legislatures in those states have overturn these efforts during midnight votes, thinking no one was looking.

The term limits idea would require a constitutional ammendment to make it stick. I see that as likely as the country developing a vigilent electorate.

I'm not as pessimistic on term limits. While I think it is absurd to think we can get the present senators and representatives to limit their own terms, we might be able to get them to place limits on anyone not serving at the time of the passage of the amendment. Assuage the greed of those in office for the future of those that are not. Then work to turn out those that are in office!

Ted said:

Some historical trivia. In colonial times several of the colonies had a "rotational" system by which a delegate could serve only so many CONSECUTIVE terms before he had to sit out an election. Once he sat one out he could run again. That way there was always a certain amount of fresh blood coming into the system while not permanently excluding truly outstanding individuals that the people wanted.

Also, the reason Lincoln served only one term in Congress was because the Whig Party in Illinois "rotated" that particular congressional seat among members of the party.

For what's it worth.

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