We Need Another Party
Heading into the first 2012 Presidential Debate tonight, I find myself thinking about something that I have thought about considerably over the past several national election cycles. What that thought is, is just how flawed our essentially two-party system is. Let me explain.
In the US there is no limits on the number of political parties and, indeed, there are many parties. However, overwhelmingly, to the point where all other parties are relegated to irrelevance, two national parties dominate the politics of this nation: the Republicans and the Democrats. As such, for pretty much all major political decisions in this country, it boils down to a “this-or-that” option, which is far from ideal. The result is, that we have an incredibly polarized political spectrum, with support for either of the two national parties being very close to split evenly.
Such a dynamic of support, paired with the polarity of political views, creates and inefficient governance that is more concerned with scoring points off of the other side than in working to enact actual change or create beneficial laws. There is little mobility of the electorate, and the debates of key topics seems to be stale and unmoving.
So what is a solution? Well, personally I think that the best thing for this country would be to have a third major player political party. Now, admittedly, this is not likely to happen any time soon. It has been proposed before and not managed to come to fruition. The largest roadblock to the success of a third significant party is in regards to finances. The Republican and Democratic parties are financial powerhouses, and as long as campaign finance laws are the way they currently are it is unlikely that another party would be able to raise remotely near enough funds to compete on a national level. However, this problem does not underscore the actual need for there to be more than two national parties in competition for the major political offices.
The benefits of having another substantial party are many fold. First of all, it would force all the parties to more clearly define their political positions. My idea for a major thirst party would be one that has a goal of social progressive policies balanced with moderate and fiscally conscious economic policies, with a bigger emphasis toward strong support for small to mid-sized business, reasonable regulation on large industries, and a general demephasis on big government. Such a party would force the Republicans to clarify their conservative values and policies and for the Democrats to double down on the assurance of the necessity of government and social liberalism. Secondly, while a third-party, like the roughly proposed one above, might not win a national majority, it would likely prevent the other two parties from getting that majority either. As such, without any one party holding a strong majority in Congress, a coalition government would need to be formed for their to be successful legislation. A coalition government would arguably force more Congressional compromises, as the two-party coalition will have to work more towards a mutually agreeable middle ground to accomplish any majority based votes. This would break up some of the gridlock we see in Congress and our national politics in general. Finally, a strong third option, would likely appeal to voters who have misgivings or critiques of the current two parties, providing a bit more buy-in for a lot of uncertain voters (arguably, having more than three major parties in play would be even better).
Again, unfortunately this is not likely to happen anytime soon. About the only way I could see it happening is if a number of big name moderate Senators, House Representatives, and State governors from both the Republicans and Democrats were to effectively defect from their parties and get together to form their own third-party. Such a move could take a lot of voters with them (assuming these politicians carry reasonable popularity) and encourage better party financing than has been encountered in previous third-party attempts. I don’t expect this anytime soon (or even in my lifetime really) but I can dream in the long run.
Anyways, here is my obligatory political post for the 2012 campaign season. Go vote, even if you vote for somebody who isn’t in one of the two big players.